Cebu News

Due To “prior engagement”: Garcia no-show at Barug event

Iris Hazel Mascardo - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — Cebu City Acting Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia did not attend the Independence Day celebration at Plaza Sugbo initiated by the political party Barug team of suspended Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama allegedly due to a “prior engagement”.

In an interview with Garcia yesterday, June 13, 2024, he explained that he wasn’t able to attend due to his prior engagement as the acting mayor of Cebu City.

“As well as, of course, my own personal activities that I have to attend too. So I had really to, not attend and beg off and, of course, I was monitoring the whole thing,” said Garcia.

He added that he approved the permit for the said event, showing that he was cooperative.

“So wa nako gi pugngan, wa nako gibalda. I was very cooperative when it comes to issue with necessary permits for that rally,” said Garcia.

The Independence Day celebration was attended by supporters of the Barug party, and was celebrated with a mass and a short program.

On the other hand, only Councilor Jocelyn Pesquera and ex-officio member Rhea Jakosalem were present during the event alongside Acting Vice Mayor Donaldo Hontiveros, who has reiterated his support for Rama.

When asked about the absence of the other councilors during the event, Rama just said, “I wish naa pa silay kagawasan.”

During the event, Rama lamented on the injustices of his six-month preventive suspension, which was ordered more than a month ago by the Office of the Ombudsman.

To Rama, the convergence is a reflection of the people’s support towards him despite the suspension. Right after the event, Rama held a press conference underscoring his optimism to be back inside the Cebu City Hall soon.

Rama has previously stated that he was bothered with the policy direction being taken by Garcia, who was his political ally.  When asked if he was being consulted by Garcia with these directions, Rama replied with a short “wala”.

Rama’s camp: complaints are baseless

City Administrator lawyer Collin Rossel, who was also suspended alongside Rama, faced the media for the first time since the Ombudsan order was released and stressed that the complaints lodged against them by the four regular employees were baseless.

“Wala sad syay (Mayor Rama) labot niini,” said Rosell.

The case stemmed from a complaint by four regular employees of the City Hall under the City Assessor's Office after 10 months worth of wages were not released following a change in assignments.

In a 10-page resolution, the anti-graft office found sufficient grounds to put Rama and seven other officials under preventive suspension for grave misconduct, conduct unbecoming of a public officer, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, grave abuse of authority (oppression), and violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for public officials and employees (administrative case).

Rosell said that they intend to counter the complaints, adding that legal remedies are still underway to reinstate Rama back as mayor. He added that it wasn’t Rama’s fault that the complainants were unpaid.

“Kinsa man gyud diay (accountable)? Unsa man diay ilang gibuhat nganong na ingon ana ilang kahimtang? So mao na siya ang punto,” said Rosell.

Rosell, however, said that these arguments have already been filed before the proper agencies.

Further, Rama also pointed out that since the employees were already paid off their back wages through “his command”, the grounds for the suspension were already ironed out. His lawyers also said that the process was already underway even before the preventive suspension was carried out.

“Hinaot unta madunggan ta nila, please, wa mi sala. Please, wala mi sala, wala,” said Rama.

In the same press conference, Rama also hinted relying on the support of the public for his reinstatement as the city mayor and emphasized that such “power comes from the people” hence the said convergence.

“Ang nagpili nako ang katawhan. Ang magpabalik nako diha ang katawhan,” said Rama.

“Mao bitaw ng ako-a, kung dili nako makuha ang hustisya, klaro kaayo nga walay hustisya nga akong nadawat, nadawat namo, asa man diay padung? Sa katawhan,” he added.

He also said that since he is still the “elected mayor”, the convergence is also his version of what is supposed to be his usual program to commemorate the Independence Day celebration.

“Ayaw mo pataka, ga dali-dali man gyud mo og puli nako…palihog. Buhi pa ko, I am the elected mayor,” Rama said. — /ATO (FREEMAN)

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