Last-ditch plea for SB-1’s passage: Please join special session - Rama

Jean Marvette A. Demecillo/RHM (The Freeman) - December 27, 2015 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines - With just three days before the year ends, suspended Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama urged city councilors to attend today’s special session scheduled to tackle the stalled P2.8-billion Supplemental Budget-1.

He issued the appeal after receiving reports that the special session, scheduled at 2 p.m. today, may not continue due to lack of quorum.

“Will they (city councilors) make it nga dili gyod ma-quorum? Are they out of the country? Or are they purposely getting out of the country? But they cannot be getting out of the country without the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) authority,” Rama said.

“The matter is of great importance and urgency, so they have to (be present); otherwise, they will be facing more problems ahead because that is part of their responsibility,” he added.

The bulk of SB-1 is the P2.4-billion prepayment or pre-termination payment of the outstanding balance of the South Road Properties loan that the city incurred in the 300-hectare reclamation project in 1996.

SB-1 also includes P77 million for the productivity enhancement incentive of qualified City Hall employees after President Benigno Aquino III issued an executive order on the granting of the bonus.

City Councilors Margarita Osmeña, Sisinio Andales, and Eugenio Gabuya, however, earlier manifested that they will not attend the special session as they are on Christmas vacation.

City councilors allied with Team Rama, like Nendell Hanz Abella, Noel Wenceslao, Phillip Zafra, on the other hand, expressed that they will attend.

The City Council already conducted its “last” session last December 18, when it approved the P6.9-billion Annual Budget for 2016.

But, Acting Mayor Edgardo Labella requested Acting Vice Mayor Nestor Archival to convene the legislative body to discuss SB-1.

Archival then issued a memorandum last week informing the city councilors about the special session today.

Rama said he does not see any reason for the City Council not to tackle the SB-1.

“If you talk about SB1, I do not know why it should not be discussed. It cannot be argued anymore that their position is flimsy, their justification is wishful thinking. If they continue to be doing so, they would be registering a memory that will haunt them all together when May 9 (2016 elections) will come,” Rama warned.

Members of Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan, the City Council majority bloc, has already rejected six times the move of the minority to lift the suspension of the stalled budget.

As a collective body dictated by BOPK, the City Council stood firm on its stand its stand that it cannot approve or disapprove SB-1 since the court has yet to issue a “finality of judgment” on the civil case filed against them due to the said budget.

A certain Romulo Torres had asked the court to stop the city government from spending the money that the city got from the sale of 45.2 hectares of the SRP.

The city this year got P8.35 billion as down payment for the sale of the lots and the executive department identified it as fund source for SB-1.

While the court already dismissed the civil case filed by Torres, the majority bloc said the decision was not yet final since Torres filed a motion for reconsideration before the court.

Rama said the pre-termination of the SRP loan and granting the PEI is a “contractual obligation of the city.”

The PEI, he said, should be given within the year as mandated under the Aquino’s executive order.

“It (PEI) is a contractual obligation. There is money (as fund source). (Paying the) SRP (loan) is a contractual obligation. There is money,” he said.

When asked if the city government will be facing consequences for not giving the PEI to the City Hall employees, Rama said he will have to check that matter.

“That is an obligation. The mayor will never be (the one doing the) answering if in the end (there are consequences), because I have been so kulit for them (City Council) to deliberate SB-1,” he said.

Rama said he would like to make a plea to the city councilors to attend the special session, saying it is their responsibility.

 “And it is their choice (to attend and deliberate the SB-1). It is really their choice,” he said, adding that the city councilors should be “sensitive” to the needs of the city.

He said the city government could save money if it will prepay and pre-terminate the SRP loan as early as now.

He said the savings that will be generated could be used for further services that the Cebuanos deserve, like beautification of the coastal areas and rivers, setting up a sewerage treatment plant, among others.  (FREEMAN)



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