Cebu News

Digong: Rama suspended for supporting prayer rallies

Caecent No-ot Magsumbol, Iris Hazel Mascardo - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — Former President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte felt that Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama and Davao del Norte Governor Edwin Jubahib were ordered suspended one after the other as “collateral damage” for their support for prayer rallies that criticized what were believed as moves of the administration.

This, as Rama filed before the Office of the Ombudsman his counter-affidavit on the complaints filed against him and seven others, as he urged the lifting of the six-month preventive suspension against him.

The complaints were for oppression, among others, after four regular employees of the City Assessor’s Office complained due to the City not paying them their salaries and other receivables for 10 months.

The four were transferred from the City Assessor’s Office to different office and given tasks that are not of their expertise. They were later transferred to the Office of the City Administrator.

In a 22-page document that the Office of the Ombudsman received last May 22, Rama said “I vehemently deny all the allegations made by complainants”.

He argued that in all matters that require coordination with the Civil Service Commission (CSC), he rely fully on the actions made by his subordinate office, such as the Human Resource Development Office, that he said is the appropriate party handling concerns such as unpaid wages.

His counter affidavit further narrated the actions that the executive department took, including his willingness to extend financial assistance to the complainants and to pay the amount corresponding to their total unpaid salaries.

“While I maintain the validity of the reassignment orders concerning the Complainants, al other actions concerning the processing, indexing, and release of Complainants' payrolls were done without my involvement whatsoever. I can hardly surmise how I am administratively liable,” read a portion of his affidavit.

Rama also said the complaints should be “dismissed for lack of merit”.

“I cannot be liable for grave misconduct in relation to the Reassignment Orders because the CSC decisions are not yet final and executory,” he said, referring to the CSC decision that the four employees should be reassigned back to the City Assessor’s Office.

“I did not commit grave misconduct as regards Complainants' salaries because I am not involved in the payroll process; and ordered the processing and indexing thereof as soon as I heard of such delay,” he further said.

He likewise said he is not liable over the remaining charges against him, namely: grave abuse of authority (oppression), conduct unbecoming of a public officer, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, and violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

Atty. Luis A. Vera Cruz, Jr., Rama’s legal counsel, also pointed out that on April 24, or two weeks before news about the preventive suspension came out, City Administrator, Collin Rosell already requested the City Council, through Committee on Budget and Finance Head Noel Wenceslao, to issue a resolution charging the amount for the salaries of the complainants for July 1, 2023 to December 31, 2023 to an account under the Office of the City Administrator.

“Therefore, there is no more reason to continue the Preventive Suspension because all the documents and evidences are already submitted so there is no more possibility that the documents will be tampered,” he said.

On Duterte’s claim that Ram’s suspension was “collateral damage,” he stated this in an open letter addressed to the people of Tacloban City and the rest of the country, which he made due to recent events that have brought “inconvenience, discomfort and disruption in their lives, accordingly.”

Aside from cancelled flights due to tropical depression Agbon, he said that “travel to the city have been restricted, normal activities disrupted by unscheduled power interruptions and obstruction in the use of the Remedios Trinidad Romualdez Plaza.”

And what is common to Cebu City and Davao del Norte with Tacloban is the Maisug Rally, which in Tacloban is scheduled on May 25.

“As part of the Marcos administration's policy of stifling peaceful dissent, they are doing everything to prevent this rally from happening,” Duterte said in his letter.

He said similar disruptions also happened in Malolos and Bustos in Bulacan Province

There were other areas though that the prayer rallies initiated by Duterte and his supporters were successful, including those in Davao City; Tagum City, Davao del Norte; Dumaguete City; and Cebu City.

It is well-known in the country that Duterte and incumbent President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. are currently at odds, and there are sectors that believe that even before Duterte spoke his mind, Rama’s suspension was a punishment for him attending the Maisug prayer rally in Cebu City last Feb. 25.

“Innocent government workers were either relieved or suspended as collateral damage to these rallies including Davao del Norte Gov. Edwin Jubahib and Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama,” Duterte said.

During the Cebu City prayer rally, Rama was the only Cebu mayor that showed up. He, however, spoke about unity, not divisiveness, and even expressed his continued support to the Uniteam of Marcos and Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio.

“The message is clear: unless you do your part in thwarting these rallies, you pay dearly for it,” said the former president, who promised he would continue to speak up against the administration.

“If only I would be the only one who will be made to suffer, I would not hesitate to stop getting the message across to the people of Tacloban, and the rest of the country. All of you know that is not the case. Among others you know that is not the case. Among other things, the economy will worsen, the peace and order situation will further deteriorate, and a war that does not concern us will break out anytime,” Duterte said.

 “The success of the plot to amend the Constitution to lift the term limits of the one sitting in Malacan~ang will ensure not only perpetuation of power of one family but the rape of democracy that this administration has unleashed on the nation. That I cannot allow to happen. I will continue to speak even if my own life is at stake. I do not like the way oppressed Filipinos are being treated now. They are oppressed and have no one to turn to,” he added.

Duterte said that in his 22 years as city mayor and six years as Philippine president, he had never prevented anyone from exercising his or her right to peacefully assemble.

“Freedom of expression is very important and even more so now when there is no transparency, accountability, peace and security in our country. It is a sad day for Philippine democracy,” Duterte said.

 “Once again, my apologies not only for indirectly being the cause of all the inconveniences heaped upon all of you by the forces of darkness that threaten not only our rights to express our grievances but the very existence of our nation…I apologize in advance for more of these because we will not be cowed into submission until we are allowed to freely speak once again,” he added.

Earlier, Senator Imee Marcos extended her gratitude to those who helped Tacloban, including former president Duterte, after super typhoon Yolanda struck the city in Nov. 8, 2013.

This came days after President Marcos, the senator’s brother, said nothing was done during the respective administration of the late president Noynoy Aquino and that of Duterte in terms of rehabilitation measures for the victims of super typhoon Yolanda.

Marcos had said rehabilitation started just two years ago and not during the incumbency of Aquino and Duterte.

 “I feel great shame towards those who helped us in Tacloban due to reports that no assistance arrived after we were devastated by the very strong Typhoon Yolanda. During the devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda back in 2013, the first to arrive in the city of Tacloban was Mayor Duterte along with his disaster brigade. He continued the housing programs when he assumed office as President of the country,” Sen. Marcos said, in a statement.

She also mentioned remembering Filipino soldiers and American marines likewise came to help, bringing with them donations and helping the city in cleanup efforts.

She also mentioned the Tzu Chi Foundation from Taiwan and Manila and the numerous donations from abroad, including organizations and private individuals.

“I extend my endless and heartfelt gratitude to all, and I will never forget our indebtedness to those who helped and stood with us so that we could rise from the destruction brought by Typhoon Yolanda. I know that there is still much to be done, and I hope that the National Government and the Local Government will provide further assistance, through additional programs to be implemented in Tacloban,” Sen. Marcos said. (CEBU NEWS)

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