Probe against Osmeña begins

THE Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas has started its inquiry into the 2009 Dodge Charger with a Cebu City Government seal that was being kept in the house of Rep. Tomas Osmeña (Cebu City, south district).

Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol yesterday said he directed lawyer Carla Juris Tanco, acting director of the Public Assistance and Corruption Prevention Bureau, to conduct a fact-finding based on newspaper reports and an anonymous letter sender.

“Wala kaming pinapaboran rito. Basta lumabag sa batas, iimbestigahan natin (We don’t play favorites. If an official breaks the law, we will investigate that official),” he told Sun.Star Cebu.

During the preliminary investigation, the ombudsman will gather documents pertaining to the donation of the vehicles by Bigfoot Entertainment chairman Michael Gleissner to Osmeña, former Cebu City mayor, Apostol said.

Admissions

Apostol also said they will gather testimonies of witnesses to aid them in their preliminary investigation.

Osmeña admitted receiving two 2009 Dodge sedans from Gleissner, but clarified that these were registered to his older sister, Maria Victoria “Minnie” Osmeña, and her son Paolo.

One of the cars was painted black and white and it has a siren. It is also marked “Cebu City Police,” although it was not donated to the City Hall or the city police.

Osmeña, in previous interviews, also admitted he lobbied before the Congress and the Senate to grant German-born Gleissner Filipino citizenship.

Gleissner was granted Filipino citizenship by the Senate enabling him to invest in the South Road Properties (SRP).

Apostol yesterday said his office launched the preliminary investigation on the criminal, and not the civil, aspect of the case. This is pursuant to the provision of Republic Act (RA) 6770, or the Ombudsman Act of 1989, which provides that the ombudsman has disciplinary authority over elective and appointive public officials except members of Congress and the Judiciary.

Assurance

In case an administrative complaint is filed before the Ombudsman-Visayas, Apostol said he will refer this to the speaker of the House of Representatives.

Section 13, Article 11 of the 1987 Constitution and Section 15 of RA 6770 says the ombudsman can act on anonymous complaints and motu proprio (on its own) inquire into alleged improper official acts or omissions from whatever source, such as newspaper
reports.

The anti-graft office may also entertain any complaint and initiate an inquiry and an investigation for alleged irregularities of public officials.

Apostol assured that any public official accused of irregularity will be given the opportunity to answer the charges during the formal investigation.

Under existing rules, the anti-graft office has at least 25 days to terminate the preliminary investigation, a legal procedure where the investigator determines whether there is sufficient ground to engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed.

Willingness to help

Interviewed over ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol Central Visayas, Apostol also denied singling out Osmeña in the investigation.

Apostol said documents relating to the case–whether from political critics of Osmeña or concerned taxpayers–will help the ombudsman fast-track the inquiry.

Meanwhile, Mayor Michael Rama yesterday welcomed the anti-graft office’s inquiry against Osmeña.

Rama said the City Government is willing to cooperate in the fact-finding, if needed, particularly in tracing documents regarding the two vehicles.

He said the investigation will enlighten the public on the propriety of the congressman’s possession of the Dodge Chargers that Gleissner originally wanted to donate to the City.

“I am happy. This is the only way to put this (controversy) to rest and for the people to be aware of what really is going on. This is the proper and legal way (of handling the matter),” he said.

The ombudsman will look into Osmeña’s possible violation of Section 7 of RA 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, which prohibits public officials from soliciting or accepting gifts.

Gleissner had reportedly wanted to donate the vehicles to the City during the time of Osmeña in 2009. Bigfoot is a lessee of a two-hectare lot at the SRP.

Upon learning that Osmeña’s term was ending, Gleissner reportedly decided to give the vehicles to Osmeña instead.

However, Osmeña had said he didn’t want the vehicles so his sister and nephew bought these.

Records of the Land Transportation Office state the vehicles were only bought last June. The vehicles had been used in films by Bigfoot.

While Osmeña said it would be unfair to also subject his sister and nephew to an investigation, Rama said it’s part of having a relative who is a politician.

Rama said his whole family was affected when he was accused of being a drug protector.

“Wa na siya’y mahimo. Naabot na man na (There’s nothing he can do. It has gotten to this point). It goes with the position,” he said.

Article Source: Sunstar
Photo Source: cebucity.org

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