President dismisses admin raps vs Mike

Kristine B. Quintas (The Freeman) - January 13, 2015 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The Office of the President has dismissed the administrative complaint for grave abuse of authority filed by the Cebu City Association of Barangay Councils against Mayor Michael Rama in 2012.

In a November 20, 2014 one-page decision, the President Benigno Aquino III dismissed the complaint for being “moot and academic” after Rama “having been duly reelected, is no longer amenable to administrative sanctions.”

Rama’s office received the order, which Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. signed on behalf of the president, only last January 7, or Wednesday last week.

“The rule is that local elective officials cannot be subjected to disciplinary sanction for administrative misconduct committed during a prior term. The underlying theory is that each term is separate from other terms, and that the re-election to office operates as a condonation of the officer’s misconduct to the extent of cutting off the right to remove him therefor,” read the decision.

It was referring to the Aguinaldo Doctrine, under which a reelected public official loses administrative liability for any wrongdoing during a previous term, or that the official’s reelection has the effect of condoning the offense.

The Office of the President cited the Supreme Court decision in Pascual v. Hon. Provincial Board of Nueva Ecija, 106 Phil. 406 (1959), in a landmark ruling that prohibits the disciplining of an elective official for a wrongful act committed during his immediately preceding term of office.

The administrative case stemmed from the complaint of former ABC president and now Barangay T. Padilla Councilman Ralota, who said in reaction to the decision that he respects the decision but that he was still hoping that the Ombudsman decision on the same matter would be “favorable” to the ABC.

“Mao naman kaha na?  I can’t rebut against the decision of the president. But, we hope the decision of the Ombudsman would be to our favor because we believe strong ang ground sa case against the mayor,” he said adding that he will consult with his lawyers on the decision.

In his complaint, Ralota said that while the City Council approved a P5-million allocation in the 2012 Annual budget as aid to barangays, he was surprised to learn that Rama spent P4.5 million of the allocation for fuel and only retained P500,000 for the barangays.

He said there was no authorization from the City Council when the mayor realigned the budget.

Ralota said that what Rama did violated Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code because using the budget for other purpose is considered as technical malversation.

Rama, though, argued that the amount was used to buy fuel for barangay vehicles.  Aside from the Office of the President, Ralota also filed a criminal case before the Ombudsman for technical malversation over the said funs realignment.

In his complaint, Ralota said the City Council passed an ordinance for the annual budget for the operation of the Cebu City government for 2012 which was approved by Rama.

He said that under the annual budget, the City Council appropriated P5 million in financial assistance to the ABC. However, he said, they discovered a month from the effectivity of the annual budget that the amount was used for other purposes.

“Without the knowledge and consent of the ABC, the Office of the Mayor and his cohorts surreptitiously started chipping away on allocating portion of the P5 million financial assistance appropriated by the Sanggunian Panlungsod to the ABC,” read Ralota’s complaint.

Ralota said the P5 million was supposedly intended to purchase tires, mixers and garbage trucks, which could no longer be done.  The financial assistance was spent for gasoline and oil of vehicles assigned to the different barangays of the city, but without any consent from the ABC.

“Rama, (former city budget officer Nelfa) Briones, or any other responsible persons for that matter, were not authorized by and have not secured any form of authorization whatsoever from the ABC Board of Directors, to withdraw and to appropriate for other stated purposes, the P5 million financial assistance to the ABC under Ordinance No. 2295 or annual budget,” read the complaint.

But Rama argued that the budget ordinance provides that he as mayor is empowered to realign certain budgets under his office, which was why he approved the proposal of Briones to realign P4.5 million of the unused P5 million.

 “We are not afraid because it (counter-argument) was full of substantial and very solid evidence that there is neither graft nor violation that our office, through the budget, had committed,” Rama said.  — /RHM (FREEMAN)

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