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Monday, September 27, 2021

Council session to push through

FOR the first time, the Cebu City Council will today convene in a regular session with only three members.

Acting Vice Mayor Lea Japson will preside over the 36th regular session with Councilors James Cuenco, Richard Osmeña and Philip Zafra, Association of Barangay Councils president and ex-officio member.

The three were not among the officials who were suspended over the release of the P20,000 calamity assistance in 2013.

The Department of Interior and Local Government 7 earlier gave them the go-signal to convene and transact business even after Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella and 12 councilors were suspended.

Among the items that will be discussed today is the resolution sponsored by Cuenco, returning the stalled P9.8-billion revised annual budget of the City Government this year.

In an interview with Sun.Star Cebu, Cuenco said the return of the revised proposed 2016 annual budget will allow the new executive to submit another revised annual budget that will conform to their needs.

Amenable

“We will return the earlier proposed revised annual budget submitted by the executive during the time of Mayor Michael Rama.

It’s like we’re playing hide and seek. It’s useless because how can we tackle a budget with the executive who is not sitting right now? For us to move forward, we decided to return that budget and ask the new executive to submit another,” he said.

If Acting Mayor Margarita Osmeña will submit a simplified budget, Cuenco said the council can discuss and approve it in two weeks.

Interviewed separately, Osmeña said she is amenable to Cuenco’s proposal, saying the current revised annual budget has to be scrutinized first.

“I welcome it. We can rush the new budget. If they return it tomorrow (today), they can approve it before this council ends,” she said.

Osmeña said they can use the first 2016 approved annual budget that was declared by the Department of Budget and Management as base for the new annual revised budget because it’s simpler compared to the proposed P9.8 billion.

Osmeña thanked Cuenco, saying his proposal will cut short the process and will allow the City Government to finally have its annual budget this year.

And when the new administration sits, he said, a supplemental budget can be submitted to cover items that are not funded in the annual budget.

Urgent matter

Right now, Cuenco said, urgent matters should be funded first and the City will not operate in a reenacted budget.

Japson agreed with Cuenco, saying expenses that are not necessary should be set aside.

One of these urgent matters is the approval of the more than P80 million for the 14th-month pay of the estimated 5,000 employees of City Hall.

According to the executive order (EO) signed by President Benigno Aquino III, local government units are required to release the 14th-month pay of their employees, which is equivalent to one-month salary.

In her regular news conference, Osmeña said the release of the 14th-month pay is a priority even if it’s distributed after May 14, as required under the EO.

During the session today, Japson said the three councilors will take turns moving the proposed ordinances and resolutions sponsored by their suspended colleagues.

But if they have a question on a proposed ordinance and resolution of the other councilors, Japson said they will have to withdraw it to avoid confusion.
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