Editorial: Calamity assistance

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Friday, December 20, 2013

CEBU City Councilors Margarita Osmeña and Lea Japson were right.

How can one be given calamity assistance when one was not affected by a calamity? How can City Hall employees be given such aid when the city government could not even fund in full the financial assistance for senior citizens and other “needy” sectors?

City Councilor Sisinio Andales, a Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) stalwart like Osmeña and Japson, pushed for the approval of a proposal by Mayor Michael Rama to grant P20,000 calamity assistance to each of the 4,200 City Hall employees and officials.

That includes the city councilors themselves.

Osmeña and Japson, however, didn’t register an objection to the proposal enough to block its approval probably because a BOPK colleague pushed for it. Instead, they merely asked not to be included in the list of the measure’s beneficiaries.

Interestingly, this is one rare instance where BOPK councilors who dominate the city council share Rama’s intention.

But why is it called calamity assistance when, considering the circumstances, it is actually a Christmas bonus? Is it to make the process of approving the proposal less contentious? If so, then both the city council and the mayor are attempting to deceive the public.

Andales, answering a query from Osmeña, said that those who are “qualified” to receive the calamity assistance are those who were employed by City Hall at the time the calamities struck. Which means that, as Osmeña correctly noted, the basis of the grant is employment and not victimization by calamities.

The “calamities” referred to were the magnitude 7.2 quake that partly hit Cebu last October and super typhoon Yolanda that devastated north Cebu in November.

But while Cebu City was affected by both the earthquake and Yolanda, the fact remains that it was merely in the periphery. Meaning that the damage it suffered was minimal.

Not all City Hall employees, therefore, were affected by the two calamities.

Osmeña was also right: The Cebu City Government is not awash with money as shown by its difficulty in giving the full amount of the financial aid per quarter promised for senior citizens. So why give priority to a bonus masquerading as calamity assistance?

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 20, 2013.


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