By SHIELA MAE BUTLIG
and JOEY NACALABAN
MAYORAL candidate Jose Gabriel La Viña yesterday distributed copies of certificates showing that he has no case with the Office of the Ombudsman, the Civil Service Commission, and the Sandiganbayan.
The distribution of the certificates, done during a press conference, was an obvious jab at reelectionist Mayor Oscar Moreno on the first day of the campaign period for local candidates.
Moreno’s administration has been hounded by graft cases although the mayor’s accusers have yet to win a court conviction, and many of the cases have been dismissed.
One of the graft cases was the 2014 city hall-Ajinomoto tax settlement that nearly cost Moreno the mayoral post shortly before the 2016 elections when the then vice mayor Caesar Ian Acenas attempted to take over as mayor based on an ombudsman’s dismissal order against the local chief executive. The case reached the Sandiganbayan and it was dismissed early this year.
City administrator Teodoro Sabuga-a Jr. said of 100 cases or so filed against Moreno and other local officials, only 16 are pending, including consolidated administrative cases, and a consolidated criminal case with the Sandiganbayan.
On Monday, Sabuga-a wrote in the “100% Politics” section of this paper’s op-ed page, that the cases were filed by the local political opposition or individuals with an ax to grind against Moreno.
During a news conference, La Viña’s liaison with the media Nicole Managbanag handed out copies of certificates from the ombudsman, CSC, and Sandiganbayan to show that the mayoral candidate has no case with any of the three offices.
Unlike Moreno, La Viña was never elected to public office although he has briefly served in the national government as an appointee of President Duterte from 2016 up to October 2018. During the two-year period, La Viña transferred from one government office to another, first, as a commissioner of the Social Security System (SSS), Tourism undersecretary and subsequently, Agriculture undersecretary.
Managbanag said La Viña secured the certifications because there were allegations of corruption against him on social media.
One allegation is that La Viña demanded P26 million when he was an SSS commissioner supposedly for a social media project. La Viña said his intention was merely to upgrade the SSS’ internet system and come up with an effective social media strategy.
“As chairman of the Social Security System’s media affairs committtee, it was my job nga i-upgrade ang among systema,” said La Viña, adding that he never asked anything for his personal interest.
Signing the certificates were Ma. Teresa Pabulaya, an executive clerk of court for the Sandiganbayan, graft investigation officer Julito Ramo for the ombudsman’s office, and lawyer Prisco Rivera Jr. for the Civil Service Commission. Rivera is a CSC director in the National Capital Region.
La Viña told reporters that he was sincere and had good intentions for Cagayan de Oro, and that he was presenting himself as a mayoral candidate with a clean record.
“So magpili ang tao. Asa sila? Sa taga-Cogon nga hugaw ug baba pero maskig usa walay kaso o sa kawatan nga naay 100 ka-graft cases?” La Viña asked rhetorically.
During a rally at the Bulua gym, La Viña also reiterated his claim that the President is behind his candidacy, an assertion that has been doubted because there was never a categorical statement made by Duterte about his choice for the city’s mayoral post and because of the Chief Executive’s confusing acts — one moment, he raised the hands of La Viña and two candidates in Moreno’s ticket; the next, he stood on the same stage with PDP-Laban candidates that included Moreno.
Although Duterte never raised Moreno’s hand, there was a time when he and the mayor talked over the phone during a political gathering in Barangay 40, and the President thanked the group for supporting his “friend,” former broadcaster and now candidate for councilor Girlie Balaba, and congressional candidate Yan Lam Lim. The conversation, phone patched, was heard by the Barangay 40 crowd.
Yesterday, La Viña insisted before a crowd in Bulua: “I am the official candidate of President Rodrigo Duterte.”
He said a photograph showing his hand being raised by Duterte “was a strong indication that, indeed, I am the choice of the President of which my opponent Oscar Moreno did not have an opportunity.”
He said, “Today’s campaign launch is a statement that we intend to go all-out to achieve our assigned task – remove Moreno who is riddled with over 100 graft and corruption cases.”
La Viña is the head of the Bag-ong Cagayan Coalition, an alliance of the Padayon Pilipino led by his running mate former mayor Vicente Emano, and the Centrist Democratic Party led by former congressman Rufus Rodriguez who is seeking his old congressional post in the city’s 2nd District.
If elected mayor, La Viña promised to establish a “city university” that would provide free education to Cagayanons.
But he said the core of his dream “is the restoration of integrity at city hall [and the] prosecution” of those linked to graft and corruption.