Workers ‘responsible’ for Rama suspension cry foul

CEBU. Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama.
CEBU. Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama. Photo from Cebu City PIO

THE four regular Cebu City employees who filed the complaint that resulted in the preventive suspension of Mayor Michael Rama and seven others for six months claimed they’ve been intimidated and ignored at their workplace.

In a text message on Saturday, May 11, 2024, Sybil Ann Ybañez, one of the complainants, said that when the order came out on Wednesday, May 8, a fellow employee confronted her and told her “baga mo’g nawng kay giapil si (you all have a thick face for including the) mayor.”

She said the person, who used to work at the assessor’s office but is now assigned in another office, is a diehard supporter of Rama.

Ybañez said she understood how the employee felt since they also pitied the mayor for getting embroiled in their battle against officials at the assessor’s office.

She said the employee also told them to “f--k you.”

Ybañez said she and the three other complainants -- Filomena Atuel, Maria Almicar Diongzon and Chito dela Cerna -- filed a leave of absence last Thursday, May 9, and Friday, May 10. They hope to return to work on Monday, May 13, she said.

“Lie low sa City Hall kay init sa balita then likay kagubot basin naana pod nya lain mosulong. Mentally and emotionally stressed pod mi mao guro gawas sakit,” Ybañez said.

(We intend to lie low while the news is hot and avoid any trouble because we might get confronted again. We’ve suffered all sorts of ailments as a resulted of being mentally and emotionally stressed.)

Aside from Rama, the other respondents are City Administrator Collin Rosell, Office of the City Assessor officer-in-charge Dr. Maria Theresa Rosell, Francis May Jacaban of the City Legal office, assistant department head for operations Angelique Cabugao, admin division head Jay-ar Pescante, assessment of records management division head Lester Joey Beniga and computer division head Nelyn Sanrojo.

The four filed a criminal and administrative complaint on Feb. 23 against them for alleged violations of Section 3(e) and (1) of Republic Act 3019, also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, as well as for grave misconduct, conduct unbecoming of a public officer, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, grave abuse of authority (oppression) and violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

The complaint stemmed from the reassignments of Ybañez, Atuel, Diongzon and dela Cerna, who worked as tax mappers and appraisers at the assessor’s office.

Asked if they were able to speak to Assessor Rosell, Ybañez said their last conversation with her was when the decision of the Civil Service Commission 7 was released in October 2023 after they appealed their reassignments in June that year.

Ybañez said they reported back to the assessors’ office last June 19, but were not given any work assignment. Last March 4, she said they were transferred to the city administrator’s office.

She said they filed another appeal before the CSC 7 last March 19 to again question their latest reassignment as they wanted their old jobs back.

“Kay ga-think man mi, naana baya decision sa CSC on our favor nga invalid to ang first reassignment nila basin nya sa pagbalhin city admin ma considered nya ni waive mi ba so mao to siguro lang mi appeal on the second reassignment,” Ybañez said.

(We thought that the CSC did come out with a decision in our favor invalidating our first reassignment. We were afraid that after our transfer to the city administrator’s office they might think we had waived our rights. That’s why we appealed again.)

Ybañez said they were never told why they were reassigned in the first place, which was why they were confused.

In a press conference on Thursday night, May 9, Rama talked about the confrontation and said he was not the kind of leader who would promote such a behavior.

In a phone interview on the same day, Vice Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia said he was shocked by the incident, saying the City has laws that protects employees from harassment and intimidation.

He said any misconduct must be investigated and addressed accordingly.

Asked about his opinion regarding the four employees’ withheld salaries, Garcia said salaries and wages should be given utmost priority.

He said the issue would not have escalated to this level if the matter had been given importance.

“Ang mga Sugboanon nagsalig sa (Cebuanos depend on their) salaries and wages to feed their families so it should be given utmost priority.

However, since filing their complaint before the Ombudsman last February, the complainants have received four months of salary and are waiting for the release of six more months of salary. / AML

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