Bzzzzz: Cebu City Council wants more information on Covid-19 P2.5B spending in 2020. Treasurer's report 'not the liquidation' Sanggunian asked for. Digong-Gwen meeting?

CEBU. (From left) Cebu City Councilors Franklin Ong and Raymond Garcia, Senator Bong Go and President Rodrigo Duterte. (SunStar File)

If the 2022 president quits

ELLEN Tordesillas, in a March 17 article in Vera Files, has presented a theoretical situation in which President Rodrigo Duterte would run for vice president under a Go-Duterte tandem in the 2022 election, the ticket would win, and after assumption of office the president (Go) would resign.

The news organization assumes three things happening: (1) Duterte will run for vice president with Senator Bong Go as his standard bearer. (2) Voters will accept the strategy and vote for the ticket. (3) Once installed in office, Go will give way to Duterte by resigning.

Duterte thus could go around the term limit by sliding down to the No. 2 post in the 2022 elections and get back to the top post via that route. But would the tandem win? A news story run last week by the government-owned Philippine News Agency (PNA) said a privately-commissioned February 10-19 survey of Pulse Asia showed that if elections were held on the day of the survey, the winners would be Go for president and Duterte for vice president. As to whether Go would give up his seat, some people say the former gofer and now senator has steadily shown his "slavish devotion" to his boss, President Digong.

That would be a way to circumvent term limit. But not without litigation.

Yet the Supreme Court might interpret the Constitution not by its spirit "that gives it life" but by its letter "that kills it." The Constitution means what the SC says the fundamental law means. The justices could find basis to support a ruling that favors the strategy, arguing like this: The prohibition by its literal interpretation only applies when a president runs for reelection to the same office.

And when the people vote for them, the people's will must prevail.


Sanggunian's oversight function

To Councilor Franklin Ong, the Cebu City treasurer's report on how the amount of P2.5 billion was spent in the response of the Cebu City Government does not give enough information. Ong wanted such details as the breakdown of the spending and where the goods -- rice, packed lunch, sardines, medical supplies -- went. Minority Floor-leader Noel Archival would like to know the prices which, he said, at least on foodstuff, the prices varied and could not be reconciled and tell the Commission on Audit (COA) that it had not reviewed the purchases.

The City Council decided to ask for the additional information but rejected, 9-7, Archival's motion to inform COA about its role in the purchases or their review.

Majority Floor-leader Raymond Garcia said it was not necessary and even misplaced since the Sanggunian actually has nothing to do with the purchasing or its audit. Besides, the resolution asking for additional information on the spending will tell COA that the City Council still has to exercise its oversight functions.

Just give COA of the Ong resolution, a councilor noted.

BOPK councilors -- including Ong, Archival and Alvin Dizon -- said it is not an audit but an oversight function, citing the many "still-unmet" requests for liquidation and for a report to the public on the spending.

Of the P2.5 billion, according to the report released by Councilor Garcia last March 10, P1.1 billion was spent to buy rice and canned goods, P431 million for medical supplies, and P392 million for salaries and hazard pay for healthcare workers. Councilor Ong mentioned in Wednesday's session P240 million for packed lunches. The City Council passed three supplemental budgets (No. 2 to 4) as source of the funds.


Dividing the house

Voting on the proposed note to COA was one of the few instances in the Cebu City Council that issues are put to actual vote and divide the house. Vice Mayor Mike Rama, presiding officer, has been leading the Sanggunian under a supposed bipartisan policy since he announced last year there would no longer be a majority and a minority and the City Council would be a stamp-pad legislature no more.

In many instances, Rama or any other presiding officer quickly bangs the gavel, sometimes even before the seconding of the motion.

But when partisan interest rears its head, as signaled by the majority floor-leader, the councilors would vote along party lines.

In Wednesday's session, the dominant party Barug got its way on two contentious issues: the aborted note to COA and Councilor Eugenio Gabuya's killed resolution "encouraging" the mayor to enforce the agreement between Cebu City and Cebu Province on lot 93-1 and finally put to rest the almost-three-decade controversy. In the vote on whether to inform COA, one majority councilor explicitly said her vote went "with her party's vote."


VIP whom Gwen was to meet

A news bulletin the Capitol-run Sugbo News posted Wednesday, March 17, said Governor Gwen Garcia tested "NEGATIVE" of Covid-19.

More interesting than the positive news about the governor's health was the disclosure that she took the RT-PCR test Tuesday as "a requirement to attend an out-of-town meeting with a very important person" Wednesday night.

That could be President Duterte or someone else so important that one could be near him or her only after being pre-tested as coronavirus-free.


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