FIRST, there was Cebu City Councilor Prisca Nina Mabatid who in a Facebook post of February 6 and later interviews with media accused an unelected and un-appointed person of “dictating” councilors and other officials at City Hall.
Mabatid said an “ungo” or witch was actually running affairs in the city government, deciding on purchases of anti-Covid supplies and hiring and firing of employees. The figurative use of witchery suggested the councilor’s impression that the alleged villain looks like a witch and probably exhibits as much greed on his prey.
Much earlier – at least several weeks earlier but slower in being publicly noticed – was Task Force King Tupas, a.k.a. Atty. Clarence Paul Oaminal, who in his FB public posts has repeatedly accused a group he calls “Cebu City Kurakot Gang” (CCKG) of specific acts of corruption. “Kurakot” is Cebuano-Bisaya for corruption.
Why have these accusations been ignored, at least in public, by city authorities and haven’t even prompted a promise “to investigate,” which much smaller offenses at City Hall drew from the mayor?
The charges are raised publicly by public figures who are deemed responsible and upright. The drawbacks: they were not in a sworn complaint and not supported by evidence.
Mabatid of the ruling Partido Barug was #2 councilor in the city’s north elections and is vice chairperson of the City Council committee on health. Her post was headlined, “Cebu City is a Big Mess.”
Task Force Haring Tupas is Oaminal, a lawyer, author of law books, lecturer and newspaper columnist (his history-themed columns are published in The Freeman.) He was also vice chairman and undersecretary of the Dangerous Drugs Board from 2008 to 2010.
Oaminal’s FB post Wednesday, February 24 led off with a reproduction of a “Mayor’s Special Award” to him on the 78th Charter Day in 2015. Then mayor Michael Rama recognized his work for community service through a campaign against crime and corruption. The caption says “Save Cebu City from the Kurakot Gang Movement.” Now he wants a movement to rescue the city from the clutches of a gang of alleged thieves.
Motive not relevant
These two whistle-blowers are not the usual kind of accusers who infest social media. Mabatid is a city councilor belonging to the party running City Hall. Oaminal is a former high public official, a lawyer-newspaper columnist who was awarded for his anti-crime and anti-corruption work.
Both Mabatid and Oaminal are public figures. The motive driving each of them is not hard to tag: Mabatid by her “principles of governance” and the feeling she was being shut out by the party. Oaminal, by his professed advocacy against crime and graft. As founding chairman and executive director of the Philippine Institute for Government Reforms and Development (PhilGRD), Oaminal cannot close his eyes to what he must believe is going on at City Hall.
But motive won’t be material if there is evidence of corruption. So far, no solid direct proof, no strong circumstantial evidence has been seen by the public.
No ‘put up or shut up’ call
Mayor Edgardo Labella has so far been silent about Mabatid’s expose. Mabatid confirmed though that her party was trying “to fix it,” saying she met with party members a few days after her shotgun blast in the media.
City Hall’s silence is bigger on Oaminal’s serial accusations, which have been getting bolder even as the corruption he decried allegedly flourished. The charges have escalated from corruption to graft and arrogance of power, including alleged oppression of Cebuanos (“gilisod-lisod”) with severe quarantine rules while they have dinner outings and “party-party,” allegedly not helping and even oppressing LSIs or locally stranded individuals, and delaying release of appointments and salaries of casual workers at City Hall.
From those, the reader can infer that CCKG members run the affairs or have links with the deciders of City Hall.
Which brings up the question, is Mabatid’s “ungo” the head of Oaminal’s CC Kurakot Gang? Are they all related, part of, or actually the “big mess” that Mabatid talks about?
The gang could not do what Oaminal accuses them of doing without the “ungo” that Mabatid says is “dictating” decisions there.
But both are just talking. No evidence or glimpses of the evidence. They have to put up or shut up. But who will make them? For now, their shield against libel is that the “ungo” and the gang members are still not identified, although most people know them, as Mabatid alleges, or have a fairly good idea who, as Oaminal must assume.
Mayor Labella and Vice Mayor Rama, the principal accountable officers, can and should have the issue resolved. Justifiably or not, Mabatid’s and Oaminal’s charges, if not threshed out, stain and blot the Barug administration and the top two officials’ own political careers. VM Rama had talked in the City Council about the fateful days this coming October when each must decide which position to run for and then account for what he did and didn’t do during his term.
If not true
Those awful things, city residents may realize, could not have happened and could not happen without the chief executives colluding or being tolerant of, or complicit with, the perpetrators.
But if not true and merely concocted or exaggerated, the charges would go down as the blackest, most wicked propaganda in local politics ever waged even before the start of the election season.