Pesquera defends council’s override of Rama’s veto
MAJORITY Floor Leader Councilor Jocelyn Pesquera has defended the legitimacy of the motions approved by the council during its regular session held online on Jan. 17, 2024.
These motions included the council’s unanimous decision to override Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama’s partial veto on the 2024 Annual Budget Ordinance.
In a press conference on Monday, Jan. 29, Rama questioned the legitimacy of the Jan. 17 council session, wherein it secured a two-thirds majority vote to override the mayor’s veto on certain items on the budget ordinance.
In a text message to SunStar Cebu on Tuesday, Jan. 30, Pesquera said how they conducted the session does not affect its legality and legitimacy.
She also clarified that the absence of some councilors who were abroad at that time would not affect the quorum because there were more than 13 councilors present during the virtual session.
“It does not affect the virtual session. In the same manner, when he was the vice mayor, they had a number of virtual sessions,” said Pesquera.
In the same conference, Rama said they had not received any official documentation regarding the veto override. These documents, which include a certified true copy of the resolution that overrides the veto and the transcript of the minutes, are essential for them to make an intelligent position on the matter.
“Was there really a session? How did it end up that they were able to come up with two-thirds votes? And were the internal rules followed?” Rama asked.
Rama questioned the legitimacy of the session pointing out that the council members held it via Zoom online meeting.
“Akong pangutana, asa man sila nag session? Naay Covid? Is Covid still revealing? nga they are having a Zoom?” Rama said.
(My question is where did they held the session? Is there Covid? Is Covid still a concern, leading them to conduct a session through Zoom?)
Rama also questioned how many of the council members were in the country during the session on Jan. 17.
“When they were doing it, who was in the City of Cebu? Who was out of the city? Who was out of the country? If talking about something outside the country, it should be signed, and the authority should come from me,” Rama said.
“Can there be a session when people are outside the country?” he added. “That will have to be answered.”
He said on the part of the executive, they “intelligently” formulated a veto and that the council should reciprocate by being decent enough to provide them with necessary information before the executive can finalize its position.
The City Council first approved on Dec. 20, 2023, the 2024 annual budget of P19,998,463,532.30 for general funds and P2,095,399,689.40 for special accounts.
The council later amended it on Dec. 27, adding almost P4 billion, increasing the total budget to P25,833,177,745.20.
Rama, however, vetoed several items of the ordinance, saying these were “prejudicial to the public welfare.”
SunStar Cebu earlier reported that Rama, in his veto letter dated Jan. 11, objected to the defunding of unutilized capital outlay, which he said contravenes several statutes.
In the same press conference on Monday, City Administrator Collin Rosell said capital outlay should remain continuous as the nature of capital outlay includes infrastructure projects, which take a long time to complete, as per the accomplishments.
He also said the administration is concerned about the senior citizen’s program, noting their request for additional assistance. The mayor proposed expanding benefits to include items like glasses, hearing aids, and wheelchairs.
He said a budget of P500 million was initially proposed for the program; however, the council reduced it, leaving only P100 million allocated.
Meanwhile, Budget Officer Jerone Castillo said he received a transcript of the deliberation, where Councilor Nestor Archival, minority floor leader, suggested that the capital outlay should be referred to the legal office.
“I don’t know for whatever reason ni-proceed gyud sila og vote despite the fact nga gi-point man ni Councilor Archival nga ato sa niihatag sa legal, maybe to get the opinion of the City Legal Office on the matter kay naa may competing positions,” Castillo said.
(I don’t know for whatever reason they proceeded to vote despite Councilor Archival’s point that we should seek legal advice since there are competing positions.)
Castillo also explained that by its very nature, capital outlay cannot be “immediately” funded, and it continues as per the local government code. The main safety net for capital outlay, he said, is that one cannot use it if there is no cash to support it.
He said the budget execution falls within the authority of the chief executive, saying that it is the balancing act of the government.
“While they can slash it (the budget) technically, [that’s the]authority under the doctrine of check and balance, but they could not limit the mayor as to what projects to execute because it is incumbent upon the mayor...based on his programs,” Castillo said.