Rama, others face Ombud suit

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The Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) of Cebu City made good its threat to file a complaint against Mayor Michael Rama for his alleged unauthorized use of their P5 million share from City Hall.

ABC president Michael Ralota requested the Ombudsman-Visayas to investigate Mayor Rama on charges of technical malversation and to place him on six months preventive suspension.

Also named respondents were Cebu City Budget Officer Nelfa Briones and other unidentified persons.

All documents on the transaction should be turned over to the Ombudsman Visayas, Ralota’s lawyer Jennie Aclan said.

Mayor Rama said the complaint was politically motivated since Ralota is with the Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BO-PK) which he left after differences with its head, Rep. Tomas Osmeña of Cebu City’s south district.

Rama said he now has second thoughts about allocating P2 million in financial assistance for the ABC next year.

In his affidavit, Ralota said the ABC was entitled to P5 million in financial assistance from the city government but that as early as Jan. 10, 2012, the mayor started “chipping away”or allocating portions of the fund without the knowledge and consent of the ABC.

He said Rama, through a written authorization given to Briones, tapped P4.5 million from the P5 million financial assistance to the ABC and spent it for gasoline and oil for motor vehicles assigned to different barangays.

Ralota said the ABC was shocked to learn that only P500,000 was left of the P5 million budget.

In a separate interview, the mayor said Ralota’s motive was related his running for a seat in the Cebu City Council.

“ “Ug mahimo pa lang wagtangon sad ko nila sa mapa,” he said. (They want to take me off the map.) “If that’s how they think of me, would I give aid to my opponents? When they file a case against me, should I give funds to them?” the mayor asked.

He warned that he may file a counter-charge against Ralota since the ABC chief didn’t exhaust administrative remedies before filing a complaint against him at the Ombudsman-Visayas.

Records of the city accounting office showed that the P4.5 million was indeed spent on gasoline allocations for the barangays.

The mayor said he saw nothing wrong with using the ABC fund to purchase gas since this still benefits the barangays.

Rama said the financial assistance to the ABC was in this year’s budget ordinance and he doesn’t have to seek council approval for its use.

Rama also said he couldn’t recall having received any request from the ABC for the appropriation of funds for their use.

Ralota said the ABC board would have wanted to use the P5 million financial aid to buy tires for barangay vehicles and fund self-help projects in the barangays.

“Lest the ABC forget that they have a different function. They’re assuming work that belongs to the city government,” the mayor said.

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