Toledo warned: Resolve budget impasse-A A +A
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
RESOLVE the budget conflict or face a probe.
Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol issued this warning to Toledo City officials, who are at loggerheads over the passage of the City’s 2014 annual budget amounting to P619 million.
Public officials should ensure “steady flow” of government services to the public, pursuant to the Journal of the Constitutional Convention, Apostol said.
“Otherwise, they can be charged with abandonment or dereliction of duty,” Apostol told Sun.Star Cebu.
Apostol said his office will look into whether public services have been disrupted after power supply at the City Hall was cut off.
Employees and the public transacting business are being inconvenienced by the lack of power supply at the Toledo City Hall after the Cebu Electric Cooperative (Cebeco) cut off its power connection for failure to pay its bill amounting to P1.276 million. The power firm also cut off Toledo City Police Station’s power supply.
Cebeco said the City’s unpaid power bill was for the month of April and due on May 10.
The P1.354 million bill for May, on the other hand, will be due on June 10.
The salaries of the City Hall employees for May 15 were also not released.
The City failed to pay its power bills and City Hall workers came after Judge Hermes Montero of the Regional Trial Court 59 issued a writ of preliminary injunction stopping the release of the city annual budget.
Apostol said public officials should consult the Commission on Audit and the Department of Budget and Management and secure clearance to use the reenacted budget in case of a delayed annual appropriation approval.
In case of failure to enact annual budget, local legislators should also continue to hold sessions until the budget ordinance is approved, said Apostol.
“No other business should be taken up during regular sessions,” he said.
An ordinance authorizing appropriation of the proceeding year shall be deemed reenacted and shall remain in force and effect until the ordinance authorizing the proposed appropriations is passed by the city council, he said.
But the use of reenacted budget should be limited to salaries and wages of existing personnel, statutory and contractual obligations, and essential operating expenses authorized in the annual supplemental budget of the proceeding year.
In the meantime, though, Capitol officials yesterday expressed willingness to help the City Government, like extending a loan to pay off its obligations.
Both Gov. Hilario Davide III and Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, however, said the Court of Appeals should fast track its decision on the conflict, saying the city is suffering because the delivery of basic services has been hampered.
Mayor John Henry “Sonny” Osmeña and his four allies earlier lodged a petition for certiorari asking the Court of Appeals to nullify the lower court’s injunction order.
They also sought for a restraining order so that the funds for the operations of the City Government can be disbursed.
Pending the appellate court’s resolution on Osmeña’s petition, Magpale said they can invoke the general welfare clause of Local Government Code of 1991 to help the City.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 29, 2014.