Espinoza: Is Barug party falling apart?

Free Zone

FROM today, there are about 17 months left before the general elections on May 9, 2022. And, I have the inkling that Barug, the majority party in Cebu City under the leadership of Mayor Edgardo C. Labella and Vice Mayor Michael Rama, is starting to crack. Signs of the fissures in Barug Party were apparent during the hearing of the city's budget for 2021.

The Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) of former Mayor Tomas Osmeña is the minority in the City Council. Barug, the party of Mayor Labella and Vice Mayor Rama, rules the City Council. Lately, though, Vice Mayor Rama is singing the same tune with the BOPK councilors, who strongly oppose in using the billions in the proceeds in the sale of the SPR lots.

That the City Council is the "fiscalizer" and not the "rubber stamps" of the executive department, Vice Mayor Rama insisted that he would not allow the passing of the mayor's P10.8-billion budget for 2021 unless the mayor's office could liquidate what he calls the "big money," the P3.5 billion lump sum for the anti-Covid-19 response fund even with the mayor's assurance that the city would not go bankrupt if it will use the proceeds of the SRP lots.

It may be recalled that when Rama was the city mayor for two terms, he wanted to use the proceeds of the sale that former Mayor Tomas even went to the extent of going to court to block the move of Rama to spend the proceeds of the sale of the SRP lots. But this what Rama said recently: "dili ko mosugot (I won't agree) in the spending of SRP money."

Councilor Nestor Archival, the minority floor leader and BOPK member, expressed concern that the city might not be able to pay off the money it borrowed from the bank in developing the SRP if the budget for 2021 will be taken from the proceeds of the sale of the SRP lots.

Councilor Raymond Alvin Garcia, chair of the budget committee, said that only P2.5 billion would be left from the proceeds of the SRP lots should the City push through in using the funds for the 2021 budget. Mayor Labella pointed out that the previous administration used the SRP proceeds even in those normal times and when the city has more than enough revenues. So, why the city can't use the SRP proceeds in this time of emergency? The reason could be more than liquidating the P3.5 billion response funds, which is politics.

That Vice Mayor Rama is playing politics in not immediately passing the P10.8-billion budget for 2021 that the executive department asked when their party is the majority in the city council is apparent. The vice mayor's stance only demonstrated his political agenda for the 2022 elections. Remember that Rama has not publicly hide his desire to run again for city mayor. In fact, if not for the "drug issue" hurled against him by no less than President Duterte, the mayoralty race in 2016 would have been a three-cornered-fight.

On the other hand, in demanding for the liquidation of the P3.5 billion lump sum for the anti-Covid-19 response funds before approving the 2021 budget, are the city councilors have expressing doubts and eyeing "corruption" with how the P3.5 billion was spent? Councilor Archival was quoted as saying: "We need to be cautious in budgeting and spending and learn and wisely manage. We might end up bankrupt." Other councilors also said the proposed expenditures are not responsive to the Covid-19 pandemic.

With this political development, someone is grinning wide.


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