Prosecutors block Mayor Cayetano’s bid to remand padlocking case
State prosecutors blocked the bid of Taguig Mayor Laarni Cayetano to remand her case back to the Ombudsman for reinvestigation, saying there was probable cause to charge her for evicting her political rivals from the session hall.
In its comment opposition to Cayetano’s motion, the Office of the Special Prosecutor under the Ombudsman asked the court to deny Cayetano’s motion to remand the case for utter lack of merit.
“Definitely, probable cause defined by jurisprudence exists in this case. Therefore, the best course of action is to observe the Supreme Court-ordained policy of noninterference in the exercise of the Ombudsman’s constitutionally mandated powers,” the prosecutors said.
Cayetano has been indicted by the Ombudsman for violation of Article 143 of the Revised Penal Code, which penalizes persons who, by force or fraud, prevent or tend to prevent the meetings of local legislative bodies.
The complaint, filed by Vice Mayor George Elias and 16 councilors from the Sangguniang Panglungsod, accused Cayetano of fraud and force for padlocking the session hall on August 2010 and preventing them from holding their first regular session.
Cayetano at the time had just won mayor in the 2010 elections while the vice mayor and councilors were all from rival political party Kilusang Diwa ng Taguig.
The council was told that they could hold their session at the upper deck of the city auditorium, which proved inadequate because it housed the electoral ballots pending the election protest then filed by mayoralty candidate former Supreme Court Justice Dante Tinga against Cayetano.
The council was then compelled to hold its session on the staircase of the city hall and other venues until January 2011. After which, the council was told to hold its session in the old courtroom at the annex city hall building. But the courtroom proved too small for the vice mayor, 18 councilors and their staff.
In her motion, Cayetano said the case was the handiwork of her political rivals. She said the complainants were allies of former Mayor Sigfrido Tinga and his father, the former Supreme Court justice.
The Cayetanos and Tinga are long-time political rivals in Taguig. Cayetano beat former Justice Tinga in 2010 and his daughter Rica in the 2013 elections.
In its comment opposition, the prosecutors said the “plausibility and fairness” of the Ombudsman’s ruling to indict Cayetano were “unassailable.”
The Ombudsman based its indictment on a complainant’s testimony that Cayetano sent a letter on August 2010 to the vice mayor and the Sanggunian to vacate their offices for a reorganizational plan.
The letter, however, did not mention that the session hall was also to be padlocked for repair. The complainants then claimed that the reorganizational plan was a mere “ruse” to “denigrate” the complainants and prevent them from fulfilling their duties as city council.
While Cayetano claimed it was within her powers to order a reorganization and repair of offices, the Ombudsman said there was neither a plan nor a semblance of a project study that would make necessary the immediate change in the layout of the city hall.
Prosecutors said the aforementioned evidence could prove Cayetano “unleashed hostility by dislocating them from the session hall which had been assigned to them continuously for six years.”
“This, the accused has effected on the very day the Sanggunian was to hold its very first session after the 2010 elections. The accused planned and executed the eviction with unholy haste, affording no prior consultation and virtually giving no prior notice to complainants,” the prosecutors said.
Cayetano had converted the old session hall to the reception room of her office, the prosecutors added.
“As borne out by the evidence, only the session hall was closed and padlocked, with the end in view of making the Office of the Mayor occupy and use it. True enough, accused mayor since then uses the traditional session hall as the reception room to her office,” the prosecutors said.
The prosecutors said the complainants’ claim of holding sessions along the stairway was a fact and not for drama, and that it illustrated Cayetano’s “wicked ways” and “utter lack of respect” for the council, the members of which happened to be her political rivals.
“The Sanggunian’s holding their session along the stairway and corridors of the third floor of the City Hall was not intended to be a drama but a move forced on complainants by accused’s lack of respect for the Sanggunian as a body and also for the individual complainants, as well as their blatant abuse of authority,” the prosecutors said.
“There was no other space available. Complainants had nowhere to go; they had no other option. It was not complainants’ fault that their choice of a makeshift place proved to be a dramatically effective indictment of accused’s wicked ways,” the prosecutors added.
The mayor is the wife of Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who is seeking the vice presidency in 2016.