Cebu News

City Hall executives walk out

Jean Marvette A. Demecillo - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - Cebu City officials and lawyers headed by Mayor Michael Rama and Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella yesterday walked out of the hearing on the administrative complaint they are facing in relation to the distribution of P20,000 in calamity assistance to City Hall officials and employees.

This was after Atty. Christopher Tiu, Department of Interior and Local Government-7 hearing officer, denied the request of City Attorney Jerone Castillo and that of the other lawyers of the respondents to put into writing Tiu’s decision denying the motion for reconsideration they filed.

“Why will we be there (and stay) just to watch how hasty the whole process was? What is next about the exhibit (of evidence)? We don’t know, maybe they have already thought (about) what they are going to do. If they want my head, let them come to me. I’ll never run away,” Rama said.

The motion for reconsideration the city officials filed questioned the “credibility and integrity” of the order denying their motion praying that the complaint be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, believing that the DILG-7 is not the right body to hear the complaint.

 Rama said “they (DILG-7) really wanted the matter to be concluded in haste. There is haste. There is denial of due process.”

Castillo said that they will elevate the matter to “superior court.”

“We have to move out. We are just maintaining our position that DILG and (the) Office of the President has no jurisdiction over the case. We will elevate it to a superior court. We will discuss the filing of pleadings,” he said.

Labella, for his part, said “one area that constrained the counsel for the respondents to file a motion for inhibition is because the hearing officer, at one point, already made a categorical ruling that in so far as the ordinance is concerned it is no longer in question, it is only on the implementation. Why should he make a ruling on that aspect when that was not even brought out in the pleading.”

During the previous hearing, Atty. Benjamin Militar, legal counsel of complainant Atty. Reymelio Delute, said they are no longer questioning the propriety of the budget ordinance, only its implementation and interpretation, paving the way for the city councilors to request that they be excluded already as respondents of the grave misconduct administrative complaint.

Yesterday, Tiu ruled that there is lack of basis to grant the request, adding that it would be threshed out later on during the formal hearing of the complaint.

“At the very outset there was a question of jurisdiction. Aside from not ruling on the question of jurisdiction, he made on the ruling of the merit of the case. What would you say about it? Your guess is as good as mine,” Labella said.

After Tiu turned down the motion for reconsideration on the denial of their request to have the complaint dismissed, Castillo manifested during the hearing that such a ruling be made as a written order. Castillo, Labella, and the other counsels also asked Tiu to inhibit from conducting the investigation “to clear doubts” and that the hearing be suspended.

Tiu, however, did not acknowledge the requests but instead said they must proceed already to the marking of exhibits.

Delute sued Rama, Labella, and City Councilors Nestor Archival Sr., Mary Ann de los Santos, David Tumulak, Nendell Hanz Abella, Sisinio Andales, Alvin Arcilla, Roberto Cabarrubias, Ma. Nida Cabrera, Gerardo Carillo, Alvin Dizon, Eugenio Gabuya Jr., and Noel Wenceslao for grave misconduct and abuse of authority.

The complaint stemmed from the approval of City Ordinance 2379 in December 2013 that granted P20,000 in calamity assistance to city officials and employees.

Yesterday, Rama, Labella, de los Santos, Tumulak, Abella, Carillo, Wenceslao and their legal counsels walked out from the hearing, leaving behind Archival, Andales, Arcilla, Cabarrubias, Dizon, Gabuya, and their legal counsels who continued with the hearing.

Reacting to what Rama and the other officials did, Delute said it was “no longer the humble submission but (an) arrogant disposition.”

“We would like to put on record your honor that respondents, together with the city attorney, left or walked out from this proceedings without even the courtesy of asking the permission of the investigating officer,” Delute said, as Tiu went on to have the pieces of evidence marked even without the presence of some respondents.

Delute said the hearing will resume today with the markings of exhibits of Andales and that of the other respondents.

“Ang pag-walk out nila klaro kaayo nga desperate move na nila. I just hope nga correct ilang interpretation nga walay jurisdiction ang DILG kay risky kaayo kon sayop ilang interpretation,” Delute said.

Before they walked out, Rama approached Tiu and asked him if he was there as hearing officer either “in good faith or in bad faith.”

“I did not bully anyone. I approached him during a recess. I asked him a simple question: Hearing officer, are you here in good faith or are you here in bad faith? Is that question bullying? He could have just said I’m in good faith, so thank you very much. But there was no answer,” Rama said.

The mayor likewise approached Atty. Benjamin Militar, who told the mayor not to disrespect anyone’s opinion.

Due to the tension created during the recess, Tiu asked those who were not respondents and counsels to the complaint to leave the room.

Rama, however, appealed to let the media and other people stay.

“Why would others be excluded?” Rama asked, to which Tiu replied, “To be honest sir, with your actuation, yes they should be excluded.”

Tiu, though, later granted Rama’s request to let all the people stay.

A few minutes after, a uniformed policeman and the DILG security guards entered the designated hearing room.

Meanwhile, an estimated 1,000 people massed outside the DILG office to show support for the city officials.

Nasudnong Natawhang Kabus president Evangeline Abejo said those gathered represented various urban poor sectors.

With the crowd were Cebu City Association of Barangay Councils President Philip Zafra, Barangay Councilors’ League of the Philippines President Raymond Garcia, and other barangay officials.

Garcia said they showed up to lend their support as he can empathize with what was happening, adding that former governor Gwendolyn Garcia was also a victim of politics disguised as an investigation. — /RHM (FREEMAN)

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