IT’S dead for now. That’s how the minority bloc in the Cebu City Council described the proposed P2.8-billion first supplemental budget for 2015.
After four failed attempts this week alone to muster a quorum, the council will end the year without having voted on the proposed budget.
Acting Vice Mayor Nestor Archival Sr. also described supplemental budget 1 (SB 1) as “dead” when he was asked what he thought might happen next.
Cebu City already has an approved budget for 2016. The Council has also approved the second supplemental budget for 2015. But SB 1, which includes a productivity incentive for all City employees and nearly P2.5 billion to pay in full for the South Road Properties (SRP) loan, remains stalled.
Also on the agenda for the special session was a resolution to declare a state of calamity in Sitio Avocado, Barangay Lahug, where a fire on the day after Christmas left more than 500 persons homeless.
Two special sessions were called yesterday, after the minority insisted that Archival shouldn’t have called for a recess and left the session hall during the session that began at 3 p.m. last Tuesday.
“We made our efforts. Wala na gyod na (SB 1 is dead),” Councilor Gerardo Carillo told reporters yesterday morning, after the fourth attempt this week to hold a session.
The third attempt was at midnight, but Archival was the only one who showed up. Archival is serving as presiding officer as part of his duties as acting vice mayor, while Mayor Michael Rama serves a 60-day preventive suspension. Rama’s ally Edgardo Labella, who usually presides over the council, is the acting mayor.
“Since there were no longer members present, then I already called for the adjournment of the proceedings,” Archival said.
Last Tuesday, apart from Acting Vice Mayor Archival, only the six Team Rama councilors turned up. They needed nine for a quorum. The six were Councilors Carillo, Dave Tumulak, Noel Wenceslao, Richard Osmeña, Nendell Hanz Abella, and Philip Zafra.
Archival also said that lawyers from the majority are studying whether or not to sue Councilor Carillo and his five colleagues for “taking over” the council late last Tuesday afternoon, the last working day of 2015.
In a press conference, Archival said he was saddened by all that happened.
“The minority made a very unjustifiable takeover of the City Council and their actions showed disrespect to the institution... They even went to the point of painting a very bad image of their fellow councilors,” he said.
“They showed no respect to me as presiding officer and to the whole Council. Nasakitan kaayo ko (I am deeply hurt),” he added.
Archival pointed out he was well within his rights in calling for a recess last Tuesday, because they couldn’t do any business without a quorum.
He also clarified he did not walk out because they were already on recess when he left the session hall.
For his part, Councilor Carillo defended his gesture by pointing out that Section 8 of their house rules allows the minority floor leader to act as presiding officer when all other members in the majority bloc are absent.
Another session presided by Carillo was called at 8 p.m. last Tuesday, after he ordered the arrest of the absent councilors to compel them to attend.
The minority appointed Tumulak to summon the other councilors, assisted by someone from the council secretariat and a police officer. They knocked on the doors of the absent councilors’ offices but the legislators were not there.
Text messages were also sent to them. No one reportedly replied.
They set another session at 10 a.m. yesterday, but there was no quorum still. The councilors waited for about 30 minutes for someone from the secretariat to unlock the session hall.
Local Finance Committee member Marietta Gumia said that since SB 1 is an addendum to the annual budget this year, it should be deliberated on this year.
Carillo said the minority no longer opted to order the arrest of the other councilors, under Section 53 (b) of the Local Government Code, in the spirit of Christmas and New Year.
“We just appeal to their sense of responsibility…We do not want also to arrest them kay kauban ra man nato sila (because we’re all in this together). We don’t want to start the season with a heavy heart. It is now up to the constituents of the City of Cebu to decide,” Carillo said.