CEBU

Seares: Rama warns on Cebu City's large Covid spending: 'We'll have a huge problem tomorrow.'

The Short of It

Next mayor: '... O ako ba'

CEBU City Vice Mayor Mike Rama has not formally announced his plan for 2022: whether he'll run for mayor, instead of congressman or vice mayor again. But his public acts and statements, intended or not, sometimes loudly betray his plan. Such as those he disclosed at the regular session of the City Council last Wednesday, October 21:

[1] His visits to all the city barangays during the past two weeks or so, which Rama calls "barangay hopping," purportedly to prepare protocols for big coming events in the city, namely, the Sinulog and the 500th anniversary of the coming of Christianity in the Philippines;

[2] His comment on projects stopped or derailed when a new mayor assumes office: "We don't know who'll be the next mayor. Si Edgar ba, si Tommy Osmena, o ako ba."

***

When tomorrow comes

Vice Mayor Rama made a dire if cryptic warning during the City Council session Wednesday, October 21, about the spending of public funds for Covid-19-related purposes.

Rama, council presiding officer, didn't give details but in sum, it is this: The city has allotted a lot of money, in supplementary budgets that approved amounts in bulk, which gave full discretion to the executive department. The public expectedly will question "tomorrow" the decisions on spending.

By "tomorrow," he must mean after this is over, when the plague will have been stopped or contained.

When that will be, nobody knows for sure. But it will come, or so many of us think.

An experience in recent memory was the spending during the Asian Summit, which Cebu City hosted in 2001.

A number of projects -- from the convention center to the purchase of decorative lamps along the summit route and "pugapo" fish for delegates' wives -- were questioned not before or during the summit, but only afterwards, when the crap hit the fan.

The City Council has been asking for a rundown on expenses. It is a pre-emptive move because the local legislature, as provider of funds, also has the duty of oversight on public spending. Any blame will be heaped on the mayor and on the councilors as well, particularly those who approved the money measures.

The mayor was asked to list the expenses so far made so that the City Council will know how the spending is done. The new request, after past requests were not met, was for the October 21 session.

ARCHIVAL'S CONCERN. Councilor Nestor Archival, a BOPK stalwart and minority floor leader, called for "pro-active response" on the spending of Covid funds. That's why in appropriating money, it specifies and deliberates on the purpose. Often it sets terms and limits on spending.

This time though, since the plague is an emergency, a disaster of severe proportions, the City Council had to allot the funds in bulk and without parameters, except the condition that it is related to Covid-19.

***

James Cuenco as 'oversight czar'

VM Rama more than once called Councilor James Cuenco (who replaced the late Tony Cuenco) as an "oversight czar," obviously not for the oversight functions of the City Council.

James Cuenco corrects mistakes in language in ordinances and resolutions. And he does so frequently on the floor, thus the moniker.

An example in the October 21 session:

The use of "thereof" and "therefor": penalty thereof, appropriation therefor.

A City Hall watcher quipped, "Cuenco must know the difference between being 'in bed' and 'on bed.'"


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