The Ombudsman-Visayas will investigate Rep. Tomas Osmeña of Cebu City's south district for his use of a city government seal on one of two US Dodge sedans in his possession.
Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas Pelagio Apostol said he would start a fact-finding inquiry based on media reports.
The l Department of Interior and Local Governments in Central Visayas (DILG-7) said it cannot the the same.
“He isn't a local official, therefore it is not within our ambit to supervise him,” DILG-7 legal officer Ayesh Nogra told Cebu Daily News in response to Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama's challenge for them to investigate the congressman.
Rama said he was disappointed by the agency’s response.
“They (DILG) are using the name of Cebu City,” the mayor pointed out.
A group, which Apostol declined to identify, also sent an e-mail to the Ombudsman Visayas last Monday about the car controversy.
He said the group would file a formal complaint against the congressman soon.
“The group gave us leads. I still have to look at them. As of now, the process remains strictly confidential,” Apostol told reporters yesterday.
“We need documents and witnesses. Any taxpayer can file a complaint,” he said.
He said the Lower House is responsible for conducting an administrative inquiry on Osmeña.
Apostol said the Ombudsman-Visayas has authority to probe congressmen and members of the judiciary but only on the criminal aspect.
Nogra said even if the DILG investigates alleged misconduct of a local offical, the order should come from the Office of the President or the Ombudsman central office. So far, they have not yet received any.
“All our investigations are merely delegated to us. We can’t do them on our own,” she said.
Mayor Rama said the DILG-7 should elevate Osmeña's case to the national government.
“I am challenging them. Bring it to the President,” he said.
The mayor said the Ombudsman has the power to initiate an investigation without a complainant and was used in many cases.
The US Dodge cars kept by Osmeña in his Guadalupe home used to be owned by Bigfoot Entertainment owner Michael Gleissner, a friend and supporter during his stint as mayor.
Osmeña said his sister Minnie and nephew Paulo later purchased the vehicles because Gleissner didn't want to donate them to the city anymore after Osmeña ended his term.
One of the vehicles bore the seal of the Cebu City government and a siren.
Reports about the two Dodge Charger vehicles first came out in a social networking site.
Councilor Margot Osmeña said her husband refused Gleissner's donation and the cars were bought by his sister Minnie and nephew Paulo.
Osmeña repainted one of the vehicles white while he chose to retain the city government seal on the other for the purpose of using it as a “ceremonial car” for special events.
Rama said he's still deliberating on whether to file charges or not since it may be perceived as politically-motivated.
“I won’t file now but don’t worry, I am doing something,” he said.
If found liable, Osmena will be cited for violating section seven, paragraph d of Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
The law states that “public officials and employees shall not solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan or anything of monetary value from any person in the course of their official duties.”
Rep. Osmeña said yesterday that he was prepared to respond to any investigation by the Ombudsman-Visayas on the use of the city government seal and police logo on the Dodge Charger vehicles parked at his Guadalupe home.
But since he is not the owner of the vehicles, Osmena said documents on its acquisition are in the possession of his sister and nephew Paulo.
He said its registration may also be checked with the Land Transportation Office.
"As soon as they file and submit the charges and evidence (against me), I will answer. But I am not the owner (of the vehicles) so I don't know what documents to submit (to the Ombudsman)," he told Cebu Daily News.
Since he is a congressman, Osmena said, he wanted to be clarified if he can be subjected to an Ombudsman investigation.
But if he is, "I don't have problem with that and I will waive my rights."
"But to subject my sister and other private persons to a fishing expedition is simply unfair," he added.
Rama said the country's laws should apply to all. /Ador Vincent Mayol and Patricia Andrea Pateña with Chief of Reporters Doris C. Bongcac