EXPLAINER: Minority in Cebu City Council complains that P1.2B extra budget and changes in P8-B Carbon Market deal were pushed and shoved. BOPK slams alleged haste, wrong procedures, failure to study big-ticket measures on 15th Sanggunian's last day.

CEBU. (From left) Cebu City Vice Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia and Councilors Nestor Archival and Joy Pesquera. (SunStar/Pesquera’s Facebook page)
CEBU. (From left) Cebu City Vice Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia and Councilors Nestor Archival and Joy Pesquera. (SunStar/Pesquera’s Facebook page)

LAST Wednesday, June 29, before the 15th Cebu City Sanggunian permanently adjourned, two important ordinances involving billions of pesos in public money were approved, with the minority BOPK complaining of excessive haste and no time to read and discuss the proposals. They are:

[1] Supplemental Budget #2, appropriating P1.2 billion for what then Majority Floor Leader Raymond Alvin Garcia called "necessary and urgent expenses," including P54 million for the city's Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS), P125 million for garbage management through Department of Public Services (DPS).

Then councilor Garcia, now city vice mayor and Sanggunian presiding officer, talked of nurses, aides and other medical frontliners whose salaries must be paid, along with seniors, persons with disabilities and deceased persons who must be given cash assistance.

[2] Supplemental agreement with Megawide, which would correct defects of the original joint venture agreement entered into by the City and the developer.

Garcia said it is urgent as it is "advantageous" to the City, with Megawide Construction Corporation raising its capital from P5.5 billion to P8 billion and agreeing to pay City Hall P50 million on the first year, instead of a graduated escalation.

SB #2 ON 'SPEED TRAIN.' No councilor used the phrase but it may be apt description of the vehicle carrying the proposal to appropriate P1.99 billion from general funds and P52 million from trust accounts for additional expenses not covered by the general budget for 2022 and supplemental budget #1.

The mayor's proposal was brought before the City Council in a special session on June 24, discussed in budget hearings by the committee on budget and finance headed by Garcia on June 27, and passed en banc on June 29, or in just three working days.

ARCHIVAL'S BEEF ON SB #2. Minority Floor Leader Nestor Archival Sr. pointed out, in the case of SB #2, the alleged absence of first reading; no formal ordinance, just committee reports; no clear sourcing of funds, particularly on trust funds; and lack of documents they wanted to see, such as the signatures of the treasurer and the accountant.

Councilor Joy Pesquera, who succeeded a Barug councilor and ran and won under Barug, said the mayor's proposal served as first reading and the committee report as second reading. As to the speed, which floored Archival, Alvin Dizon and their colleagues in the minority, Pesquera said House rules allow second and third reading in one and the same day. True or not, no one from the minority disputed her argument on procedures.

Archival also didn't reply to a purported certification from the treasurer and accountant, read by Garcia, regarding the availability of trust fund, which, as cited by Pesquera, may be converted to general fund once its purpose is served.

SLIP ON MEGAWIDE EXTRA MOA. The supplemental agreement on the Carbon Market modernization project was lumped with a number of measures that were approved "in an omnibus manner," a quickie of a procedure that would enable a bunch of proposals to pass through without individual scrutiny. They were deemed approved after then presiding officer Dondon Hontiveros banged the gavel.

When Archival wanted to talk about the supplemental MOA on Carbon, it was already late. He had to move for reconsideration, which required a two-thirds vote and he didn't get.

'NGANO MAN JOY?' Archival managed to talk against the way things were done, despite Pesquera's and Councilor James Cuenco's reminder that the vote on the BOPK councilor's motion was still being taken. Such as:

[] The councilors didn't read the 70-plus pages of the JVA on the Megawide deal, now they're not given time to read the supplemental MOA. (Something like, "Wa ta kabasa sa JVA, karon di ta pabasahon sa MOA.")

[] He (Archival) was being silenced, obviously by the majority, when he was the movant of the motion to reconsider: "pareha ta'ng elected councilors" and "nganong di man ko nimo pasultihon, Joy, nga ikaw may pinaka-ngilngig dinhi." (The second remark was said on live microphone while the session was suspended for a one-minute recess.)

NUMBERS RULE and it did in last July 29's farewell-Sanggunian-15 session. In the separate votes on Supplemental Budget #2 and the Supplemental MOA on the Carbon Market modernization, the will of majority Barug prevailed over minority BOPK's wish for time to study the two ordinances.

The Sanggunian approved the multibillion-peso measures without the thorough review the minority wanted. On the Carbon Market MOA, for one, most councilors didn't have the chance to check out how much of the new agreement complied with the adopted MOA they passed in September last year.

Last Wednesday's quashing of opposition moves could be a preview of the new -- the 16th -- Sanggunian, in which Barug -- with a 12-against-four win in the councilors' race plus their Barug vice mayor -- enjoys an even tighter control of the City Council.


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