FOLLOWING the suspension of 12 of its members over the release of P20,000 each in calamity aid in 2013, the Cebu City Council will stay adjourned.
Acting Vice Mayor Lea Japson said she will not call for a session unless the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) 7 advises that a four-member council can constitute a quorum and validly do business.
“We want a black-and-white authority para di mausik atong panahon (so we will avoid wasting time). Sayang man kung mag-session mi unya di diay legal, invalid diay (It would be a waste of time if we hold a session, only to be told that it is invalid),” she said.
This means the approval of the P9.8-billion revised annual budget of the City Government this year will be further stalled.
As a consequence, the chances of releasing more than P80 billion for the 14th month pay of the estimated 5,000 employees of City Hall remain bleak.
Japson wrote DILG 7 Director Rene Burdeous about her concern last May 19 but has yet to get the agency’s answer. She was told that the matter had to be referred to the DILG head office.
The acting vice mayor said there is a possibility that the revised annual budget will be approved in the next council yet, which will start on July 1, since budget deliberations take time.
She pointed out that the council has not yet even tackled the source of funds for its revised annual budget.
In the absence of an approved annual budget, the City is operating on the reenacted 2015 annual budget.
In a separate interview yesterday, Acting City Treasurer Diwa Cuevas said that the local finance committee had suggested that the City be allowed to use the budget for the yearend bonus last year to cover the employees’ 14th month pay.
Once this year’s budget is approved, she added, the item for the 14th month pay can be used to cover the yearend bonus instead. “Kay ang mga empleyado sige na gyud ug huwat (City Hall employees have been waiting for this),” she said.
However, Cuevas said the City Budget Office went to the Department of Budget and Management to inquire if that can be allowed, but the agency told the City it cannot be done.
The agency added that the City should just wait until its 2016 annual budget gets approved.
Cuevas said that Acting Mayor Margarita Osmeña wants the 14th month pay released the soonest time possible, but they will just have to wait for it due to the issues over the budget.
Cuevas said, though, that there is no deadline for the giving of the 14th month pay, which is equivalent to one month’s salary.
The executive order signed by President Benigno Aquino III only states that it should be released not earlier than May 14.
For those whose employment with the City will end on June 30, Cuevas said they can still get their share but it will be proportionate to the services they have rendered.