On plunder complaint Henry ‘Sonny’ Osmeña asks Ombudsman to inhibit
CEBU, Philippines — Toledo City Mayor John Henry “Sonny” Osmeña has asked the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas to voluntarily inhibit from investigating him and other officials for alleged plunder.
Pablo John Garcia, on Tuesday has asked the anti-graft office through Deputy Ombudsman Paul Elmer Clemente to look into a “highly questionable and irregular Clean and Green Program” of Toledo City.
Garcia, under the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) party, and Osmeña, an independent, are both running for a third district representative.
Yesterday, lawyers Inocencio dela Cerna, Jr. and Clark Cebrian, Jr., who represented Osmeña, filed a motion for inhibition citing Garcia and Clemente were close friends and classmates during their days at law school at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman.
As proof, Osmeña’s counsels presented a printed list of 1993 batch of the UP College of Law.
Although having attended at the same school is not a ground for inhibition, Dela Cerna said there are jurisprudences that would support their petition.
He, however, said that it is still the discretion of the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas to inhibit from Garcia’s request.
“It is of the humble view of the respondent that the closeness of the relationship between the complainant and [Deputy] Ombudsman Paul Elmer Clemente would create a misimpression of bias, partiality, and prejudgment to the detriment of the respondent,” read the motion.
In his request, Garcia asked to investigate Osmeña, City Mayor’s Office Executive Assistant Justin Anthony De Jesus, officer-in-charge (OIC) of the City Budget Office Gethsemane Mahinay, OIC City Administrator Ferdinand Marquez, City Treasurer Leonardo Rivera, Jr., Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) Members Marjorie Perales and Atty. Leo Dolino, Liga ng mga Barangay President Ophelio Dolino and ex-officio SP member, and all other officials and employees responsible for the implementation of the P210 million Clean and Green Program in 2018.
Dela Cerna, in a press conference, said Osmeña described Garcia’s move as “fake news and political maneuvering.”
If Garcia would have questioned the program, he should have not been selective on who will be included in the complaint since the Clean and Green Program was trickled down up to the barangay level and it’s in that level that would hire who would be the sweep cleaners.
Dela Cerna also questioned why councilor Dydee Zambo was not included, who herself received the Clean and Green Program.
Zambo is under the PDP-Laban and is running for mayor in Toledo City.
Dela Cerna said Garcia’s act is premature since the Commission on Audit (COA) report whom he is using is not yet final, and is subject to remedies.
“It is very premature of PJ (Pablo John) to file his case,” he said. Dela Cerna is also asking Garcia’s capacity and legal standing in filing the same.
Dela Cerna added the proper body to investigate is the COA and not the Ombudsman, which oversees the program.
Garcia, in a statement, said he does not mind who will be investigating the complaint.
He admitted Clemente was his classmate.
“While it is true that we belonged to the same class in UP Law, I have not talked to Deputy Ombudsman Clemente since we graduated from law school. Remember: this is the same Deputy Ombudsman who dismissed my brother Mayor Nelson from the service (although reduced by the CA recently) and suspended my brother Mayor Marlon,” the statement read.
Garcia furthered if Osmeña feels that Zambo should be included and has document to prove it, he urged him to file a complaint. “But the bottom line is: let the Ombudsman investigate it.”
Meanwhile, the COA has started its probe on the Clean and Green Program following the query of Garcia on the release of P210 million for the said program. — GAN (FREEMAN)