IN another effort to cut down the Cebu City Government’s expenses, Mayor Tomas Osmeña said that senior citizens who only recently became residents of the city may no longer receive the annual P12,000 financial assistance.

He also reduced the monthly allowances the City is giving court officials.

“You know, I am really trying to cut down government waste. We are running a major deficit,” said Osmeña, apparently referring to the Commission on Audit’s finding that the City incurred a P6.2-billion deficit in its transactions and operations last year.

In his news conference yesterday, Osmeña said he has already ordered a review of the list of beneficiaries under the City’s senior citizens’ financial assistance program and intends to “eliminate” those who are “new residents.”

Osmeña wants the City to prioritize giving the P12,000 yearly cash aid to those who were already voters in the city as of 2008, the year when the program started.

“So I’m saying that you might not have been a senior in 2008 but you were a voter of the city and now a senior citizen. That is okay. But if you were not a voter in 2008 and now you are senior citizens and voters, you are in the second priority,” he said.

On when this will be implemented, the mayor said he doesn’t know yet but he assured that the current amount the seniors get will remain.

The mayor said he just doesn’t understand where the 27,000 additional senior citizens recorded by the City came from.

When the City started giving out financial assistance to senior citizens in 2008, there were only around 25,000 beneficiaries.

Each of them was just receiving P2,000. Of that, P1,000 was the City’s birthday gift while the other P1,000 was their Christmas gift.

P720M a year

Former mayor Michael Rama increased the cash aid to P10,000 in 2010 and eventually raised it to P12,000.

Now, beneficiaries of the program have already reached more than 67,300, according to the Office of the Senior Citizens’ Affairs (OSCA). The City sets aside at least P720 million annually for their cash aid.

OSCA Chief Domingo Chavez said this does not include yet the senior citizens who are on the waiting list.

Asked about the mayor’s pronouncement, Chavez said he will just follow whatever is the directive.

Chavez believes there were senior citizens who transferred from other local government units to Cebu City so they can avail themselves of the financial assistance.

Naa gyu’y nakalusot (Some of them got in),” he said.

Under the present setup, Chavez said, a senior citizen can avail of the cash aid provided that he or she has been a voter of the city since 2010 and before that. They need to submit a voter’s certification issued by the Commission on Elections.

As for the court officials’ monthly allowance, Osmeña said allowances of the judges will be cut by 50 percent while the allowances for the clerks of court will be reduced by 75 percent, effective immediately.

Wisely, strictly

It will affect 78 workers in the judiciary.

In quick interviews, two Cebu City judges said they will respect the mayor’s decision to cut their stipends by half.

“It’s within their prerogative. I will respect that. For me, we will still do our job,” said Judge Ramon Daomilas.

Executive Judge Soliver Peras said he has yet to see the mayor’s directive, but will respect the mayor’s move, nevertheless.

Based on records from the City Budget Office, eight judges from the Court of Appeals (CA) have been receiving P25,000 from the City; 23 judges in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) get P20,000 each; and judges in the Municipal Trial Courts in Cities (MTCC) get P15,000 each.

The four clerks of court in the CA, 24 in the RTC and 10 in the MTCC receive P4,000 each.

Asked why the reduction is 50 percent for the judges and 75 percent for the clerks of court, the mayor did not explain.

“But let me put it this way. I try to give my department heads an increase. They (judiciary) don’t give our department heads those kinds of allowances so why are we using our money for them? We want to spend our money as wisely as much as possible, as strictly as possible,” he added.

Cutting back

It was in 2008 when Osmeña started to give allowances to the members of the judiciary, saying he believed they were underpaid.

“And the temptation is very strong and they all have internal financial needs, personal needs. I decided to give the allowance because that is a very sensitive position,” he added.

But Osmeña, who is now starting a fresh term after six years away from City Hall, said his priorities have changed. They include providing education to high school graduates so they will get jobs, among many others.

(Osmeña served a term in the House of Representatives from 2010 to 2013, then lost the mayoral elections in 2013 to Rama. This year, be defeated Rama by more than 30,000 votes.)

As his move to cut down expenses will affect more people, Osmeña said yesterday he is not sparing himself. He said he is not hiring a single consultant in his administration.

He also said he is not using a government vehicle and neither does his wife, Councilor Margarita Osmeña. They both pay for their own fuel, he said.

“So it is not like I am going to make everybody suffer. I am doing my share,” he added.