Seares: Cebu City Council approves purchase of P10.032M SUV for city mayor. Car is only P6.582M but bullet-bomb proofing costs P3.45M more.

Seares: Cebu City Council approves purchase of P10.032M SUV for city mayor. Car is only P6.582M but bullet-bomb proofing costs P3.45M more.
Photos from Cebu City PIO and Wenceslao’s Facebook page

* Mayor Rama tells DILG the car "will provide transport for the office of the mayor"

* Councilor Wenceslao says in his resolution the vehicle is "essential for the daily business of the mayor's office"


CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama in a letter dated November 15, 2023 asked for a City Council resolution approving the purchase of a "service utility vehicle" for the chief executive. One week later, on November 22, the Sanggunian approved the request, in a resolution filed by Councilor Noel Gonzales Wenceslao, chairman of the committee on budget and finance.

The councilors must not have missed the cost and specifications, which routinely would be attached to the resolution submitted to the City Council, along with the agenda for that day's regular session.

EYE-CATCHING SPECIFICATIONS. What must quickly strike the councilors' attention:

[1] The cost: P6,582,931.04 for a brand-new SUV and an additional P3,450,000 for "BULLET-PROOF & BOMB-PROOF" (capitalized in the requisition from the mayor's office dated October 6, 2023), or a "grand total" of P10, 032,931.04.

[2] Some specifications that most likely don't appear in other City Hall purchases of motor vehicles, such as: "ballistic doors, bullet-resistant glass, floor blast protection, ceiling protection."

The vehicle's brand is not specified, as government procurement rules prohibit it, but more than one person knowledgeable about cars, told News+One the specifications match those of a 2023 Toyota Land Cruiser LC300. Or it could be 2024 as the year of issue wasn't mentioned, just the descriptive "brand-new."

Car buffs would be interested in details about the engine and power of the SUV-body vehicle. Here it is: 300 engine: V6 type, 3.0L displacement, 300HP power, torque 650-N-m, automatic transmission, 20-inch alloy wheels, tire 265/55 R20. And Euro compliant.)

A bit heartening to those worried about private use of the vehicle is this condition: "Unit must bear the Cebu City logo and 'FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY'."

THE BULLET-PROOF, BOMB-PROOF THING. That it is bullet-proof is not new to many people, as that is almost standard for the official vehicle of a mayor or governor. That it is bomb-proof too is what raises eyebrows and draws out the skeptical "Really."

Initial reactions, serious or not, focused on the car's special safety features and whether there's a need for it.

NO DEATH THREAT. A councilor ally of the mayor in Barug, James Anthony Cuenco, couldn't believe that Mayor Rama, as he knew him, "would use the city's funds for purchases such as this one." Sort of grandiose: "Mura'g grandiose ra kaayo." Could be a shift of the mayor's character, not lack of knowledge about the purchase, as Rama himself signed the request for DILG approval.

Cuenco said he's not aware of any death threat against the mayor. Besides, the existing security detail of Mayor Mike is enough, Cuenco told The Freeman, "there are even SWATs (special weapons and tactics police) following him."

TOMAS AND OTHER CRITICS. The usual critics unleashed the usual attack, such as Cebu Update Facebook page's: "This is where your taxes go." But this time the issue is "relatable" to residents who see the dire prospect of paying much higher real property taxes for this year.

Former mayor Tomas Osmeña typically lobbed at a spot where one didn't expect: "(Mike) is not worth P10M," as if a city mayor's life must have a specific monetary worth to deserve armored-car protection. But he probably just wanted to sound mean.

CITY COUNCIL APPROVAL: CHECK; THEN DILG. How about the approval of DILG or Department of the Interior and Local Government? The mayor, in a letter sent October 6, 2023 officially filed the request for DILG go-ahead, indicating that City Hall recognizes that the SUV is among the vehicles requiring DILG's authority to purchase.

A mandatory rule from DILG is that "no post-purchase shall or could be issued"; thus, if the purchase has been made, it may be assumed that City Hall already got the approval, unless it proceeded with the purchase as the OK would come as a matter of course.

The appropriation ordinance is also required by DILG, along with an inventory of existing vehicles in the office of the mayor. Wenceslao's resolution said the chief budget officer and the treasurer certified that funds were available to buy the car, and the money was to be charged against the item Motor Vehicles, 2023, Office of the Mayor, with a specified account number.

'DILI SAD MADAYON KON...' Councilor Wenceslao confirmed to me Friday, December 1, that the City Council approved his resolution the other week, on November 22, but the mayor's office still has to get DILG approval. If DILG says no, if Santa in effect says someone's being naughty, no new car, bullet-proof and bomb-proof or not, for the mayor. Wenceslao was clear: "Kon dili ma-approve, di sad madayon."


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