CEBU CITY, Philippines – While media have obtained a copy of the 5-page suspension order against Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, Rama himself complained that his office has yet to receive a copy of the order.
In an interview with Sun.Star Cebu on Sunday, April 10, Rama said he had not yet received a copy of the suspension order issued by the Office of the President over the release of calamity aid to city government employees who were "not victims" of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake and Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) that hit Cebu in 2013.
According to a Sun.Star Cebu report, the memorandum signed by Malacañang Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, suspended Rama, Labella and 12 councilors for 6 months for abuse of authority. The suspension is related to Cebu City's granting P20,000 in calamity assistance to all the officials and employees of City Hall in 2013 after the earthquake and super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit Cebu.
"Kaning newspaper mao'y nauna. Kami wala (The newspaper knew first). [That's] preposterous, absurd," Rama said during an ambush interview at Cebu City Hall. "This is opposite of what is normal. That's how it is. Some of my lawyers were telling me after checking that there was no approval [from Comelec].
Rama was referring to the direction from Malacañang Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa to ask Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento to ask the Commission on Elections if this case can be exempted from the campaign ban on suspending public officials.
"Abi nako basin to' kang Buendia kay naa na'y decision. Ngano maabot didto sa Comelec, pero wala pa ko kadawat og copya," Rama told reporters on Monday, April 11. (I thought the suspension was related to the Buendia case. Why would it end up there at Comelec but I haven't received a copy myself?)
This is the second suspension order Rama has received after serving a 60-day suspension last December for ordering the demolition of the center island in Barangay Labangon.
"In the doctrine of due process, you should give the respondents a copy of the decision so they can act appropriately," Cebu City attorney Jerone Castillo told reporters.
"They want to run city hall. Whoever will be benefited will be a part of it," Rama said, claiming political harassment is the reason behind the suspension order.
The respondents found guilty in the Office of the President’s decision said that the decision "is not yet final."
Will Rama follow the suspension if it is implemented? Rama said he would not say what he would do until he receives a copy of the decision.
"Mar is losing and Binay is gaining," Rama said, calling the suspension politically motivated.
"To Mar, Benigno Aquino and Mel Sarmiento: just wait until May 9," Rama said they should wait until election day and let the people decide if he should still be mayor or not.
Rama is the regional coordinator of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) and Vice President Jejomar Binay's strongest ally in vote-rich Cebu.
In 2013, Rama defeated his opponent the Liberal Party's 5-term Cebu City mayor and one-term congressman Tomas Osmeña, by only 6,000 votes.
Although they are bitter rivals now, Rama served as Osmeña's vice mayor from 2001 to 2010. They are running against each other for a second time in this election. – with reports from Kent Pepito/Rappler.com