Labella: Private persons cannot issue public docs
Odessa O. Leyson (The Freeman) - September 22, 2016 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - If private individuals affiliated with the party of Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña are the ones issuing public documents or clearances instead of the barangay captain, then there is usurpation of authority.

Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella made this statement following complaints by ally barangay captains that City Hall allegedly does not honor their signatures for clearances and other documents and instead acknowledges those signed by private individuals in their respective barangay.

He clarified, however, that usurpation only happens when an official function was being taken over by the private individual.

"If it pertains to an official function that are being usurped then of course that could be a case of usurpation of official function, but if it does not pertains to official functions, like recommendations, I don't think, for me, there is a cause for action," Labella, a former Ombudsman-Visayas director, told reporters yesterday.

He said that under the Local Government Code, only barangay officials are accountable of certificates or any public documents issued by the barangay.

"You cannot have an authority without a corresponding responsibility. You cannot have an authority without a corresponding accountability. The main purpose of being a public official (is), you must be accountable because if you are not accountable, you (might)… do something which is not in accordance with the existing laws," Labella said.

He said that if the private individuals merely signed recommendations, then there is no violation of any law.

Article 177 (Usurpation of Authority or Official Functions) of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines states that "Any person who shall knowingly and falsely represent himself to be an officer, agent or representative of any department or agency of the Philippine Government or of any foreign government, or who, under pretense of official position, shall perform any act pertaining to any person in authority or public officer of the Philippine Government or any foreign government, or any agency thereof, without being lawfully entitled to do so, shall suffer the penalty of prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods."

Labella said that if a barangay captain felt aggrieved, he can file a case against the private individual just to settle the matter before a court of law.

Sought for comment on the mayor's statement that it was practiced by the previous administration, Labella said the current administration should have shown more maturity.

"I hope that people should learn that we should not follow the mistakes of others. On the assumption that what they did was a mistake, let us not (copy) it. Let us show to the people our maturity, (our) being responsible.  Just because there were alleged misdeeds done by the previous administration we are going to follow suit.  Where is the essence of 'public office is a public trust'?" he said.

Osmeña earlier said he was just continuing what the administration of former mayor Michael Rama, his political nemesis, did. Osmeña said the current setup does not confuse the residents, only the Team Rama officials.

"Weather-weather lang na dai. That's what they did to us dai. We are just following their policy," Osmeña earlier said.

Last Tuesday, the City Council requested the Department of Interior and Local Government to look into the creation of the Barangay Mayor's Office (BMO) in each of the 80 barangays of the city to address this matter.

Council ex-officio member Philip Zafra, in a privilege speech questioned the establishment of BMOs whose functions allegedly just duplicated those of the elected barangay officials.

He said he had gathered documents that support the claim on the designation of private individuals in different BMOs in the barangays who are authorized to issue certifications to residents who want to avail of City Hall services, like hospitalization and free medicine, among others.

Zapra had received complaints from several Team Rama barangay captains that their signatures were not honored by City Hall. (FREEMAN)

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