Osmeña asks Ombudsman to suspend Mayor Rama
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama was accused by his arch critic of “harassing” department heads and preventing the City Council from passing a balanced budget for 2012.
A complaint was filed yesterday by Rep. Tomas Osmeña, who asked the Ombudsman Visayas to stop the mayor and immediately place him on preventive suspension.
“He has unilaterally created a looming crisis in the passage of the 2012 budget of the City of Cebu. This destructive path has to stop today,” said Osmeña.
The congressman said the mayor was abusing his power and disrupting budget deliberations with impunity.
Sought for a reaction, Mayor Rama just laughed at being accused of coercing department heads to “boycott” budget review meetings and of pressuring them to push an unprecedented P11.81-billion annual budget, which the council considers unrealistic.
“I have never been perceived to be bullying,” Rama told Cebu Daily News.
“Maybe that would be a good description of someone else. I think you know who.”
The mayor said he would answer the charge “in the proper time” after he has read the complaint.
Clashes continue over the mayor’s draft 2012 budget, now under scrutiny by the City Council, which has to approve a budget for Cebu City before the year ends.
Osmeña said this is the “highest budget ever proposed by any city in the Philippines.”
In his complaint, Osmeña asked the Ombudsman to investigate the mayor for “grave misconduct” and abuse of authority in various incidents.
He cited an Oct. 27 prebduget meeting, where the mayor prevented department heads from attending, and then a Nov. 4 budget hearing, where the mayor insisted on sending Assistant City Treasurer Emma Villarete to face the council instead of Treasurer Tessie Camarillo.
The City Council is packed with allies of Osmeña, whose strained relations with the mayor collapsed in June 2 when Rama declared his “independence” from the group.
Osmeña was in Manila yesterday and and his staff filed the complaint in the Ombudsman’s office.
He sent test messages to Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BO-PK) councilors about his move.
“To relieve you—councilors, department heads—from the bullying of Rama, I’m filing today an Ombud case asking for his immediate suspension. He has been naughty, worse, disruptive,” said Osmeña.
The congressman asked Deputy Ombudsman Pelagio Apostol for an immediate remedy.
He said, “Public interest will immensely suffer if a mayor refuses to call or attend a session because the (city) council is controlled by another political group.”
He said a preventive suspension against Rama would stop the mayor from harassing heads of the executive department and allow the Cebu City Council to pass the 2012 budget.
He said Rama is liable of grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service in violation of the Local Government Code of 1991 for not allowing the department heads to attend the pre-budget hearing last Oct. 26.
That hearing was called by the congressman’s wife, Councilor Margot Osmeña, who heads the committee on budget.
During that impasse, the mayor signed a note ordering department heads to present and defend the proposed 2012 budget instead at a “regular full budget hearing.”
Osmeña also said the mayor violated Article 131 of the Revised Penal Code, which penalizes a public officer or employee who hinders any person from joining a lawful association or from attending any of its meetings.
“Mayor Rama has on more than one occasion ordered his department heads not to attend the budget meetings called by the Cebu City Council with the intention and effect of interrupting and disrupting the work and budget proceedings of the Cebu City Council,” Osmeña said.
Osmeña also told the anti-graft office that Rama should be held liable for “refusal of assistance.”
“The executive department’s refusal to assist the Cebu City Council resulted in endless delay and disruption of the council’s task of annual budgeting,” he said.
Last week, Rama designated Emma Villarete in charge of the Treasurer’s Office to replace Tessie Camarillo.
That choice is being disputed because the Bureau of Local Government Finance of the Department of Finance said Villarete’s designation as acting city treasurer for administration had expired.
Osmeña said this made Mayor Rama liable for attempt at usurpation of authority.
The congressman also took Rama to task for trying to “conceal” documents about disallowances of P203 million in appropriations for 2011.
The documents were sent by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to the mayor who kept it for four months instead of transmitting them to the City Council.
Osmeña said the mayor allegedly concealed at least three official communications sent by DBM.
“He (Rama) intentionally did not inform the Cebu City Council of the same even as budget preparation was in process in his office,” Osmena said.
“It does not take a rocket scientist to understand and deduce that Mayor Rama kept and concealed those documents with a view of ignoring DBM’s disallowance and duping the city council and the people of Cebu into believing there were no remaining issues with the 2011 appropriations so that he could push forward his mega P11.81-billion budget,” he added.
“I am appalled by Mayor Rama’s blatant disrespect for and obstinate refusal to abide by the rule of law. Mayor Rama’s continuing control over the executive department will have unwanted consequences for the people of the City of Cebu. This destructive path has to stop today,” Osmeña said.
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