DILG chief: I would have helped Rama… | Inquirer News
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DILG chief: I would have helped Rama…

By: - Correspondent / @jhenallegadoINQ
/ 03:44 AM April 17, 2016

CALBAYOG CITY—Interior Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento has washed his hands of the order suspending Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama and 13 other city officials.

Sarmiento pointed to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) legal section as the one that issued the suspension order against the city officials for allegedly committing grave abuse of authority.

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When he took over in September last year, Sarmiento said he adopted a hands-off policy on matters pertaining to legal cases involving elective officials and relied on the “expertise and knowledge” of the DILG legal department because he was not a lawyer.

“As a matter of policy, I have given the DILG legal department a free hand and blanket authority to investigate and make a ruling on all cases or complaints filed against local government officials,” Sarmiento said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

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He added he learned about Rama’s case only after the DILG legal department submitted its decision on the complaint filed against the mayor, Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella and 12 city councilors.

The city officials were ordered suspended by the Office of the President for abuse of authority for the release of P20,000 in calamity aid to each city official and employee in December 2013 although the personnel were not direct victims of the earthquake and Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) that hit Cebu and a wide area of the Visayas in October and November of that year.

Sarmiento said the suspension went through normal legal processes and had nothing to do with politics.

In the interest of fairness, Sarmiento said the DILG legal department referred the case to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and sought an exemption from the Omnibus Election Code that prohibited suspension of elective officials during the election period.

“The DILG will definitely abide by the Comelec’s decision,” he added.

Sarmiento said if there was one person who would resist any attempt to distort the legal process to pin down Mayor Rama, it would be him.

He said the Ramas had been close family friends since the 1970s. But as interior secretary, he said he had a sworn duty to implement a lawful order regardless of political and personal affiliations.

“I could have intervened to help the Ramas because I treat them like family but it is against my nature to use my office and my position to obstruct the rule of law,” Sarmiento said.

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TAGS: Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama, Department of the Interior and Local Government, DILG, Mel Senen Sarmiento, Mike Rama, Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella
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