Rama questions transfer of nepotism case

CEBU. Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama during the flag raising ceremony on Monday, February 20, 2023.
CEBU. Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama during the flag raising ceremony on Monday, February 20, 2023.Cebu City PIO photo

CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama, who is currently serving his preventive suspension for six months, has questioned the transfer of his nepotism case from the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas to the Ombudsman’s central office, stressing that there was no legal justification to do so and alleging that it could be politically motivated.

In a 10-page comment/opposition statement released by Joselito Thomas Baena on June 18, 2024, it highlighted that there is no “weighty reason” to transfer the proceedings of the case and that it violates Rama’s right to administrative due process.

The statement was prepared by Rama-Baena-Tana-Ang Law Office, the legal counsel of Rama.

Rama expressed his indifference to the Ombudsman’s central office, citing his recent experience where he received the preventive suspension without prior notice or the opportunity to defend himself.

According to Rama, his experience, coupled with the current transfer, suggested a pattern of irregularity, saying it could be politically motivated.

Rama said the action would represent a grave violation of due process and raise questions about political motives.

The nepotism case has been under the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman Visayas since Jan. 24, 2023, which was filed by Jonel Saceda, also known as “Inday Josa Chiongbian Osmeña” on Facebook.

Rama highlighted several procedural concerns, including the fact that all evidence and witness testimonies were presented to and evaluated by the Ombudsman Visayas.

He argued that relocating the case to the advanced stage, particularly after clarificatory hearings and the submission of position papers, would undermine the integrity of the process and prejudice his defense.

“With the case already in full throttle, it would be absurd to make a last-minute change of venue. The parties being from Cebu, and the case having already been initiated and tried by the [Ombudsman] based in Cebu, the case has every reason to remain in [Ombudsman] Visayas and no reason to depart from,” a portion of the statement read.

Rama called for the case to remain with the Ombudsman Visayas, where it originated and where local context and familiarity with the case details are strongest in the absence of a clear legal justification for the transfer.

Background

In 2023, Saceda sued Rama for nepotism, grave misconduct, graft, and corruption after hiring his wife’s two brothers in Cebu City Hall.

SunStar Cebu reported that, according to Saceda, Rama violated the law when he hired Elmer and Gomer Mandanat, brothers of Marilou Mandanat Rama.

Among other things, Saceda charged Rama with breaking the Administrative Code of 1987, or Section 59 of Executive Order 292, which forbids nepotistic appointments in favor of a relative of the one making the recommendation or appointment.

The Local Government Code, or Republic Act (RA) 7160, Section 79, which forbids the nomination of a local official’s relations within the fourth degree of consanguinity, such as a first cousin or first cousin-in-law, was also referenced by the complainant.

SunStar Cebu tried to obtain comments from Saceda through her Facebook account, but to no avail.

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