Can four deliberate on billions?

CAN the four-person Cebu City Council validly tackle the newly proposed 2016 annual budget of the City Government that will amount to billions of pesos?

This was the question raised by Councilor James Cuenco during the regular session yesterday as Acting Mayor Margarita Osmeña said she will already submit next week a new annual budget proposal of around P6 billion.

The City will have no new projects for this year since she won’t include any capital outlay appropriations in the new proposed budget, Osmeña said.

“We discussed it (items to be included) and we went through it on Monday with the budget officer. And so considering it is already six months into the year, there are many capital outlay appropriation that will not be implemented anyway,” she said.

The City still has an unimplemented P1.5 billion worth of drainage projects under the annual budget last year.

As for the ongoing construction of the new Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC), Osmeña said they are still good even if there will be no budget for capital outlay this year.

She said the P600-million budget set aside for the first phase of the project in the previous years has still not been used up. She said the contractor is still on 40 percent in the project implementation.

Osmeña said there will be no capital outlay budget in this year’s annual appropriation, considering that by July, the executive department will already start preparing the annual budget for 2017.

Starting July 1, the executive department will already be headed by Osmeña’s husband, incoming mayor Tomas Osmeña.

“What we want to do now is to put in place the 2016 budget na so we will no longer be using the reenacted budget all the time,” she said.

Items

As for the items to be included in the proposed annual budget, it will be the P88-million mid-year bonus of the City Hall employees, P390 million for the amortization of the South Road Properties, P15 million for salary differential, P5 million for terminal leave benefits, P1 million for the monetization of leave credits, P3 million for City-sponsored activities and P1 million for office renovation or furniture, among others.

The City is currently operating on a reenacted budget after the Department of Budget and Management 7 declared the previously approved P6.4-billion annual budget as inoperative due to some deficiencies.

This prompted Mayor Michael Rama to submit a revised annual budget amounting to P9.8 billion, which included already the supposed P3.4 billion first supplemental budget for this year.

However, the council of four returned just last week what Rama submitted since there is a new administration at City Hall.

This came after the Office of the President suspended until June 30 Rama, Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella and 12 of the city councilors.

During their session yesterday, Councilor James Cuenco asked, though, how the council of four will proceed in the deliberation of the new annual budget.

He wants the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to guide them.

He pointed out that the council no longer has the committee on budget and finance that is supposed to review and scrutinize first any annual budget before it will be discussed by the council as a whole.

“As of now, we are all clueless. So I’ll try to seek guidance. I am not really sure on how we will proceed actually,” he said.

While the council was given by the DILG the authority to convene, Cuenco said it is a different case to tackle a multibillion budget.

But Acting Vice Mayor Lea Japson, who is the vice chairperson of the committee on budget and finance, believes the council of four can just scrutinize the budget as a committee and as a whole.

Japson admitted there will be a little disadvantage if the council of four will be the only one to discuss the annual budget as the 12 other councilors will not be able to participate in the discussion or raise their concerns.

“But for me, sa tulo nga nahibilin nga konsehal, maka-address ra man pod tingali kung naay concerns,” she said.

Tribute

Before the members 13th Sangguniang Panlungsod will end their term later this month, the council has requested their suspended members to be present during their last session on June 29.

In his approved resolution, Cuenco invited the other councilors who already served three terms and those who lost in the last election to be present during the last session for a tribute.

The tribute will serve as an opportunity for the remaining councilors to thank other members who were suspended for the service they rendered to the City Government before their respective terms end.

Since last week, the Council has been conducting their regular session with only four members after the suspension of Labella and 12 councilors over the release of a P20,000 in calamity assistance in 2013.

Japson served as presiding officer with Councilors Cuenco, Osmeña, and Association of Barangay Councils chiefs and ex-officio member Philip Zafra as members.

Labella will also be invited as well as Acting Mayor Margarita Osmeña.

“It has been a tradition in the council even in the past, that those who are graduating or last term councilors will be given tribute and also those councilors whose terms were not continued,” Cuenco said.

During the last session, Cuenco said house rules will be suspended to pave the way for the tribute.

During the tribute, Cuenco said suspended councilors can be in their respective places and sit on their chairs since no provision of the house rules will be violated following its suspension.

Sought for comment, suspended Councilor Alvin Dizon said he will attend the tribute, saying it will be a chance for him to express his gratitude to his colleagues and the people of the City of Cebu.

Dizon would have wanted to deliver his speech yesterday during the regular session of the Council but was not able to do it because of other commitments.

“I will attend because it will be an opportunity for me to say my goodbyes and thank you because I served the city for six years,” he told Sun.Star Cebu.

Dizon will end his second term and will no longer continue his third term after he lost in the last election.
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