Sunday, September 19, 2021

Seares: Council house rules and Kawit issue

THE ruling party at Cebu City Hall must be aware of the problem in reviving the P18 billion project to develop Kawit Island.

Mayor Tomas Osmeña and BOPK will have the control of the City Council starting July 1. With two more seats -- one from the Association of Barangay Councils and the other from the youth council (Sangguniang Kabataan) -- the vote will be 10-7 in their favor, a substantial tilt from the present 8-8 balance, with Vice Mayor Edgar Labella, who leads the opposition at City Hall, as tie breaker. Which was how the Kawit resolution was defeated last May 10.

Even with the 10-7 vote though, if no councilor among those who voted against the Kawit proposal would move for its revival, it would stay stuck. Art. X, Sec. 11 of the City Council House Rules of 2010 is specific: Only a councilor who (a) “voted with the majority” or (b) “voted in the negative,” when the legislature was equally divided on the Kawit question, can sponsor its return. That rules out any BOPK councilor.

And there may be other obstacles from the House rules but theyre not insurmountable:

Certify as urgent

[] If re-filed, assuming BOPK can find a defector, the proposal will go to the proper committee, which will again review it and submit its report to the City Council for the vote.

Last time, it was sent to an ad hoc committee led by Councilor Renato Osmeña Jr. This time, the City Council may refer it to the committee on urban planning & development, one of 21 standing committees provided by the House rules. The said committee is tasked to oversee “socio-economic planning and development projects which involve acquisition, disposition and management of real estate.” It may be friendlier than Jun’s committee, which anyway “ceased to exist” after it filed its report.

But a much easier way to dodge the committee requirement is for the mayor to certify as urgent the Kawit proposal, in which case it may go to second reading even without a committee report. There it is, in Art. VIII, Sec. 4 of the House rules.

When to overhaul

[] Once BOPK gets the substantial majority this July, can it overhaul the standing committees? It’s doubtful. Standing committees under the House rules are reorganized only during its first session on July 1 “or at first opportunity after assumption of office, whichever is more practical and feasible.” That means, not until July 1, 2019, following the May polls next year.

Yet the City Council may create ad hoc committees “whenever appropriate.” That’s how BOPK may go around the House rules involving committees unless the ad hoc committee is opposed if its would-be function is already covered by an existing standing committee. Or, as I said earlier, the mayor may just certify the measure as urgent.

Rules of the game

The House rules, annoying as they can be to the political camp adversely affected, tend to put order and some fairness in the local legislature’s intramurals. If Barug-PDP Laban were the dominant party now, BOPK would benefit from the rules too.

Under Art. XVII, Sec. 1 and 4, the House rules cannot be suspended, altered or modified except with a two-thirds vote of all the members. Besides, an amendment requires a formal proposal in writing and the same two-thirds vote.

That must vex BOPK but if roles were reversed, as it was in the past, it would be Tomas and his party members who’d be gloating over the legal barrier.


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