THIS is a post-Sinulog observation.
Is the Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI) a rubberstamp like what the Cebu City Council is? I ask this question because it seems that Mayor Tomas Osmeña is the one calling the shots in the foundation even on minor matters.
Tomas is only honorary chairman of the SFI. I understand that the term “honorary” is attached to the name of a person in recognition of his/her “distinctive contributions” to the organization.
The person given the “honorary” tag, however, is usually not a bonafide member of the group but has only helped a lot in its betterment. And he/she cannot dictate upon or influence the other members of the organization.
I would say Osmeña was given the “honorary” title because of the Cebu City Government’s contributions to the SFI. City Hall is the number one financial backer of the organization.
The financial contributions, it should be noted however, do not come from Tomas’ pocket but from the taxpayers. It just happens that he is the incumbent mayor.
Incidentally, City Hall officials are defying a Commission on Audit (COA) regulation prohibiting local government units from extending financial aid to non-government and private organizations whose officers are elected officials and their relatives.
The SFI is covered in this rule because Vice Mayor Michael Rama sits as its overall chairman. But to get around the rule, City Hall no longer contributes money directly to the SFI but is instead portraying itself as “sponsors” of the prizes for the winning participants.
Because of City Hall’s financial aid to the foundation, it now seems that SFI is under the firm control of the mayor. Note that Osmeña even dips his fingers into such a minor task as choosing who will be allowed to enter the VIP section of the grandstand.
Last year, Jonah John Rodriguez, a staunch supporter of former mayor Alvin Garcia, was evicted from the VIP section even if he had a VIP pass. The order to evict him came from Osmeña, who was in the US at that time seeking medication for his urinary bladder cancer.
In this year’s Sinulog festivities, the mayor's sister Georgia cried foul when she was not given a VIP pass, also upon the order of his brother. In previous Sinulog grand parades, Georgia was given such a pass.
Things have changed, however, as she is running for mayor against her brother's anointed one, Rama, in this year’s elections. Because of what her brother did, she called him a “dictator and bully.”
There was also the report that Capitol consultant and Gov. Gwen Garcia's brother, Byron, was “evicted” from the VIP section. But Byron denied it, saying he voluntarily left the grandstand.
In 2004, at the height of our verbal tussle over City Hall's debt to Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) member stations, Tomas banned me from covering the Sinulog grand parade’s culminating activity at the sports center.
I used to do that in the past two decades. But that year, I did not insist on going to the sports center to avoid trouble and instead anchored our coverage at the station.
So why is Tomas able to impose his own personal agenda during the Sinulog festivities? He is not the franchise holder of the Sinulog grand parade. The SFI is supposed to be a collective body and should not be beholden to any person.