Lawyer: Part of aid was from donation
May B. Miasco/JMO (The Freeman) - November 10, 2015 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The legal counsel of another lawyer who sued Cebu City officials over the questioned calamity financial assistance released two years ago claimed that a portion of the source of funds was from donations based on findings by the Commission on Audit in 2013.

However, the opposing party defended that the P87 million released as calamity assistance was appropriated under two separate fund sources - the General Fund Proper and the General Fund Special Account, pursuant to an approved city ordinance.

Lawyer Benjamin Militar, the legal counsel of lawyer Reymelio Delute, disclosed to reporters that the previous COA finding showed that an amount from the calamity fund was taken from a particular account enumerated as donations under the Office of the City Administrator.

He said though that COA did not specify a particular amount.

"The finding of COA is different. According to COA, it came from a special account… this special account was under the Office of the City Administrator and this were actually donations, that was the finding of COA," Militar said on the sidelines of yesterday's hearing conducted by the Department of the Interior and Local Government-7.

Militar believed that the account could not be realigned since the funds were donations.

"It is supposed to be a donation for a specific purpose and in fact, that is what we wanted to know from the city administrator but she refused to testify. We would like to know the donors and the purpose of the donation and they refused," he said.

To note, it was Delute who sued Mayor Michael Rama, Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, and the city councilors for grave misconduct and abuse of authority over the release of the cash assistance, claiming that the city officials' act in giving P20,000 each to 4,200 city officials and employees, including themselves, was questionable because they were not direct victims of calamities.

Following the successive calamities - the magnitude 7.2 earthquake on October 15, 2013 and super typhoon Yolanda a month later, the assistance was given in December.

As the presentation of evidence resumed yesterday, Acting City Budget Officer Marietta Gumia took the witness stand to prove that the release of the P87 million calamity assistance was legal and regular pursuant to existing ordinances.

However, Militar believed that some of the legal counsels of the city officials were "window dressing the source".

Lawyer Rey Gealon, one of the legal counsels of the city officials, insisted the documents cannot divert the fact showing the source of funds provided under City Ordinances 2379 and 2380, appropriating over 61 million from the General Fund Proper and appropriating over 26 million from the General Fund Special Account, respectively. — (FREEMAN)

ACTING CITY BUDGET OFFICER MARIETTA GUMIA CEBU CITY CITY CITY ORDINANCES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT GENERAL FUND PROPER GENERAL FUND PROPER AND THE GENERAL FUND SPECIAL ACCOUNT GENERAL FUND SPECIAL ACCOUNT LAWYER BENJAMIN MILITAR LAWYER REY GEALON OFFICE OF THE CITY ADMINISTRATOR
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