Cebu Mayor Osmeña threatens disbarment case vs Aguirre

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Cebu City Mayor Tommy Osmeña threatened to file a disbarment case against Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II over alleged interference in the tax complaint that his government had filed against BDO Unibank.

"This country is better off if he is disbarred, because he's very forgiving to the rich, you're a drug lord or you're very rich, you're forgiven, if you're influential, okay you're forgiven," Osmeña said in an interview with Cebu Daily News on Tuesday, March 20.

This stems from the tax complaint against BDO that Osmeña said has been dismissed by the Department of Justice (DOJ). Osmeña said he is eyeing graft complaints too against Aguirre.

It started in 2017 when Osmeña publicly condemned BDO for not paying the correct tax to the city government, saying that a branch pays only P6 a day.

"Imagine, the most profitable bank in the country is pretending to be poor. A janitor in city hall pays about P5,000 a year in taxes, this BDO branch pays city hall P2,000 a year. One guesses: Who is richer? The city hall janitor or BDO? Isip... isip (Think... think)," he said in 2017.

The Cebu government went on to file a tax complaint against BDO but Osmeña said this was dismissed outright by prosecutors.

"How do I know DOJ was paid? Because I was offered money to drop the charges too," Osmeña said on his Facebook page.

Aguirre entered the picture because according to Osmeña, the justice secretary "ordered the Cebu prosecutor to inhibit after he found probable cause."

Without directly confirming if he indeed asked the Cebu prosecutor to inhibit, Aguirre said: "In danger of national security or to prevent miscarriage of justice, iyong dalawang iyan, iyan ang panghuhugutan ko kapag ginawa ko iyong aking power to transfer or power to get the cases."

(In danger of national security or to prevent miscarriage of justice, those two are grounds that I can cite in using my power to transfer or power to get the cases.)

He added: "In this case, alam naman ninyo that in Cebu, napakahigpit ng labanan ng Office of the Mayor and ng SM! And they are, iyong isang grupo diyan is saying that some of the prosecutors are under the influence of some local officials."

(In this case, you know that in Cebu, there is really intense conflict between the Office of the Mayor and SM. One group there is saying that some prosecutors are under the influence of some officials.)

Aguirre threatened a countersuit against Osmeña but did not say what complaint it would be. 

"Ang problema kay Mayor Osmeña palagi niyang sinasabi, 'Sigurado ako, tumanggap ng pera iyang si Secretary Aguirre.' Nasaan na iyong ebidensiya niya? Ako ang magpa-file sa kanya ng kaso," Aguirre said.

(The problem with Mayor Osmeña is that he always says, "I'm sure Secretary Aguirre accepted money." Where is his evidence? I will be the one to file a complaint against him.) Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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