Rep. Tomas Osmeña of Cebu City’s south district said the vehicle’s color will be changed to blue from its original black-and-white police car look.
That may take some of the heat off the issue of Osmena’s continued use of a lookalike police car with the seal of the Cebu city government.
“There was no intention by (sister) Minnie to keep the police car. The vehicle is now in the shop… Maybe (the change of color) will help address the issue, maybe not. But this was what was originally planned for the vehicles,” he said.
The sedan is not an official police car, but a moving prop once used in movie sets of film maker Bigfoot Entertainment, whose owner Michael Gleissner let Osmena use the vehicle during his term as mayor.
With questions raised about the propriety of the gift and the pseudo-official appearance of the car, the Ombudsman of the Visayas has started a fact-finding inquiry.
A second Dodge Charger, all white with no markings, remains in Osmena’s house.
Osmeña clarified that repainting the other black-and-white sedan was planned even before the controversy broke out.
His sister Minnie and her son Paulo acquired both vehicles last June 29. The cars we re registered with the Land Transportation Office (LTO) shortly after their purchase. Registration papers described the vehicles as white and blue Dodge Chargers, an American brand.
The white Dodge sedan was parked at the Osmeña residence in barangay Guadalupe yesterday when Cebu Daily News visited. He said it was painted white shortly after its purchase to be used as a service vehicle by Minnie and the family’s guests in addition to a 14-year-old Toyota sedan his sister uses during her visits to Cebu.
The other black-and-white Dodge sedan was used during the funeral march of the late DILG secretary Jesse Robredo in Naga City. Osmena said the repainting of the second vehicle was delayed because of requests for use by other parties, including Guadalupe barangay captain Micahel Gacasan.
Osmeña said he was willing to cooperate with the Ombudsman’s inquiry but said investigators should clarify what laws were actually violated.
He challenged Mayor Michael Rama to produce documents and prove claims that the vehicles were donated to the city government.
Osmeña recalled that he borrowed the vehicles from Gleissner on several occasionS when he was still mayor. The lookalike police car was used by the security office of the South Road Properties.
Mayor Rama earlier challenged the Ombudsman-Visayas and the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) to investigate Osmeña’s use of the city government seal on one of two US Dodge cars.
In issuing the challenge, Rama said he himself responded to public criticism about the vanity plate bearing the title “Mayor” in the front of his city government issued Toyota Grandia van.
“I had the original license plate restored together with the vanity plate. Why doesn’t he (Osmeña) do the same with the Dodge cars in his possession?” he told reporters over the weekend.
Rama said he wasn’t the first one to question the ownership of the two US Dodge Chargers in Osmena’s possesion.
A photo of the Dodge police car was circulated in Facebook. The car was also photographed escorting the burial march for the late secretary Robredo.
Osmeña said the Dodge cars were kept at the SRP because of an earlier plan to build a police precinct there. At the time he said the vehicles will be parked there “for bragging rights” since Cebu City was the only city in the country which used a Dodge Charger as a police car, the same type used by American law enforcement agencies.
Osmeña admitted that the accusations leveled against him were already “hurting” him politically with many people talking about the car. He said his critics including Rama are branding him for “lack of transparency.”
“A lot of money is being spent by the other side in the media. All they provide are twisted allegations and all I have to do is to answer. There was no donation of the vehicles and the vehicles were never owned by the city. There are LTO registration documents to prove its ownership. That will help clear up some matters,” he said.
“But does that make it owned by the city? When I challenge them to file charges, that is not arrogance but a defensive mechanism because I believe in the system. All they have to do is state the laws which I violated,” he said. Correspondent Edison delos Angeles