PROBE ON P20K CASH AID STARTS

By: Jose Santino S. Bunachita July 19,2015 - 10:50 PM

Rama, Labella, councilors seek to postpone inquiry to Sept.

Unless a Palace order tells them otherwise, the regional Department of Interior and Local

Government (DILG-7) starts today its week-long investigation into the P20,000 calamity aid case

filed against Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama and the majority of the City Council.
Rama, Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella and Councilors Dave Tumulak, Hanz Abella, Gerardo Carillo and

Noel Wenceslao filed a motion asking the Office of the President and the DILG central office to

delay the inquiry to September this year.
“Respondents have serious doubts on the accuracy and/or completeness of the issues and exhibits

enumerated in the 9 July 2014 Order of this Honorable Office,” read the “very urgent motion for

resetting” filed by the lawyers of Rama and the four councilors.
The motion was filed by the officials via mail last Friday. The DILG inquiry starts this

afternoon and ends on Thursday this week.
The administrative case for grave abuse of authority and grave misconduct was filed by lawyer

Reymelio Delute last year against Rama, Labella and the council.
Jurisdiction
The case stemmed from what Delute said was the across-the-board distribution of P20,000

calamity aid to all City Hall employees and officials in the wake of the October 15 earthquake

and the devastation of supertyphoon Yolanda in November 8, both in 2013.
Delute said the officials misrepresented themselves as calamity victims in order to receive the

money.
But the City Legal Office argued that the Palace has no jurisdiction to hear the case since the

complaint is an attack on a validly passed supplemental budget ordinance that covered the

P20,000 calamity cash aid.
City Legal Officer Jerone Castillo said legal challenges on an ordinance should be ruled by the

court.
In their motion Rama, Labella and the four councilors asked the DILG to review the transcripts

of the June 8 and 9 preliminary conferences to verify the accuracy of the issues identified by

the parties.
Waiver
The order for hearing issued by DILG summary hearing officer Isidro Barrios III last July 9

would resolve six main issues of the case.
These include the issue of jurisdiction of the Office of the President and the DILG on the case

filed by Delute and whether the city officials breached any law, rules and regulations in the

distribution of the calamity assistance.
The DILG investigation also seeks to answer whether or not distribution of the calamity cash

aid was in accordance with the ordinance and resolution covering it or if it violated the

ordinance and resolution.
It will also determine if the councilors who were absent during the passage of the resolution

can be made liable and if those who were present but not included in the case should be

impleaded.
“Failure of any of the parties to appear during the formal investigation shall be construed as

a waiver on the right to participate in the same,” read the order issued by Barrios.
Injunction
But Castillo, one of the lawyers of the city officials, said only three issues were identified

by the parties during the June 9 conference.
“Why is it now that there are a lot of issues to be resolved? We have to check. If there is

bias again on the part of the hearing officer, then we will have to move for his inhibition,”

Castillo told Cebu Daily News.
Castillo recalled that only the issues on jurisdiction and whether the distribution of the

calamity aid violated any law were discussed during the June 8 and 9 conference with the DILG.
Rama, Labella and the four councilors also want more time to prepare affidavits and other

documents from 100 City Hall employees which they will present during the investigation.
They also told the DILG that the city government already received communication from the Court

of Appeals in Manila that their motion for issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)

and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction is “submitted for appropriate action.”
Position paper
“It is therefore incumbent upon the DILG to await the resolution of the Court of Appeals of the

motion for TRO and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction before proceeding with the formal

investigation of this case,” the officials said.
The mayor, vice mayor and the four councilors clarified that their motion isn’t intended to

delay the case.
Only the six officials have opted for a formal investigation to resolve Delute’s complaint.
Other impleaded councilors Nestor Archival Sr., Sisinio Andales, Alvin Dizon, Nida Cabrera,

Eugenio Gabuya Jr., Roberto Cabarrubias, Alvin Arcilla and Mary Ann Delos Santos chose to

submit their respective position papers for resolution.
Preliminary conferences have been held on the case last February 25-26 and June 8-9 this year.

Delute will present himself as a witness in the investigation.
Delute will reference a Cebu Daily News story quoting Mayor Rama as saying that he used his

P20,000 calamity cash aid to pay for his power bills as evidence for his complaint.
Rama, Labella and the four councilors will present themselves as witnesses together with the

secretary of the City Council, a resident auditor of the Commission on Audit (COA), a

representative from the Department of Budget and Management and 100 City Hall employees who

received the financial assistance.

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