TRO on SRP money junked

Mylen P. Manto, Jean Marvette A. Demecillo (The Freeman) - October 14, 2015 - 10:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The Regional Trial Court found no basis to issue a Temporary Restraining Order against the Cebu City government on the use of the P8.5 billion it earned from the sale of lots at the South Road Properties (SRP).

Yesterday, Judge Alexander Acosta denied the request of Romulo Torres, the resident of Barangay Basak San Nicolas who questioned a City Council resolution that authorized Mayor Michael Rama to sell the SRP lots.

In denying Torres’ request for TRO, Acosta said there was no willingness on Torres’ part to post bond while the case for declaration relief, injunction with prayer for temporary restraining order (TRO) and writ of preliminary injunction is being heard.

Torres also failed to appear in court yesterday for the hearing of the case.

At the City Hall, the Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) – dominated City Council rejected yet again the resolution to lift the suspension of the deliberation of the P2.8 billion Supplemental Budget-1 this year.

The proposed P2.8 billion SB-1 will be taken from the SRP money.

During their regular session yesterday, nine members of BOPK voted against the resolution proposed by Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella.

Labella, in a privilege speech, told his colleagues that his position is “firm and staunch” that SB-1 should be re-deliberated.

He said the council has three simple choices in deliberating a budget ordinance – to pass, reject, and/or slash it.

“I solemnly stand before you today momentarily surrendering my impartial seat as your presiding officer to be one with the Cebuano populace. Most often than not, we shrug off our neutrality to take to take sides with what we strongly believe is for the best interest of our fellowmen whom we pledged to serve with all honesty, responsibility, accountability, and transparency,” Labella said.

“It gravely disturbed me to realize that the triumph of evil is when good men do nothing. Consequently, I chose to rise to this occasion in response to the thunderous outcry apropos to the much-discussed Supplemental Budget-1,” he added.

Party Politics

Labella said what transpired last October 7 when the council first rejected the move to deliberate on the proposed SB-1.

“I cannot put into words my dismay and exasperation over what transpired last Wednesday. Right in front of me, I saw the most obvious and apparent exhibition of party politics. I anguish at the opportunity for my colleagues, regardless of their cloth, to banner at least the people’s general welfare,” Labella said.

“I grieve because no amount of concession and compromise can overtake decisions already dyed by colors. It is indeed disheartening,” he added.

BOPK councilors insisted that they should defer the deliberation of the ordinance until the court resolves the complaint Torres filed against them.

Torres contended that the resolution that authorized Rama to sell the SRP lots violates Cebu City Ordinance No. 2332 or the “An Ordinance protecting the South Road Properties and its Stakeholders from Unlawful and Unauthorized Transactions and Dealings.”

The recent sale of SRP lots to SM Prime Holdings, Inc.; Ayala Lands, Inc.; and Filinvest lands, Inc. was made through public bidding.

The city’s executive department has said that the SRP money as its sole source of fund to finance the P2.8 billion SB-1, which includes the P77 million productivity enhancement incentives of city employees, P87 million garbage tipping fee, and P2.3 billion prepayment of the SRP loan.

Second “no” vote

Yesterday, Labella insisted to deliberate the SB-1, saying that being sued is one of the hazards of being elected officials.

“Let it be noted that I determinedly moved to re-deliberate the discussion on SB-1 irrespective of the case filed and pending in court on the grounds that the general welfare and the delivery of social services should never be deferred and put on-hold,” he said.

After a 10-minute recess, which allowed members of BOPK and Team Rama to convene separately, the majority block voted to deny the deliberation yet again.

Councilor Margarita Osmeña said this is the first time that the members of the City Council are sued over the deliberation of budget ordinance.

“This is the first time. This is something new to us. I’m not a lawyer. We already offered an alternative. We asked to have a dialogue with the Local Finance committee members, but the mayor did not allow them. Give us an opportunity to have a dialogue,” Osmeña said.

Those who voted to junk the deliberation were Osmeña, Andales, Gabuya, Mary Ann de los Santos, Lea Japson, Nida Cabrera, Roberto Cabarrubias, Alvin Dizon, and Alvin Arcilla.

Those who voted to lift the suspension of deliberation were Labella and Councilors Carillo, David Tumulak, Phillip Zafra, and Nendell Hanz Abella.

City Councilors Noel Wenceslao and Richard Osmeña, members of Team Rama, were absent yesterday.

Sought for comment on the second rejection, Rama said, “what else is new?”

Rama said the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas should take cognizance of what he described as abuse of authority on the part of the BOPK councilors.

Meanwhile, over 40 member of the Mabolo Urban Poor Homeowners Association, Inc. gathered at the Plaza Sugbo grounds yesterday to condemn the council’s move to stop the deliberation.

“Release the funds… ayaw ikadena ang pundo… ipagawas ang pundo, ibalik sa katawhan, mga konsehal nga namugong,” their placards read.

MUPHAI President Alfredo Formentera said the SB-1 could be used to develop a resettlement lot for families set to be displaced from private-owned lots. —/JMO (FREEMAN)

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