Saturday, July 31, 2021

EXPLAINER: FB post leads to cut-off of fuel for non-essential barangay vehicles in Cebu City. Ong slams 'arbitrariness,' recall of practices during Osmeña term.

SunStar File

THE STORY AT A GLANCE: [1] The Cebu City Council will look into the policy denying fuel for barangay vehicles not used for "essential" services. The Department of General Services (DGS) will be asked to appear before the Sanggunian.

[2] ABC head Councilor Franklyn Ong complains of indiscriminate cut-off of gasoline allocation. Two majority councilors recall the "raw treatment" they got during the past administration.

[3] A Facebook photo and caption reporting the personal use of a Barangay Buhisan pickup prompted the City Hall policy change.

ABC HEAD'S COMPLAINT. The DGS has stopped releasing city-bought gasoline for "non-essential" vehicles of barangays since a May 15 Facebook post called attention to an apparent personal use of a pickup owned by Barangay Buhisan.

City Council Majority Floor Leader Raymond Garcia Wednesday, June 16, during its regular session, answered the protest expressed by Councilor Franklyn Ong, president of Liga ng mga Barangay, against the fuel cut-off. Ong called it arbitrary for lack of notice and indiscriminate since most of the city's 80 barangays are allegedly prejudiced by the new rule.

Garcia told the Sanggunian that under the DGS policy, no barangay vehicle performing essential services, such as ambulance, fire truck and the like, is deprived of fuel.

The FB item -- posted, Garcia said, "by a certain Rianne Tecson of Cebu Daily News" -- showed the Barangay Buhisan pickup loaded with persons who looked like they were going on a picnic.

Caption of the photo said it was taken in Mandaue City and the vehicle, which "had Cebu City Government marking," was "last seen in Consolacion before it sped off." In obvious sarcasm, Tecson asked if the group was off to get vaccine shots as she salivated, she said, over a big bag of chicharon they were carrying.

Ong said he could not say if the Barangay Buhisan pickup was on an official trip but he deplored that Buhisan and other barangays were not informed about the new policy and all others are similarly punished "Pagan ang tanan," he said in Cebuano-Bisaya.

BUT WHAT IS ESSENTIAL? Ong disputed Councilor Garcia's definition of "essential," saying that it cannot be limited to emergency services. Vehicles are also used for roving patrols and ferrying health workers and barangay personnel on official business to the city.

Garcia said the policy is not all-embracing because a barangay can write to the mayor, through GPS, that it is used for a vital service.

DÉJÀ VU. Ong's mention of unfairness drew comments from two Partido Barug councilors who said they, as barangay captains then, suffered "worse" ordeal under BOPK chief Tomas Osmeña when he was the mayor from 2016 to 2019.

Councilor Phillip Zafra said they were not only deprived of gasoline, the city-owned vehicles were taken away, and Barug barangay captains who delayed the return of the cars to the City Government were charged with carnapping. Councilor Joel Garganera said that from 1995 to 2013, he had not been given gasoline from City Hall. Despite the maltreatment, Garganera said, "did you hear me crying?" He advised barangay captains to stand on their own, especially now that barangays have huge budgets from their share of tax revenues.

Ong said he wished councilors in the majority Barug would no longer talk of the old practices in the past since the administration party promised change when it won in 2019. "We can't avoid the past when it relates to the present," retorted Zafra.

MAYOR'S PREROGATIVE. Councilor Garcia said the vehicles are owned by their respective barangays, whose budgets provide fuel for them. It is the prerogative of the mayor to decide which services of the barangay will be supported by the city, to which Ong agreed.

Ong apparently would not want Barug to use the "scorched-earth policy" that Tomas Osmeña allegedly adopted against hostile barangay captains upon his return to City Hall in 2016 after Michael Rama had evicted him in 2013.

Even Zafra who recalled the "raw deal" the barangay captains got during Osmeña's term wanted the fuel-cut-off policy "revisited."

The City Council, on motion of Minority Floor Leader Nestor Archival Jr. and Ong, will invite the DGS head to shed light on the fuel denial: the barangays affected and which vehicles were denied the fuel, as well as details on funding, whether barangays were considered in deciding on the budget.


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