Briones: To approve or not approve, that is the question

Publio J. Briones III
Publio J. Briones III

Regular and casual employees of the Cebu City Government must be on the edge of their seats, waiting with bated breath whether their Christmas bonus of P35,000 will materialize. Probably huddled next to them are the job order (JO) employees who have been promised P10,000 in gratuity pay as a yearend cash incentive.

It’s a tall order for a cash-strapped local government unit that has been forced to work with an annual budget that can hardly provide basic services for its constituents.

Yet the matter has been considered urgent and necessary.

Which is why all eyes -- I mean not only of employees of City Hall but also of people whose hard-earned money will be used to fund the windfall -- will be on members of the City Council.

You see, Mayor Michael Rama has tasked them to approve the second supplemental budget amounting to around P300 million that will decide the fate of his very generous present.

Now do the math.

The City Government has 1,345 regular, 3,000 casual and 3,000 JOs. The budget for the bonus should come up to roughly P180,000,000. So what’s the extra P120,000,000 for?

Or I may have the figures wrong. Either way, the amount has prompted one city official to be circumspect in his statements.

“For sure naa jud tay mahatag (we will be able to give something), but as to the P35,000, dili ko maka-assure ana kay (I cannot assure that since) it needs a collective decision from the council,” Councilor Noel Wenceslao told SunStar Cebu on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023.

Wenceslao, committee on budget and finance chairman, appears to be stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Nobody wants to be a villain, especially someone whose career depends on the goodwill of others. Which is why if he goes down, he will take the whole council with him.

It’s hardly fair for him to take all the blame if the regular and casual employees as well as city officials don’t get their P35,000 and the JOs don’t get their P10,000 before Christmas day.

Then again, it won’t matter what the council will decide. If they give the second supplemental budget the go ahead, then there surely will be a backlash. The public will remember who allowed such travesty to take place. Because that’s what it is. A travesty.

And even if they don’t, the move will surely depict them in a bad light before the more than 4,000 City Hall employees and 3,000 JOs, whose votes will count in the next election but so do the votes of the more than 700,000 registered in the city.

Now that they see the bigger picture, I hope they will act accordingly.

Which leads me to wonder... didn’t the executive department think the whole thing through before dropping the bombshell last October?

First of all, why give the P35,000 across-the-board? It would seem unfair to those who worked really hard all year long to be getting the same amount as someone who only punched in the clock and then left. I’m not saying there are employees like that, God forbid, but you know what I mean?

There is no such thing as equality when it comes to work ethics. There are some people who are born industrious, and then there are those who prefer to take life in stride.

Second, I think we all know the City Government does not have any money to spare. And even if it does, it should spend the money on something that will benefit everyone, and not just a select few.

By the way, SunStar Cebu’s Beyond the Headlines conducted an online poll on the issue last Wednesday, Dec. 6. Guess what? Eighty percent of the respondents oppose the giving of P35,000 bonus, which translates to around 560,000 voters in the next election. Okay, so maybe not all of them are from Cebu City, but that’s not the point.

And don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against City Hall employees getting a bonus this Christmas. But from P20,000 last year to P35,000 this year? Seriously now.


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