Seares: Who’s the Cebu City mayor now? DILG 7 chief says they had failed to serve suspension order on Mayor Mike Rama. Nine years ago, DILG enforced similar order against him by substitute service.

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CEBU. Department of the Interior and Local Government 7 regional directors: Rene Burdeos (left) in 2015; Leocadio Trovela in 2024.
CEBU. Department of the Interior and Local Government 7 regional directors: Rene Burdeos (left) in 2015; Leocadio Trovela in 2024. DILG

THE 2015 SUSPENSION ORDER. Atty. Rene K. Burdeos, then regional director of Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), served on December 9, 2015, Michael Rama, also Cebu City mayor at the time, a 60-day preventive suspension order from the president’s office.

Rama’s staff refused to accept the order for Rama but Burdeos’s team posted a copy on the mayor’s office door (although lawyers from the City Legal Office reportedly removed it later). What Burdeos’s group used was substitute service. That’s what DILG through director Burdeos thought and how DILG personnel acted then. (Burdeos retired in June 2018.)

DILG PLAN OF ACTION IN 2024. DILG in 2024 through Leocadio T. Trovela, current regional director, apparently thinks differently from DILG in 2015.

Their “intention” on the 2024 order against Rama is to serve personally the new preventive suspension order and would “exhaust everything” to make it so. Sounds like an order from up high.

Trovela explained DILG’s action when last Friday, May 10, he and his team failed to serve the ombudsman order suspending the mayor and seven others. No one in Rama’s office would receive the order. DILG then went to the city assessor’s office whose personnel similarly rejected the copy for the assessor and five of her employees. Trovela’s group left after posting a copy of the order on the office door.

They’d be back, Trovela told reporters, and would “exhaust” everything to serve “personally” the suspension order on the eight respondents.

Burdeos’s team in 2015 used substitute service, relying on the Rules of Court, which DILG then contended would apply “suppletorily.” Trovela’s group must also know they have that option, only that the plan of action is literally personal service.

RULE ON SERVING DOCUMENTS. Court rules allow service of papers to be made by delivering copy to the party or his attorney or by leaving it in his office with his clerk or with the person in charge of the office. If no person is found in his office, or his office is not known, it may be done by leaving the copy between the hours of eight a.m. and six p.m. at the party’s or attorney’s residence, if known, with a “person of sufficient discretion” to receive it.

Under said rules, what DILG 7 Director Trovela’s team did would already constitute service. Apparently though the “intention” is to serve the order to the parties themselves, or at least to Mayor Rama himself, with respect to the order against him.

RAMA, ROSELL, ASSESSOR’S OFFICE SIX. The Cebu City Hall people that, as of this writing, still had to be served the Ombudsman order are Mayor Rama, City Administrator Collin Rosell and the Assessor’s Office Six: Assessor OIC Maria Theresa Rosell and her five office mates Francis May Jacaban, Angelique Cabugao, Jay-Ar Pescante, Lester Joey Beniga and Nelyn Sanrojo.

Among the eight, Mayor Rama has the most experience in being suspended: twice before in 2015 and 2016, both suspensions by then president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, and in the second of this three full terms as mayor, which are 2010-2013, 2013-2016, 2022-2025.

WHAT BROUGHT NEW SUSPENSION. The clutch of charges filed with the Ombudsman comprises of “grave misconduct, conduct unbecoming a public officer, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, grave abuse of authority, and violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.”

All that to justify the preventive suspension and cover the misconduct that allegedly withheld salaries of four regular employees for 10 months and rejected their return to their old posts in the assessor’s office despite orders from the Civil Service Commission, accompanied with “mistreatment and harassment.”

NOT YET SERVED, SO WHO’S THE MAYOR? As of the close of office hours Friday, May 10, the Ombudsman’s Wednesday, May 8 order was not yet served. So who’s the legal city mayor? The Rama camp must say it’s Mike Rama, to which his rivals won’t agree. 

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