Rama ‘unfazed’ amid looming suspension

business as usual. Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, who has been placed under preventive suspension by the Ombudsman, serenades the delegates of Central Visayas Regional Atheletics Association (CVIRAA) with the song, “One In a Million You,” during the annual sports meet’s closing ceremonies at GMall in North Reclamation Area on Thursday afternoon, May 9, 2024. The Office of the Ombudsman has issued a preventive suspension order for six months against Rama and seven other city officials for allegedly withholding the salaries of four City Hall employees. / kaiser jan fuentes
business as usual. Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, who has been placed under preventive suspension by the Ombudsman, serenades the delegates of Central Visayas Regional Atheletics Association (CVIRAA) with the song, “One In a Million You,” during the annual sports meet’s closing ceremonies at GMall in North Reclamation Area on Thursday afternoon, May 9, 2024. The Office of the Ombudsman has issued a preventive suspension order for six months against Rama and seven other city officials for allegedly withholding the salaries of four City Hall employees. / kaiser jan fuentes

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama remained composed, gracing the CVIRAA closing ceremony on Thursday, May 9, 2024, where he charmed athletes with a nostalgic performance of an 80’s hit song, pending enforcement of a preventive suspension.

Rama joined a band playing drums, sang “One in a Million You” in a capella, and then proceeded with his speech before an audience mostly consisting of young athletes participating in the Central Visayas Regional Atheletic Association, a sports meet, while awaiting the implementation of his suspension.

“I do not know whether I will be there, but I will not stop (monitoring the Palaro). I assure you, whatever is going to happen, my heart belongs to sports, my heart belongs to children, my heart belongs to the schools, my heart belongs to the spirit of nation building, nation building through sports,” said Rama.

If the suspension is carried out this month, Rama will be out of office until November 2024 and will be back in December.

The Palarong Pambansa will run from July 11 to 15, 2024.

News about Rama’s suspension broke on Wednesday, May 8, but the 10-page resolution signed by Ombudsman Samuel Martires was issued days earlier, on May 2.

The Office of the Ombudsman ordered the preventive suspension of Rama and seven other Cebu City Hall officials for six months for their failure to pay the salaries of four regular city employees.

The case stemmed from the reassignments of complainants Filomena Atuel, Maria Almicar Diongzon, Sybil Ann Ybañez and Chito dela Cerna who worked as tax mappers at the City Assessor’s Office.

When they were reassigned to different offices on May 17 and 18, 2023, they deemed the move illegal and in violation of the 2016 Omnibus Rules on Appointments and Other Human Resource Actions.

Atuel was reassigned to the Cebu City Anti-Mendicancy Office, Diongzon to the Office of the City South Road Properties Management Office, Ybañez to the Cebu City Operation Second Chance and Dela Cerna to the Cebu City Environment and Natural and Resources Office.

On June 16 and 19, 2023, the complainants appealed before the Civil Service Commission (CSC) 7.

They also reported back to the assessor’s office on June 19. But upon their return, they were forced to share a single table and were not given any specific task.

Atuel, Diongzon, Ybañez and Dela Cerna received a favorable decision from the CSC 7 on Oct. 12 and Oct. 17.

In his 12-page decision, CSC 7 Director Carlos Evangelista declared their reassignment “invalid.”

On Nov. 3, Ybañez said the Mayor’s Office through the City Legal Office (CLO) filed a motion for reconsideration before the CSC 7, which the latter denied.

The CLO then filed a petition for review of the CSC 7’s decision before the CSC Central Office on Jan. 8.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) 7 has yet to implement the suspension order as it has yet to receive a copy of the Ombudsman’s decision.

Supporters

Meanwhile, Rama’s supporters gathered outside the Cebu City Hall on Thursday to conduct a prayer rally as they threw their support behind the suspended mayor.

At 4 p.m., City Hall employees and supporters gathered at the Plaza Sugbo grounds in a “convergence meeting” called by Rama.

The event started with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist presided over by Monsignor Raul Go of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral.

The attendees included members of the Cebu Coalition of United Vendors Association, City Health workers, some barangay officials and tanods of Barangay Hipodromo.

Surprised

In a phone interview on Thursday, Vice Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia said he was surprised about the mayor’s suspension, but he is preparing himself to assume the “big responsibility” of taking care of constituents once the order is implemented.

“When we took our oath as vice mayor of the City of Cebu, one of the duties and obligations there is to function as mayor in case of the incapacity of the mayor,” said Garcia who is currently in Manila for a “prior commitment.”

Aside from Rama, also ordered suspended were City Administrator Collin Rosell, his wife, Office of the City Assessor officer-in-charge Maria Theresa Rosell, assistant department head for administration Francis May Jacaban, assistant department head for operations Angelique Cabugao, administrative division head Jay-ar Pescante, assessment of records management division head Lester Joey Beniga and computer division head Nelyn Sanrojo of the City Assessor’s Office.

DILG 7 spokesperson Michael Maxino Bandal said they have yet to receive an order from the DILG central office directing them to implement the preventive suspension.

Bandal said that without the directive from their central office, they would not have any basis to implement the order.

For his part, suspended Administrator Rosell said they have not received a copy of the suspension order nor any complaint and subpoena.

He said they are waiting not only for the suspension order, but also for a copy of the entire complaint and the case against them so that they can appropriately respond.

Rosell continues to report for work at City Hall.

Asked if the absence of documents relative to their suspension was tantamount to the absence of due process, Rosell refused to answer the question.

Rosell said they have not done anything yet since they do not have a copy of any of the documents. / AML

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