Cuenco to question Ombud decision in CA

By: Jose Santino S. Bunachita October 05,2017 - 10:35 PM

CEBU City Councilor James Anthony Cuenco yesterday vowed to battle the Ombudsman’s decision dismissing him from public service and perpetually disqualifying him from holding public office over alleged irregularities when he was still chief of staff of his father, former Cebu City South District representative Antonio Cuenco.

For one, he said his lawyers will file today a petition for review on certiorari, with a prayer for a temporary restraining order and injunction before the Court of Appeals (CA) against the Ombudsman order which was already served by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) last Tuesday.

But he said he will also respect the Ombudsman’s decision.

“Since I received the order of the DILG the other day for me to vacate my office, if it were up to me, I will follow the rule of law and I will obey whatever directives given to me,” he told reporters at a press conference he called yesterday morning.

“However, I was advised by my lawyers to wait first until after the CA would have acted on our immediate petition for review because it would make this appeal to the CA moot and academic if I were to leave my office immediately,” he added.

But if there is still no ruling from the CA by Tuesday next week, Cuenco said he will not be attending the Cebu City Council’s regular sessions anymore.

The Ombudsman found Cuenco and another former staff member Manuel Tipgos, guilty of serious dishonesty and grave misconduct over alleged irregularities in the implementation of the Tony N’ Tommy (TNT) health program which was funded by the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of former congressman Cuenco in 2002.

The anti-graft office based their decision on several observations and a notice of disallowance by the Commission on Audit (COA) which reported that the government suffered injury in the amount of P3.38 million for the payment of drugs and medicines with falsified prescriptions.

In his press conference, Councilor Cuenco tried to explain that while he was technically made to oversee the TNT program, he was not formally employed to do the program since he had to attend to his responsibilities as chief of staff of his father’s office in Manila. There was also no formal memo from his father assigning him to the program.

While he admitted that he pre-signed pro-forma referral letters for beneficiaries of the TNT program, Cuenco said it still went through the process of verification. He said he could not be involved in any anomalies since he was not always in Cebu to personally oversee the program.

“There’s no way I could participate in the conspiracy. I was merely signing. Which is being practiced until now, the (use of) pre-signed forms,” he added.

A penalty for negligence would have been enough for what he did, he said, which he could accept any consequence related to it.

But Cuenco lamented that the Ombudsman’s decision to dismiss him from service is “quite harsh, unfair and unjust.”

He said that aside from the administrative complaint, there was also a separate criminal complaint over the same issue. The criminal complaint was for alleged violation of Section 3 R.A. 3019 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and Estafa through falsification of public documents.

But in its decision, the Ombudsman dismissed the Estafa complaint against Cuenco and only indicted him for violation of RA 3019. The anti-graft office said there was not enough evidence to prove Cuenco and Tipgos guilty of Estafa through falsification of documents.

Cuenco stressed that the administrative complaint relied heavily on alleged falsification of documents in its decision which, he said, should not hold ground anymore as it was already dismissed in the criminal case.

“I say there was no falsification. I admitted it was original and authentic. The Estafa was dismissed. They themselves dismissed the charge on the criminal complaint,” he said.

Cuenco said his lawyer received the Ombudsman’s decision on both the criminal and administrative cases sometime in September and that they immediately appealed the decision through a motion for reconsideration which they sent through registered mail.

“I’m wondering why it (dismissal order) was implemented when there is still a pending motion for reconsideration,” he said.

In a separate interview, Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, an ally of Cuenco, said the Ombudsman should have observed and given due process to Cuenco.
Labella, who is a former deputy Ombudsman for Visayas, said he questions the “timing and haste” of the order despite the provision under the Ombudsman Act to give a certain period to somebody adversely affected by an Ombudsman decision to file a motion for reconsideration.

“I would like to remind them to observe due process. They should know the rules of the Ombudsman, and unless the order of the Ombudsman is executory and effective immediately,” Labella said.

Aside from Labella, other Barug Team Rama councilors also expressed their support for Cuenco including Councilors Joel Garganera and Pastor Alcover Jr. who joined Cuenco in his press conference yesterday.

“Considering the situation now in the City Council, I don’t know why they are in such a hurry when I still have the available legal remedies at hand,” Cuenco said.

Cuenco even said that he is “seriously considering” the option of resigning as city councilor to give Barug Team Rama a free hand in nominating and asking for the appointment of a new councilor to replace him.

Councilor Alcover said that he thinks Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña could be involved in this case as their way to take hold of the majority in the City Council.

With Cuenco gone, the Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BO-PK) will get the majority with eight members while Barug Team Rama would only have seven.

Garganera meanwhile said they are not running after the majority in the City Council but are just rallying behind Cuenco.

“Personally, filling up the vacancy for me is not important. What’s important now is for James Cuenco to get his justice. Personally, I believe that the way the decision was implemented was irregular, the timing. I believe in his innocence and he will get it,” he said.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Read Next

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of Cebudailynews. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

TAGS: Cuenco, decision, Ombud, question, to
Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our regional newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.