ENFORCE the P6.4-billion 2016 annual budget of the Cebu City Government.
This was the stand of the majority bloc of the City Council yesterday when they discussed the letter of Acting Mayor Edgardo Labella asking them to tackle again the annual budget.
They stood firm that the 2016 annual budget is valid.
Labella earlier returned the ordinance covering the 2016 annual budget, saying that it lacked the needed votes for its approval to be valid.
During the City Council’s first regular session this year, Councilor Noel Wenceslao said that there is a need for the legislative body to tackle again the annual budget so the City will not operate on a reenacted budget.
He told the members of the council that there are “essential expenses” in the 2016 annual budget that were not included in the 2015 annual budget, like the one for the preparations in the upcoming May 9 elections.
The 2016 annual budget includes a P40-million appropriation for election reserves.
But Councilor Margarita Osmeña, chairperson of the committee on budget and finance, said that the 9-3 vote that approved the 2016 annual budget is valid.
She cited a 2010 opinion from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) on a similar issue in Cotabato Province. In the opinion, DILG Undersecretary Austere Panadero said that in “the enactment of the annual and supplemental appropriations, the law (Local Government Code) is silent as to what kind of majority vote is required of the sanggunian.”
“In its silence, the presumption is the same is to be enacted only by a simple majority vote,” the DILG opinion said.
A simple majority refers to majority of council members present during a session.
But Labella, citing the Local Government Code, said that the annual budget ordinance needed to be passed by the majority of all 18 seats in the City Council.
Vice Mayor Labella serves as acting mayor while Mayor Michael Rama serves a 60-day suspension.
During yesterday’s session, Wenceslao asked Osmeña if the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), which reviews the appropriations of local government units, share the DILG opinion.
Osmeña told Wenceslao that the council can ask the DBM.
Councilor Sisinio Andales supported Osmeña, his ally in the Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK).
Andales said that the 2016 annual budget ordinance is valid because Labella failed to act on it with the 10-day prescribed period. He said that the 10-day period lapsed on Jan. 3.
Labella’s letter to acting Vice Mayor Nestor Archival Sr., however, was dated Dec. 29, 2015.
Councilor Gerardo Carillo moved to summon the City's local finance committee to tell the council which budget is being used by the City Government. But his move was opposed by the majority bloc.
The majority bloc is composed of BOPK members while the minority, which includes Carillo, is allied with Team Rama.
The executive branch of City Hall earlier announced that the local government is operating on a reenacted budget, which means the one approved for 2015. The annual budget approved for 2015 was P13.4 billion, double that supposedly approved this year.
Acting Andales’ motion, the City Council voted to direct the City Budget Office to enforce the 2016 annual budget.
Budget Officer Marietta Gumia said that the local finance committee will meet to discuss the council’s decision.
During the council session, Wenceslao said that if the City operates on a reenacted budget, the City Council will be prevented from passing new supplemental budgets.
He said that last December, during the final deliberation for the 2016 annual budget, councilors raised the need to pass a supplemental budget this year to provide for the amortization of the loan taken out by the City Government to develop the South Road Properties (SRP). He said that the amortization payments will continue as the City Government failed to pay off the loan balance of P2.4 billion.
The executive branch of the City Government proposed a supplemental budget (SB) in 2015 to pay off the SRP loan, among others. Prepayment of the loan before maturity in 2015 would reportedly save City Hall at least P500 million.
The majority bloc, however, prevented SB 1 from being tackled during regular sessions.
The City Government’s amortizations for the SRP loan is scheduled on Feb. 20 and Aug. 20. The payment due on Feb. 20 through the Land Bank of the Philippines is more than P200 million, which covers the principal loan and interest charges.