A COUNCIL bet of the Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) filed a complaint against Cebu City Michael Rama before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) 7 over the disbursement of P7.2-million cash incentives to the barangays officials.
Danilo Pacaña, who is running for a City Council seat in the south district, wants Comelec to disqualify Rama from public office for violations of the Omnibus Election Code. Rama is seeking reelection on Monday against former congressman and former mayor Tomas Osmeña.
In his four-page complaint, received by Comelec 7 yesterday, Pacaña said the giving of the incentives is a form of vote-buying.
He also said it is illegal and improper since it was not given exemption by the Comelec from its ban on the disbursement of public funds during the campaign period.
“While I find the giving of allowances to the barangay officials laudable, the disbursement in this particular case was made at such a time when the release of funds during campaign period is prohibited, without securing first an exemption or approval from Comelec, hence, illegal,” he said.
But Rama said there is nothing illegal on the giving of cash incentives as it is an honorarium to the barangay officials, a payment for services already rendered.
Last April 5, the City Government released P15,000 to each of the 80 barangay captains, P9,000 to each of the 560 barangay councilors and P6,000 to the 80 treasurers and 80 secretaries.
The amount covered the barangay officials’ incentives from January to March this year.
Pacaña said the distribution of the allowances runs contrary to Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code.
It prohibits vote-buying, which is defined as any person, private or public, who gives, offers or promises directly or indirectly money or anything of value.
Pacaña then said that Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, in an interview, already gave a stern warning that the release of public funds during the campaign period is not allowed.
He lamented that the mayor merely relied on a legal opinion of the City Legal Office, which provides that the incentives falls as an exception to the prohibition because it is for services rendered.
Pacaña also said the City incurred unnecessary expenses because it released the cash incentives at Waterfront Cebu City Hotel, which he described as a plush and a five-star hotel.
“It was a waste of taxpayers’ money because it could have been done right at the premises of City Hall just like in the previous distributions of allowances when there was no election ban yet,” he said.
Pacaña also criticized Rama for being there during the distribution and even delivered a speech.
This violates the provision of Comelec Resolution 9991, which he said, prohibits any candidate, his or her spouse, family members and relatives from participating directly or indirectly during the distribution.
Sought for comment, Rama said Pacaña should have included in his complaint the barangay tanods, loaders and drivers because their honorarium was also recently released by the City.
“All of this, yearly, are covered by the budget and that cannot be just stopped just like the senior citizens. Otherwise, mangamatay na lang ang senior citizens usa ni mahuman tanan (will die before getting their aid). That means, that is not the intention of the Comelec restriction. The intention of the restriction is when you make a project too quickly just to benefit and the motive is for election advantage to any party,” he said.
Rama said the Cebu Provincial Government headed by Gov. Hilario Davide III is even distributing assistance to their constituents, apparently referring to the distribution of aid to victims of the dry spell.
“I cannot see any election offense being violated,” said the mayor, who has yet to receive a copy of the complaint.
But Rama said he will answer it only after the May 9 elections, adding that he is still busy securing Team Rama’s victory.