Rama vs Buendia City lawyers fail to block hearing
Jean Marvette A. Demecillo/FPL (The Philippine Star) - January 19, 2016 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The lawyers of suspended Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama yesterday tried to defer the preliminary conference of the administrative case filed by Labangon Barangay Captain Victor Buendia, citing two pending motions that are yet to be resolved by the Office of the President.

City attorney Jerone Castillo, lead counsel of Rama, asked the hearing officer of the Department of the Interior and Local Government-7 not to proceed with the preliminary conference until their pending motion to dismiss and urgent motion to resolve an earlier motion are ruled upon.

Castillo said they have filed a motion to dismiss long before the 60-day preventive suspension was served on Rama on December 10, 2015. He said they have also filed a follow-up motion asking for an urgent resolution of the motion to dismiss.

However, the manifestation made by Castillo was opposed by lawyer Benjamin Militar, representing Buendia, resulting in a heated argument.

Militar argued that the two pending motions should not be entertained anymore considering that the Office of the President has already found probable cause.

“The Office of the President found probable cause on this complaint that is why it issued suspension order of the respondent. Entertaining the two motions now could delay the proceedings,” Militar said.

Hearing officer Isidro Barrios III was prompted to declare a 10-minute recess to defuse the tension. Barrios, however, ruled to go on with the preliminary conference despite reservations from the lawyers of Rama.

According to Barrios, the issues raised in the pending motions will be resolved in the course of the investigation.

“The evidence of guilt is strong since the Office of the President has issued the suspension order,” Barrios said.

Another lawyer representing Buendia, Brian Repollo, on the other hand, moved for the city lawyers to inhibit from representing Rama in the case. Repollo said Castillo and lawyer Mary Rose Salvatierra should not be defending Rama to avoid conflict of interest.

“Lawyers of the City Legal Office should inhibit from this case because of conflict of interest,” Repollo said.

Castillo said the motion should be reduced into writing. Pending the written motion, the hearing officer allowed the city lawyers to continue representing the respondent.

The preliminary conference proceeded with the stipulation of facts. The hearing will resume today with the identification of potential witnesses until Thursday.

The case stemmed from the complaint filed by Buendia after Rama ordered the demolition of the median structure along Katipunan Street.

Aside from this case, the suspended mayor is also facing another administrative complaint for granting P20,000 calamity assistance to City Hall officials and employees in 2013.

The case is also being heard by the same hearing officer. — (FREEMAN)

ACIRC BENJAMIN MILITAR BRIAN REPOLLO BUENDIA CEBU CITY MAYOR MICHAEL RAMA CITY HALL DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT ISIDRO BARRIOS MOTION OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT RAMA
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