THE Cebu City Council entered into a feisty debate before finally approving Supplemental Budget 3 (SB3) which contains the funds for the senior citizens’ cash assistance and bonus for City Hall employees.
During their regular session Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022, the 16th Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) approved SB3 amounting to P1.215 billion on third and final reading with no objections.
However, the final deliberation did not go smoothly as opposition councilors questioned the alleged use of "shortcut" methods to pass the budget ordinance.
Councilor Nestor Archival raised the question of why the proposed ordinance was already in the third and final reading when he had not seen the ordinance being discussed in the first and second reading during the council's previous session.
"Again, I would just like to manifest that this is still on the first reading because this ordinance, Councilor Noel (Wenceslao), karon pa man ni (only now does it) appear sa atong (in our) session. Dili ni ma (This can’t be for) third reading," said Archival.
Archival suggested that the current deliberation be tagged as the first reading and the second and final reading be conducted in the next session.
However, Councilor Noel Wenceslao, chairman of the committee on budget and finance, who authored the budget ordinance, refuted the statement of Archival and said the first and second readings had already been done last week.
Archival replied by asking the SP Secretary if the status of the ordinance was stipulated in the previous agenda of the City Council.
"I just would like the ask secretary nga na butang ba ni ang proposed ordinance... Mo ingon ta og (If we say this is the) third reading, katulo ni na post (this would be the third time it was posted). Klarohon lang ni nato kay lisod man kaayo ta mo ingon ta nga (Let’s just make this clear because it would be very difficult for us to say) number three unya (but then) number one pa man ang gi butang (this is the first time it has been placed) ... Kung atoa ni himoon nga (If we do this) shortcut, dili gyud ta kakat-on (we will never learn)," said Archival.
SP Secretary and lawyer Charisse "Chappy" Piramide answered Archival's inquiry by saying that the endorsement from the office of Mayor Michael Rama already constituted the first reading and the committee report was the second reading.
"This is as practiced. We are just following the practice of the council since time immemorial that they really consider the endorsement of the office of the mayor as the first reading, then we have the budget hearings. And then committee reports will be the second reading of the ordinance, and this one would be the third reading, as a practice of the council," said Piramide.
Despite the explanation, Archival upheld his beliefs that the proposed ordinance was still on the first reading and the manner of approving SB3 was not correct.
Opposition Councilor Mary Ann delos Santos echoed Archival's concerns and said the process used in passing SB3 lacked the characteristics in approving any ordinance in the council.
“We do not want to be an obstructionist here, but let us just rectify if there is a wrong in the coming resolutions or ordinances that we have because it would not look good also in this body nga atoa lang sundon bisag sayop (that we just follow it even if it is wrong)," said Wenceslao.
By the end of the deliberations, delos Santos did not object or abstain while Archival entered his abstention to the approval of SB3.
Under SB3, the biggest chunk of the funds will be allocated to the distribution of P314.5 million in financial assistance to senior citizens in the city.
An allocation of P118 million is included in the budget for the city's scholarship program, while P50 million is additional funding for the cash assistance of persons with disabilities.
For the Christmas bonus of City Hall employees, an allocation of P5.848 million for SP employees and P78.2 million for employees under the executive department was also included in SB3.
The Department of General Services will also receive P185 million from SB3 wherein P90 million will be for additional funding for fuel, oil and lubricant expenses, P61 million for electricity expenses, and P14 million for security services.
Other allocations are P78.4 million for aid to barangays, P67 million for the Teacher's Assistance Program, P22 million for community health programs, and P66 million for capital outlay of the Department of Public Services.
The Department of Engineering and Public Works will also receive P50 million for its capital outlay funds and for the asphalting of roads in the South Road Properties that will be used as the parade route of Sinulog 2023.
An amount of P100 million is also set aside as additional funding for the city's quick response fund.