Cebu City treasurer keeps her postBy Ador Vincent Mayol
Cebu Daily News
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama gets to keep the city treasurer of his choice, Ofelia Oliva.
The Regional Trial Court yesterday issued a temporary restraining order stopping the the Secretary of Finance from replacing her.
In his ruling, RTC Judge Douglas Marigomen of Branch 5 barred Secretary Cesar Purisima from replacing Oliva within the next 20 days, saying he had violated procedure in appointing Oliva’s replacement.
Judge Marigomen issued a 20-day Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against Purisima’s appointment of Asst. City Treasurer Emma Villarete.
Mayor Rama welcomed the ruling, saying the TRO “was good enough.”
“This is something worth fighting for. The Cebu City Council cannot disobey the court,” the mayor told Cebu Daily News.
Though Villarete was among three recommended by the mayor, Rama preferred Oliva.
Villarete temporarily replaced Asst. City Treasurer Tessie Camarillo, who earned the mayor’s ire after she told the Cebu City Council during last year’s budget hearings that the P11.8 billion budget target set by Rama wasn’t feasible.
The mayor asked for Camarilo to be replaced for “lack of full faith and confidence” in her.
The Department of Finance (DOF) and the city government have 10 days to submit their position papers on whether the judge should issue a writ of preliminary injunction to extend Oliva’s tenure while the case is pending in court.
No urgent reason
City Attorney Joseph Bernaldez said the court’s ruling should be respected.
“There’s no urgent reason to replace Oliva. She has been performing her functions well,” he added.
Regardless of the council’s stand favoring Villarete , Bernaldez said the mayor will have the final say.
“It’s the mayor’s call who he wants to be city treasurer. The fact is the court has issued a TRO,” he said.
Cebu City Vice Mayor Joy Augustus Young said they will respect the TRO.
“Anyway, that (order ) is only good for 20 days,” Young said.
The council is dominated by Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BO-PK) members, the party Rama who broke away from last year.
Not the right person
Young observed that the DOF’s camp wasn’t ready for yesterday’s hearing.
“Purisima’s counsel wasn’t ready. It’s a matter of preparation,” Young said.
The vice mayor said he was optimistic that the court would deny an injunction.
The City Council earlier passed a resolution opposing the filing of a petition for declaratory relief against Purisima’s appointment of Villarete as Oliva’s replacement.
A petition for declaratory relief is a civil action that asks the court to clarify what are the rights and obligations of the parties in a dispute.
During yesterday’s hearing Wilbert Tañeca, legal officer of the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF), asked the court to reset the proceedings since he wasn’t the right person to appear for Secretary Purisima.
Tañeca said someone from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) should represent Purisima in court.
But he decided to appear yesterday since the OSG got a copy of the petition filed by the city against Purisima only last Monday.
Judge Marigomen denied the request.
“We cannot wait for the Solgen. It’s one week already,” the judge said.
Cebu City Legal Officer Jerone Castillo said they furnished a copy of their petition before the OSG and the DOF.
The judge said the Finance Secretary violated the Local Government Code which states that “the treasurer shall be appointed by the finance secretary from a list of at least three ranking eligible recommendees of the governor or mayor.”
In its petition, the city legal office questioned the validity of Purisima’s order to replace Oliva and the appointment of assistant city treasurer Villarete as office-in-charge.
The city government asked the court to annul two issuances of Secretary Purisima designating Camarillo and later Villarete as city treasurer.
Mayor Rama designated Villarete as acting city treasurer pending confirmation from the BLGF.
Camarillo’s pronouncements that the city would fall short of its P11.8 billion budget target to the council drove Mayor Rama asked for her replacement.
After appointing Villarete, Rama submitted to the BLGF his recommendees for treasurer – Oliva, Villarete and Juanita Paires.
Rama was asked to recommend one qualified personnel.
He nominated Oliva. The BLGF designated Oliva as city treasurer for six months from Jan. 16 to July 15 this year.
But less than a month after Oliva assumed her post, the Finance Secretary informed Rama she was detailed or assigned at the BLGF.
Camarillo was designated acting city treasurer and Oliva’s appointment was revoked.
Rama asked for a reconsideration since Camarillo was never among his recommendees.
Last June 4, Secretary Purisima designated Villarete as officer in charge of the City Treasurer’s Office.
But the mayor said Purisima should consider his decision to choose Oliva as city treasurer over the other nominees.