THE Cebu City Government will have P27.5 million at its disposal to help those affected by the El Niño phenomenon despite the election ban on the release of funds.
While the Commission on Elections (Comelec) allows for exceptions to the ban, there are certain requirements that the City Hall would have to meet. A declaration of a state of calamity and a document showing how the fund would be used to address the emergency.
Residents of mountain barangays and urban areas are expected to benefit from the emergency work being planned by City Hall to address the dry spell. With the elections only weeks away, City officials would have to dispel doubts over the timing of the use of the calamity fund and be transparent in showing how the money is spent and who are the beneficiaries.
The City Council approved in a special session last week the resolution of Councilor Dave Tumulak placing the city under a state of calamity to allow City Hall to use its calamity fund. The disaster risk reduction office was required to give a breakdown of the disaster fund that will be spent in relation to the dry spell.
SunStar reported that the City Agriculture Department recorded around P27 million worth of agriculture damage caused by El Niño. There were reports of cracked soil and irrigation systems not working because of lack of water. Cebu City has 14,000 farmers.
Tumulak told the Council the assistance will be given to upland and lowland residents. While farms in the uplands are suffering from the dry spell, he said, those in the urban areas are experiencing, as well, the effects of the El Niño because of limited water supply. The City plans to give water hoses, pumps, drums, seedlings, farm equipment, and vitamins to farmers, the report said.
The election ban on the release of public funds started last March 29 and will run until May 12. Comelec Resolution No. 10511 said no public official or employee ... shall release, disburse or expend any public funds for any and all kinds of public works except those covered by a certificate of exception. Only the Comelec can issue such an exception.
Emergency work necessitated by a public calamity should be limited to the restoration of the damaged facility, the resolution said. All releases shall be turned over to, and administered and disbursed by, the Philippine National Red Cross, subject to the supervision of the Commission on Audit or its representatives, the resolution added.
No candidate or his or her spouse or member of the family within the second civil degree of affinity or consanguinity shall participate, directly or indirectly, in the distribution of any relief or other goods to the victims of the calamity or disaster, it said.
To remove any doubt on the purpose of the calamity declaration, City Hall would have to show the kind of help extended and how the beneficiaries were not identified by their political affiliation.