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EXPLAINER: Rama suspension and why the Ombudsman ordered it?

By: Morexette Marie B. Erram - CDN Digital Multimedia Reporter | May 09,2024 - 05:58 PM

Rama suspension

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama during his speech in the prayer rally on Sunday, Feb. 25. Screengrab/SMNI Facebook live

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama may not be able to report to his office at the City Hall anytime soon.

This was because the Office of the Ombudsman slapped the city’s chief executive, along with seven other City Hall officials, a six-month preventive suspension for his administration’s failure to pay several employees their salaries for months.

The other respondents in the case are lawyer Collin Rossell, Maria Theresa Rossell, Francis May Jacaban, Angelique Cabugao, Jay-Ar Pescante, Lester Joey Beniga and Nelyn Sanrojo.


Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama suspended for 6 months

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Should the Rama suspension order be enforced anytime this May, this means Rama is barred to function as the city mayor until October, which also happens to be the date for filing of certificate of candidacy for the upcoming 2025 Midterm Elections.

But how did the state’s anti-graft investigating body come up with such decision? And what will happen should the Rama suspension order be served?


On May 2, the Ombudsman made its decision over the administrative case filed by four City Hall employees – Filomena Atuel, Maria Almicar Dionggzon, Sybil Ann Ybañez, and Chito Dela Cerna – against Rama and some officers last April.

In an eight-page resolution, Ombudsman Samuel Martires said they found sufficient grounds to put Rama and several City Hall executives under preventive suspension for grave misconduct and conduct unbecoming of a public officer and conduct prejudicial to the best interest among others.

According to Martires, there is ‘strong evidence’ showing the respondents of their guilt and the charges lodged against them.

The Case

Atuel, Diongzon, Ybañez and Dela Cerna sought the Ombudsman’s assistance over the city government’s failure to pay their salaries for 10 months.

It stemmed from the city government’s decision to reassign them to new roles in what the complainants described as acts of oppression and discrimination.

Based on findings from the Ombudsman, here is a chronological account of how it began.

Last May, Atuel, Diongzon, Ybañez and Dela Cerna, who all worked as tax mappers in the City Assessors Office for decades, were reassigned to other departments in the city government.

Atuel’s new deployment was in the City’s Anti-Mendicancy Office; Diongzon at the South Road Properties Management Office; Ybañez at the Operation Second Chance; and Dela Cerna at the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO).

But according to the complainants, the move was unfeasible since the new tasks did not align with their expertise. At the City Assessors Office, they already had supervisory roles.

Atuel, Diongzon, Ybañez and Dela Cerna said they faced discrimination in their new roles like being handed menial tasks and not being provided with new equipment and office tools.

Then the four former tax mappers made an appeal in June of 2023 before the Civil Service Commission, on the ground that they have been ‘constructively dismissed from the service.’

While their motion for reconsideration is being processed, they returned to their original job at the City Assessors Office.

However, things did not work out for the former tax mappers. They were unable to collect their salaries as well as benefits beginning July 2023 despite reporting to duty.

On top of this, they also told the Ombudsman that they suffered ‘emotional and medical anguish’ from the oppressive treatment they received from City Hall officials, particularly the respondents they named in their case, including Rama.

Unpaid salaries

When the CSC released its ruling in October 2023 in favor of the four tax mappers, the City Assessors Office, however, filed motions for reconsideration, which basically meant that they want their former members to stay in their new jobs.

By then, the employees had not been receiving any salaries for six months already, prompting them to seek help from other bodies like the legislative and the mayor himself.

They asked assistance from Rama and Councilor Nestor Archival, the latter who then issued a resolution addressed to the former, requesting for the release of their wages and benefits for ‘humanitarian purpose.’

READ: Preventive suspension of accused gov’t workers now possible


Despite these developments, and with the coordination of the city’s Human Resources and Development Office (HRDO), the complainants were still unable to collect their salaries.

The situation became even more confusing when they received a designation order instructing them to report directly to Lawyer Collin Rosell, the city administrator under the City Administrator’s Office.

Rosell assured them that their salaries would be processed. But like before, it did not materialize, the complainants said.

By April this year, or 10 months after the reassignment occurred, Atuel, Diongzon, Ybañez and Dela Cerna finally took the matter to the Ombudsman.


Rama, meanwhile, has yet to issue further comments on the Ombudsman’s decision to put him and seven other City Hall officers under preventive suspension, without pay, saying he has yet to receive a copy of the order.

However, sources from City Hall told local media that the City Legal Office had started looking for legal remedies to reverse the suspension.

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), on the other hand, has also yet to enforce the order against Rama.

But as soon as they serve it, Cebu City Vice Mayor Raymund Alvin Garcia would take over the helm. / with reports from Niña Mae Oliverio, Pia Piquero, Futch Anthony Inso

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TAGS: Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, Cebu Daily News, cebu news, suspension

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