THE 77,000 registered senior citizens in Cebu City are sure to receive their cash assistance for two months on Dec. 1, 2019 unless the minority councilors go to court and secure a restraining order to stop the further implementation of the City’s Supplemental Budget 2 (SB2) that was passed last September.
Going to court was the advice given by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to the seven BOPK councilors, led by Nestor Archival, who had vigorously objected to the passage of the supplemental budget but were outvoted by the PDP-Laban majority.
Refusing to give up even after losing the vote, Archival and his partymates Leah Japson, Raul Alcoseba, Alvin Dizon, Eugenio Gabuya Jr., Joy Augustus Young and Jessica Resch asked the DBM, through a letter, to review the SB2 ordinance and to subsequenty disapprove the same.
In a reply dated Nov. 4, the DBM, however, informed the City Council, through Mayor Edgardo Labella that insofar as they are concerned, the supplemental budget is “operative in its entirety.” The letter was signed by DBM 7 Director Imelda Laceras by authority of the DBM secretary.
Laceras told the council minority that her agency has no jurisdiction to grant their request as only the courts can determine the “factual and legal issues” on the validity of the ordinance.
The cash aid to senior citizens is one of items funded by the P2.5 billion supplemental budget. Until its passage, the senior citizens had not received their monthly allowance of P1,000 each for three successive months because the original budget, passed during the term of former mayor Tomas Osmeña, set aside money for the financial assistance up to June 30 only.
Labella has since then released cash aid for four months and has announced that the allowances for November and December this year will be paid on Dec. 1.
The cash aid as well as all the other allocations in SB2 are sourced from the proceeds of the sale of a huge chunk of the South Road Properties to the consortium of Ayala and SM by then mayor Michael Rama in 2015. Another buyer, Filinvest, backed out of the sale during the term of Osmeña.
In opposing SB2, Archival and his minority colleagues echoed the position of Osmeña that the sale by Rama was invalid because of formal and substantial deficiencies. A case filed by an ex-prosecutor to annul the sale was however rejected by the regional trial court and, on appeal, by the Court of Appeals while another one filed by the City Government towards the end of Osmeña’s term was withdrawn by the Labella administration.
Archival and company may have to consider these factors in deciding whether or not to heed the DBM’s advice and go to court to stop the use of the SRP money to fund SB2. But there is a more fundamental consideration, which is the political one.
Will they risk infuriating 77,000 registered Cebu City voters by preventing them from receiving their P2,000 cash aid (for November and December) on Dec. 1? If you ask me, I seriously doubt that they will. Savvy politicians don’t do that.