47 CHIEFS CLEARED

Their fail­ure to re­turn ve­hi­cles to City Hall on time wasn’t enough to sup­port car­nap­ping, malver­sa­tion charges, om­buds­man says Coun­cilor Mar­got Os­meña, who re­called the ve­hi­cles when she was act­ing mayor, says the point of fil­ing the case was achieved

Sun.Star Cebu - - NEWS - RAZEL V. CUIZON / Re­porter @razel­cuizon

The Of­fice of Om­buds­man has dis­missed sev­eral cases that were filed against 47 barangay cap­tains of Cebu City for lack of prob­a­ble cause and sub­stan­tial ev­i­dence.

The anti-graft of­fice did not find suf­fi­cient grounds for Team Rama-al­lied barangay cap­tains to be charged with crim­i­nal com­plaints for car­nap­ping un­der Repub­lic Act 6539; malver­sa­tion of pub­lic prop­erty un­der the Re­vised Pe­nal Code; vi­o­lat­ing the Anti-Graft and Cor­rupt Prac­tices Act, Sec. 3-E or “caus­ing un­due in­jury to any party in­clud­ing the gov­ern­ment”; and vi­o­lat­ing the Code of Con­duct and Eth­i­cal Stan­dards for Pub­lic Of­fi­cials, Sec­tion 4,a, b, c, and d, which deal with pro­fes­sion­al­ism, po­lit­i­cal neu­tral­ity, up­hold­ing pub­lic in­ter­est and not giv­ing un­due fa­vors.

It also dis­missed the ad­min­is­tra­tive com­plaints for gross mis­con­duct, gross in­sub­or­di­na­tion and grave abuse of au­thor­ity against them.

Coun­cilor Mar­garita Os­meña, dur­ing her stint as act­ing mayor last year, filed the com­plaint against the barangay cap­tains af­ter they failed to re­turn their city-is­sued ve­hi­cles that were re­called for in­ven­tory.

Os­meña is­sued a mem­o­ran­dum on May 17, 2016, di­rect­ing barangay cap­tains, of­fi­cials, and em­ploy­ees of the City to im­me­di­ately re­turn all City-is­sued ve­hi­cles.

In a joint res­o­lu­tion, the anti-graft of­fice said that not re­turn­ing the ve­hi­cles on time is not tan­ta­mount to car­nap­ping be­cause of the fail­ure to es­tab­lish the el­e­ments of the crime.

It gave weight to the re­spon­dents’ ar­gu­ment that Os­meña’s mem­o­ran­dum stated that pa­trol cars, am­bu­lances and other emer­gency ve­hi­cles, among oth­ers, were not in­cluded in the re­call.

In most cases, ve­hi­cles is­sued to barangays are used as am­bu­lances and pa­trol ve­hi­cles when the need arises.

Os­meña, for her part, said that the dis­missal of the cases was moot, adding that the pur­pose of fil­ing them was al­ready served.

She said that she just wanted to pro­tect the City’s in­ter­est since some of the barangay cap­tains re­fused to re­turn the ve­hi­cles, prompt­ing her to file the case to com­pel them into ac­tion.

“Ba­si­cally, the point was made. At that point, in be­half of the City, I just wanted to pro­tect the in­ter­est of the City and asked them to re­turn. Some of them re­fused that prompted us to file a case,” Os­meña said.

Mean­while, the 47 barangay cap­tains were happy about the de­vel­op­ment.

As­so­ci­a­tion of Barangay Coun­cils (ABC) pres­i­dent Phillip Zafra said the om­buds­man res­o­lu­tion jus­ti­fied their ac­tions and and that the case was po­lit­i­cal ha­rass­ment and per­se­cu­tion.

“I was thank­ful to God that fi­nally the truth has come out and jus­tice has pre­vailed. We stood our ground that we have vi­o­lated no laws nei­ther did we com­mit any abuses. The so-called in­ven­tory of those gov­ern­ment ve­hi­cles was for me a coverup and/ or a ploy to par­a­lyze barangay op­er­a­tions. Again those ve­hi­cles, which in­clude among oth­ers, pa­trol cars and mul­ti­pur­pose/emer­gency ve­hi­cles, are very es­sen­tial in the op­er­a­tion of the barangay,” Zafra said.

Zafra, who is also the barangay cap­tain of Tisa, said the is­suance of ve­hi­cles to barangays was backed by res­o­lu­tions and or­di­nances passed by the City Coun­cil and ap­proved by the then mayor.

Apas Barangay Cap­tain Ramil Ayu­man said that they have been vin­di­cated from a crime they never com­mit­ted.

“Maghin­aut ko mausab ang pa­maagi sa nag­duma sa City Hall nga pu­los pang­gukod (I hope the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion will change its ways and stop go­ing af­ter mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion),” he said.

Now that le­gal fight be­fore the anti-graft of­fice is over, Coun­cilor Joel Gar­gan­era said they can fo­cus on de­fend­ing them­selves from another case for vi­o­la­tions of Ar­ti­cle 221 and 231 of the Re­vised Pe­nal Code filed against them in court over the same ve­hi­cles.

“They started on the wrong foot when they as­sumed into of­fice, in­stead of be­ing hum­ble in vic­tory, they in­dis­crim­i­nately filed cases against the barangay cap­tains,” he said.

Gar­gan­era is in­cluded in the case as he was the barangay cap­tain of Ti­nago last year.

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