THE Palace on Tuesday drew flak for suspending allies of opposition presidential candidate Vice President Jejomar Binay for releasing calamity assistance to typhoon victims, even if the Commission on Elections said it could do nothing to stop the corruption-related suspensions.
UNA candidates reelectionists Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, and 12 city councilors were suspended in connection with the release of P20,000 in calamity funds in 2013 for city hall employees who were affected by Super Typhoon “Yolanda.”
Binay’s United Nationalist Alliance denounced the suspension order as an act of desperation “patently illegal, excessive, vicious and relentless.”
Team Rama is pitted against the Palace-backed team of former Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, head of Bando Osmena-Pundok Kauswagan, a Liberal Party ally.
The suspension order against Rama was signed on Thursday by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa on behalf of President Benigno Aquino III, Liberal Party chairman.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the poll body has not yet received the request from the Palace for an exemption to the election restriction against suspensions during the election period.
He said the commissioners have to study the request before deciding on whether the suspension order can be imposed.
On the other hand, Jimenez said, if the offense involves a violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, no exemption from the Comelec is required.
UNA spokesperson Mon Ilagan said Malacanang’s second suspension on Rama was patently illegal and a “political squeeze to control city hall and Cebu City.”
Ilagan said the suspension order was illegal and forbidden by election laws.
In serving the order, Malacañang defied a Comelec ruling, prompting the poll body to remind the Palace that the suspension of elective local officials is prohibited during the campaign period from Jan. 10 to June 8, 2016.
Anyone who violates this rule would be guilty of election offenses and may be disqualified from running for an elective post.
“What Malacañang and the Liberal Party are doing against the Mayor Rama and the entire city council of Cebu City is patently illegal, excessive, vicious and relentless. The administration seems to have an unusually high interest in Mayor Rama that they need to suspend him twice over, and this time for giving P20,000 calamity assistance to employees of city hall,” Ilagan said.
Ilagan likened the suspension to what happened to Binay’s son and namesake Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay in July 2015 when the Liberal Party took over city hall.
UNA denounced what it called a pattern of harassment and political persecution against Rama, saying it showed the administration was desperate to control Cebu City.
“The LP and the Palace don’t care if their move triggers a crisis in Cebu City as a result of suspending the entire city council. Without a mayor, a vice mayor and councilors, they are free to pull off miracles with no one to question them,” Ilagan said in Filipino.
UNA denounced what it called the excessive use of executive power for political gain.
In December 2015, Rama was slapped by Malacañang a 60-day preventive suspension in connection for dismantling a 28-meter illegal structure in a barangay in Cebu City.
Rama was a member of the ruling Liberal Party until he bolted and joined Binay in 2012. Rama is UNA’s regional coordinator in Cebu. With Sandy Araneta
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