DILG to probe Osmeña, says stripping mayor’s office 'uncalled for'

CEBU CITY, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) will investigate the controversial stripping of fixtures in the mayor's office ordered by former Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña.

DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said the investigation will include Osmeña's decision to remove even  "immovable" items like floor tiles and even the ceiling.

“The DILG will investigate the reported act of former Cebu Mayor Osmeña of stripping the Mayor's office of everything from ceiling to floor tiles, rendering it unusable and completely bare,” Malaya said on Monday, July 1.

According to the Cebu City Department of General Services, all of the office fixtures including furniture, cabinets, down to the tiles were removed from the mayor's office. A construction company reportedly removed all of those items around 8 am on Friday, June 28.

Malaya said Osmeña was at risk of being charged for violating Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. 

“To strip the mayor’s office of everything is strange, uncalled for, and could expose the mayor to legal action for violation of various laws including RA 3019 for causing injury to the government,” Malaya said.

“What the mayor should have done was to file a claim for indemnification for all the immovable improvements he introduced to the office so that he can be reimbursed for the cost,” he added. 

In his defense, Osmeña said he spent P2 million of his own money to refurbish the office, when he assumed office in 2016, after he defeated Michael Rama.

The former mayor said he asked for a budget from the city council, which was then chaired by Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella, but the legislative body rejected his request. (READ: Labella vows to solve flooding, waste disposal, traffic in Cebu City)

'Bad faith'

As a general rule, Malaya said an official may only remove movable furniture and fixtures that are his personal property when he ends his terms like chairs, tables, computers and the like.

“But the act of even removing what are considered immovable objects like ceiling, walls, and the tiles is already bad faith because it renders the office, which is government property, as unusable by his successor and therefore affects the delivery of public service to the people of Cebu City,” Malaya said.

“Under the Civil Code, immovable improvements may only be removed by the owner if it does not cause damage or injury to the work constructed,” he added.

Because of the state of the mayor's office, the new Cebu City chief had been using the Vice Mayor’s Office since he assumed the mayoral post.

In a press conference, Labella thanked Vice Mayor Michael Rama for allowing him to stay in his office while renovations were underway.

“I thank Vice Mayor Michael Rama for allowing me to use his office for one week. We all know what happened to my office,” Labella said.

Labella will transfer to the Senior Citizens’ Office on the ground floor of the legislative building after a week to give way to the vice mayor who had been holding office at the social hall.

The City Legal Office was also preparing cases that may be filed against Osmeña and his running mate, former City Councilor Mary Ann delos Santos, for allegedly “destroying public property.”

After the controversial stripping of the Mayor’s Office by Osmeña, Delos Santos also reportedly packed some office fixtures before leaving her post.

Councilor Prisca Niña Mabatid is assigned to the former office of Delos Santos  on the third floor of the legislative building.

Mabatid’s staff showed Rappler that Delos Santos removed wall partitions, cut electrical wiring, and sawed off the newel caps of the railings leading to the former room of Delos Santos. Marthy John Lubiano and Ryan Macasero/Rappler.com