Rama stays active on Sugbuanon Channel

LIVE on fb. Suspended Mayor Michael Rama answers questions from anchor Vilma Andales over Sugbuanon Channel page on Facebook via Zoom on Thursday, May 16, 2024. /
LIVE on fb. Suspended Mayor Michael Rama answers questions from anchor Vilma Andales over Sugbuanon Channel page on Facebook via Zoom on Thursday, May 16, 2024. / SCREENGRAB FROM sUGBUANON CHANNEL

DESPITE being placed under preventive suspension, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama remained active on the Cebu City-owned Sugbuanon Channel, discussing his suspension and personal activities.

Since suspension took effect on May 10, 2024, Rama has appeared live on Sugbuanon Channel’s Facebook page twice.

On May 14, 2024, the suspended mayor was interviewed via Zoom by anchor Vilma Andales, and talked about his legal team’s preparations in response to the suspension and other topics, including his plans for filing certificates of candidacy.

Then, on May 16, Andales conducted another interview with Rama for the channel’s “Kumusta na Sugbo” segment, this time talking on the reasons behind establishing the Sugbuanon Channel.

The Ombudsman ordered a six-month preventive suspension of Rama and seven others due to issues surrounding the reassignment and withheld salaries of four regular city employees at the City Assessor’s Office.

In the May 16 interview, Rama stated that the publicly funded teleradio program’s purpose is to ensure everyone has a platform to be heard. He emphasized that his suspension does not equate to punishment and does not preclude his appearances on Cebu City Hall’s official social media channels.

“Gimugna nato ang radio media network aron mahimo siyang medium aron maka-interview og bisan kinsa aron ang tinuoray mogawas,” Rama said.

(We established the radio media network as a medium to conduct interviews with anyone, allowing the truth to come out.)

He also mentioned that the city’s media network is open for any complaints, highlighting its role as part of the fourth estate.

Preventive suspension

The local government code provides that a government official who is under preventive suspension is subject to certain restrictions, including, among others, not performing any official duties or functions related to their office, not accessing their office, official documents, or properties and not representing the municipality or city in any official capacity.

The Sugbuanon Channel, accessible on Facebook, is a digital asset owned and operated by the City Government.

When asked if Rama’s appearances constituted a violation of his suspension, lawyer Jasper Pelayo described it as a novel question that the courts might need to address.

As of press time, no officials from the Department of the Interior and Local Government had responded to SunStar’s inquiries.

Check on the mayor

Cerwin Eviota, Rama’s special assistant for communications, defended the mayor’s appearances on the channel. He asserted that Rama, despite his suspension, is still the mayor and continues to be of public interest.

“It was only an interview on how he is now and wala man gani mga question ato nga may spark controversy (and there were no questions that might spark controversy),” Eviota said.

He further stated that the discussions did not pertain to governance matters but were simply a way to check on the suspended mayor.

The “Kumusta ka Sugbo” show is an in-house program of the Sugbuanon Channel, which is part of the People’s Progressive Radio Media Network (PPRMN) managed by the Cebu City Government.

PPRMN vs. PIO

Rama inaugurated PPRMN in August 2023. Eviota emphasized that the Sugbuanon Channel serves as a platform independent of the city’s Public Information Office.

The channel’s goal is to provide city offices with a means to report their activities, and it also welcomes relevant private individuals as guests.

Acknowledging the presence of an acting mayor, Vice Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia, Eviota mentioned ongoing discussions with Garcia regarding his program.

He noted that prior to Rama’s suspension, there were plans to launch a show featuring Garcia as vice mayor and another for the City Council, which were postponed due to various factors, including scheduling conflicts.

Eviota revealed that they are considering a program for Acting Vice Mayor Donaldo “Dondon” Hontiveros.

Statement of support

In the meantime, several local government units from Luzon and Visayas, along with at least 22 barangays in Cebu City, have voiced their support for Rama.

These supportive barangays include Hippodromo, Carreta, T. Padilla, Tejero, San Roque, Ermita, Lusaran, Cambinocot, Calamba, Buhisan, Kalunasan, Labangon, Kinasang-an, Duljo-Fatima, Mambaling, Bonbon, Malubog, Busay, Guba, Guadalupe, Cogon Pardo, Sinsin, Capitol Site, Adlaon, and Pasil. / AML , WBS

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