Bzzzzz: Sale of 'tuob' kits turns to donation. Guardo washes hands off it multiple times.

CEBU. (From left) Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella, Councilor Jerry Guardo, and City Administrator Floro Casas Jr. (SunStar File)

3 more 'czars' vs Covid

IF YOU DIDN'T KNOW, now you do: Aside from Carlito Galvez, the chief implementer against Covid-19, there are now four czars in the campaign. They are:

[1] Mark Villar, public works and highways secretary, "isolation czar":

[2] Benjamin Magalong, Baguio City mayor, "tracing czar";

[3] Leopoldo Vega, a DOH undersecretary, "treatment czar."

Already there, also as Galvez's deputy implementer, is Vince Dizon, Bases Conversion and Development Authority chief, "testing czar."

With such an array of generals, a Capitol watcher quipped, "Unya mosukol pa nang Covid?"

Mystery dispelled>

At a glance, the Cebu City Hall controversy over "tuob" or steam inhalation kits:

1] Mayor Edgardo Labella denied having signed a purchase request for 1,000 "tuob" kits , at P2,500 each with total value of P2.5 million, saying he'd "never allow" the payment.

[2] The Cebu City Council did not pass a budget for the purchase. Vice Mayor Mike Rama said he could not recall that it did. Councilor Jerry Guardo said he and Councilor Nestor Archival authored a resolution, approved on a May 11, which asked the mayor to study the benefit of steam inhalation amid the surge of Covid-19 cases in the city.

[3] Then, suddenly dispelling the mystery, City Legal Officer Rey Gealon, City Hall spokesperson, said Monday, July 13, that the P2.5 million kits were donated by a supplier whom he did not identify. Gealon said the purchase papers were not signed by the mayor "for lack of funds."

Sale becomes donation

In sum: 1,000 kits were delivered to City Hall and distributed to barangay isolation centers (BICs). Although they were supposedly bought by the city, public criticism must have convinced city officials to cancel the deal. Purchase became a donation. "No public funds are spent," said Atty. Gealon, the spokesman.

But the initial moves were clearly for a purchase.

Before Monday, July 12, Councilor Guardo had been saying the kits were paid by the City and the price was reasonable. Besides, Guardo said, "what is P2,500 for a person's life?" He did not say the kits were donated. There was a separate set of kits that were donated, he told Teleradyo Cebu's Leo Lastimosa in an interview. Guardo said he was even invited to the turnover.

A City Hall watcher said it was "an aborted attempt"; a broadcaster said it was "a hand caught at the cookie jar."

A supporter of the mayor asked that the officials be given the benefit of the doubt, the presumption of regularity.

'Identify, give donor a medal'

The supplier, whom Guardo also would not identify, waived the payment. But who is he or she?

A number of Facebook and Twitter posts said the supplier must be named, as the suspected bloated price was the original cause of the uproar. Others commented the supplier should come out and be given a medal or a kind of appreciation for his/her generosity. One was thinking ahead: the supplier "might get another City Hall contract that would recover his loss."

The supplier's equipment in each P2,500 set consisted of an electric water heater/steamer, an adult bath towel, two hand towels, a steam gown, a plastic chair and a water basin.

Guardo's hand-washing

Councilor Guardo had posted on his Facebook wall the proud claim that Mayor Labella approved the "tuob," with photos of the councilor demonstrating the two types of steam inhalation. In other media, he had defended the "purchase."

That changed after crap hit the fan. In his interview with Lastimosa, Councilor Jerry kept repeating, more than eight times, that he and Archival merely asked for a study of "tuob." Their resolution (#15-2547-2020), he said, didn't request for buying the kits. They in the City Council have nothing to do with the acquisition of supplies and materials they recommend, Guardo said. Their part is only legislation. "Wa mi labot sa pamalit," he added, saying again and again, "My conscience is clear."

He urged Leo to ask the Department of General Services about the bidding and award and the Command Center about the distribution. The decision to buy and the supplier? "Ask (City Administrator) Floro Casas (Jr.)."

After the 30-minute interview, Lastimosa noted that the mayor had washed his hands off the "tuob" incident and so had Guardo. "Duha na." Would Casas wash his hands too? "Dako ra ba na'g kamot (he has big hands)," remarked Leo's colleague. The small basin among the equipment in the "tuob" set might not be adequate.


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