OPPOSITION Councilor Mary Ann de los Santos failed to convince her colleagues in the Cebu City Council to override Mayor Michael Rama’s veto on her proposed ordinance that would allow them to conduct inquiries with the power of subpoena and contempt.
During the Council’s regular session Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, de los Santos attempted to overrule Rama’s direct veto by getting a two-thirds vote from the City Council.
However, 12 councilors who are allied with Rama abstained from overriding the mayor’s veto.
Only three councilors, namely de los Santos, Joy Augustus Young and Nestor Archival, allied with the opposition party Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan, voted in favor of overriding the veto.
The ordinance, which was authored by de los Santos, aimed to grant the City Council the ability to conduct inquiries, in aid of legislation, and issue subpoena ad testifancandum and subpoena duces tecum, or two writs that would compel a person to attend and testify before their sessions, and charge any person for contempt who refuses to obey them.
If the ordinance had seen approval, any council member would be able to sponsor a resolution calling for an investigation in aid of legislation by the City Council en banc or through its committees.
The City Council could also conduct its investigation upon complaint by any person or entity of a particular issue or controversy.
Before the voting started, de los Santos explained that the very essence of the ordinance is to bring transparency and accountability to the City Government.
De los Santos also argued that the ordinance is not “ultra vires” or outside the authority of the Sanggunian since Section 14 of Republic Act 3857 or the Revised Charter of the City of Cebu states that the City Council is granted the power to “subpoena witnesses, administer oaths and compel the production of books, papers, and other evidence.”
Though Rama earlier explained that he vetoed the ordinance as it was prejudicial to public welfare, de los Santos said all statements and testimonies given by witnesses will be considered privileged communication as stated in the ordinance.
De los Santos also recalled that when Rama was vice mayor, he led the City Council’s investigation on the alleged anomalous garbage collection deal in the City.
During that time, Rama issued a series of memorandums to the involved entities to explain their garbage transactions, but this was not fully investigated since some resource speakers did not appear at the council’s invitation, she added.
“It is because the inquiry came from the Council, the supposed investigation was in aid of legislation in order to protect the public as well as government funds,” said de los Santos.
In support of de los Santos, Young questioned why the other councilors were abstaining and were afraid to go against Rama’s veto.
“I am surprised now that the Council can’t fight the mayor for our right. We are not against the mayor. I don’t understand. Just because he (Rama) vetoed it, then you immediately abstained,” Young said in a mix of English and Cebuano.
Councilor Mary Ann de los Santos. (File photo)
January 25, 2023
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