Cebu News

Rama vs Buendia: CH lawyers want hearing moved outside of DILG-7

Jean Marvette A. Demecillo/FPL - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - Cebu City Hall lawyers are asking to transfer the hearing of the administrative case against suspended Mayor Michael Rama out of the regional office of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

Lawyer Jerone Castillo and his collaborating counsel want a neutral venue for the hearing after a DILG-7 legal officer was seen discussing the case with the lawyers of the complainant, Labangon Barangay Captain Victor Buendia.

Castillo said it was improper for lawyer Aiza Fiel A. Arcenal-Nogra to be giving suggestions to the lawyers of Buendia on how to expedite the proceedings.

“It is improper for the DILG legal officer to do such thing because there is now doubt as to the integrity of the proceedings particularly that the hearing is being conducted in this office. Secondly, the investigating authority is the office itself. Meaning, the DILG which includes her (legal officer),” Castillo said.

Nogra was seen talking with Buendia and his lawyer, Benjamin Militar, during a recess of the preliminary conference last Wednesday. She was also seen discussing with the hearing officer, Isidro Barrios III.

Nogra allegedly advised the lawyers of Buendia to stop questioning the representation of Castillo as counsel for Rama and instead move for a ruling.

“You are giving them reason to delay the process. Ngayong February nine nalang kailangang i-end ‘yung investigation. By February ten, investigation should be wrapped up na,” Nogra was heard telling Buendia’s lawyers.

“It will not work on your favor,” she added.

Nogra said she was not giving advice but was just telling them that the investigation will end on February 9.

“Ako, I have no problem. Ako, there’s no problem with me kay dili mana malikayan nga usahay mangutana sila. But, the hearing officer cannot. Ako, I was not giving advice. I was just informing them nga kutob ra Feb. 9 ang investigation. It’s up to you if you want to stop this issue and be resolved,” Nogra told reporters when asked if she is allowed to coach.

“Ang ilang (Buendia’s camp) gusto kay mo rule man gyod ang hearing officer. But the hearing officer is also hearing all sides. If you want, you can move. In the end, we cannot force them. It’s just a suggestion,” she added.

Lawyer Perla Centino, one of the counsels of Buendia, said they also felt “prejudiced” when Nogra asked them to stop questioning the capacity of Castillo to defend Rama because of conflict of interest.

“To be honest, I did not know her (Nogra). I heard that she was trying to convince us to drop the case (questioning the capacity of Castillo). If they (Rama’s counsels) felt that they were prejudiced, I also felt that we were prejudiced. We are fighting for this (to inhibit Castillo from defending Rama)” Centino said.

“We were also asked by the hearing officer to waive the motion questioning the capacity of Atty. Castillo, but our response was negative. It is just a manner of interpretation,” Centino added.

But, Castillo said Nogra’s act is not in conformity with existing regulations and actuations of any investigative body.

“That is why, we respectfully move that we will no longer hear this case here, we should not allow Atty. Nogra to receive our documents. We shall have a transfer of venue to some other place, aside from Region-7,” Castillo said.

He said that it was a serious matter since it was also Nogra who served the preventive suspension of Rama last December 10.

Militar said the serving of suspension order was just a ministerial function on the part of Nogra. He said Nogra has nothing to do with how the case will be resolved by the hearing officer.

“We can’t make this as basis to further delay this proceeding,” Militar said.

Lawyer Brian Repollo also believes that the act of Nogra will not affect the case since the camp of Rama still believes in the integrity of the hearing officer to hear the case.

The second day of the preliminary conference yesterday ended with the markings of evidence. It will resume on February 1 until February 5 and on February 9, if necessary.  (FREEMAN)

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