Dirty political tactics on budget talks

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By Susan Palmes-Dennis

Straight from Carolinas

Saturday, January 11, 2014


A GOVERNMENT budget is an important public document. But not all can see or touch it. Only a privileged few, the officials we elect, have the “honor” of looking at it.

And those very few officials use the budget as a political toy to work the crowd and gain their favor to the detriment of those who have less in life.

Reports on the non-approval of Cagayan de Oro City’s budget have hogged the headlines of local news and sparked reactions from social media buffs. For some the issue is being blown out of proportion.

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Both sides of the political fence, specifically the players themselves, could only shrug their shoulders and say “it’s all about politics.”

An article written by Anjo Bacarisas of this paper said that City Hall accused Cagayan de Oro City Councilor President Elipe of “lying” for citing the failure of some departments to submit programs of work as causing the delay in the 2014 budget deliberation.

I'm quoting from the article: “City Information Officer Maricel Casiño-Rivera told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro that Elipe is using the excuse to delay, if not hinder, Mayor Oscar Moreno’s plans for the city.

When asked if the departments were able to submit the programs of work, Rivera maintained that the departments have already submitted them, and added: “He (Elipe) is lying!”

During the City Council’s session last January 6, Elipe insisted that the council could not approve the budget because of the absence of the programs of work from some departments, like the committee on public works and urban poor.

But Rivera belied and claimed those offices have program of works that could have already been tackled by the council during the budget deliberations.”

I am more inclined to believe the claim of the incumbent administration that every requirement was followed pursuant to law including notices since they have everything to lose in the eyes of public opinion.

The mayor and his allies know that the majority at the City Council would make a big issue out of it.

When the Moreno administration submitted the budget- it throws open the document wide open for the majority to scrutinize. Moreno and his men are not dumb to commit the error of non-submission of program of works.

Elipe gave the weak excuse that notice wasn't served or program of works not complied with. These would be the first to be scrutinized since it is procedural. I can only say that dementia is man-made sometimes that no medicine can cure it. It is also flimsy that the minority bloc in the council failed to appear in a committee because I understand they aren't members of the committee headed by Kagawad President.

The P2.6 billion budget is huge and ambitious because the city is growing and the public want more. It is a budget and they need every centavo to fund their programs.

Take for instance the budget for PhilHealth membership. Marlon Arrabaca explained that the cost of the PhiliHealth membership went up from P1,200 to 2,400 annual coverage.

The majority bloc countered that it's too much. Why? Because PhilHealth is an unknown program to them.

Remember that universal PhilHealth coverage regardless of one's political affiliation was pursued by Moreno during his incumbency as governor of Misamis Oriental province.

For Cagayan de Oro, Moreno took some time to pursue it. It was only until then barangay chairman Rolando Uy enrolled nearly all people in the city's district that the administration of then mayor Vicente Emano panicked.

Then neophyte congressman Rufus Rodriguez of the city's second district also enrolled all his constituents, causing Emano and his minions to nearly have a heart attack.

“They forgot their policy before, why enroll them in PhilHealth – what happens when the insured won't get sick, what happens to the premium is a gain of PhilHealth” so went their thinking.

It's true that PhilHealth coverage became a political tool; why do you think Uy endeared himself to the people of his district?

It would be safe to say that the present majority in the council would really find every way to delay or even reject the budget to ensure that Moreno won't be reelected to a second term.

The approval of the Moreno budget is the biggest threat to their ambition and that of their master so they're reinventing old tricks and using even slicker political gimmicks, bolstered by their victory in the barangay elections.

Going back to my premise on the budget, I hope that the nongovernment organizations (NGOs) would launch an information campaign to persuade the city residents to scrutinize the budget for themselves and not through the eyes of the Padayon Pilipino council bloc.

If the city is a child, it would be orphaned by now because it has public officials who have the gall to break the hearts of those who voted for them and expected them to serve their interests and not the interests of their aging lord and master.

They should be ashamed of themselves. Who stands to benefit when Moreno fails because he would have to implement his projects on a retroactive budget?

By the way, the last time the city budget was discussed openly to the public, I think was during the term of former mayor Pablo Magtajas which was decades ago. I wish copies of the budget can be distributed to the public.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on January 11, 2014.

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