Cebu News

Tension fills council session

The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines – Tension filled the session hall of the Cebu City Council during the first regular session of the year with at least two members allied with the Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan delivering privilege speech one after another to criticize the members of the minority.

The argument was centered on the issue of quorum and the controversial special sessions last month that led to a member of the minority bloc taking over the session as presiding officer and ordering the arrest of the members of the majority to compel them to attend.

Councilor Gerardo Ca-rillo raised his concern on the determination of quorum after the secretary of the City Council said the regular session on December 16 had a quorum despite only nine members were present.

“In accordance with our Implementing Rules and Regulation, quorum is ten and not nine since all elected and qualified members of the City Council is eighteen,” he said.

Councilor Sisinio Andales objected to the statement, saying that at present there are only 17 members of the City Council since Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella has assumed acting mayor following the suspension of Mayor Michael Rama.

Board Secretary Mary Antoniette Olivar said there were only nine councilors present during the roll call on December 16. All those present were members of BOPK since Team Rama councilors either arrived late or absent.

Olivar said Team Rama Councilors Noel Wenceslao, Hanz Abella, and Carillo arrived after the roll call while Councilors David Tumulak, Richard Osmeña and Phillip Zafra were absent. Councilor James Anthony Cuenco was on leave.

“So, it is not our fault (for not achieving the quorum), it is their fault,” Alvin Arcilla said, which elicited an objection from Carillo.

“We should maintain to be gentlemen. We should observe proper decorum during session,” Carillo said.

The heated exchange prompted acting vice mayor Nestor Archival Sr. to call for a recess to defuse the tension.

Carillo confronted Arcilla and accused them of being disrespectful for not attending the special session.

“Kamo ang walay respeto kay wala mo manunga sa gipatawag ni Archival,” Carillo told Arcilla.

Carillo was referring to the special sessions conducted last December 28, 29, and 30 in which BOPK councilors were absent. Carillo later apologized to his colleagues which would have subsided the tense situation.

However, a privilege speech delivered by Councilor Alvin Dizon flared up the situation even more.

“I was personally hurt and humiliated by an arrest order reportedly issued against me and the other councilors during a supposedly special session of the Cebu City Council last December 28, 29, and 30,” Dizon said.

The council, however, failed to muster quorum during the three special sessions which would have tackled the P2.8 billion Supplemental Budget-1 and the declaration of Barangay Lahug under state of cala-mity following a huge fire on December 26.

“Despite our differences, I          have always held the belief that city councilors must work together as a family. And just like any family where differences of opinion are inevitable, our diversity is important because this is an essential element of democracy,” Dizon added.

According to Dizon, Carillo projected the other members of the council as “unreliable” for ordering their arrest.

“Arresting members of the City Council is an extreme measure that has probably never been done before in our city or even in other places. It should be resorted to only during very special circumstances, such as when city councilors are habitual absentees. But this is not the case right now. I am not a habitual absentee in City Council sessions. I do my job diligently and records will bear me out on this. I also do not just disappear from the session hall when sessions are on-going,” Dizon lamented, which was supported by Andales.

Andales also pointed out that Carillo’s taking over the session was “highly irregular.”

But Carillo reiterated the minority bloc’s position by citing Section 53 of the Local Government Code.

Section 53B of the Local Government Code states that; “ where there is no quorum, the presiding officer may declare a recess until such time as a quorum is constituted, or a majority of the members present may adjourn from day to day and may compel the immediate attendance of any member absent without justifiable cause by designating a member of the sanggunian, to be assisted by a member or members of the police force assigned in the territorial jurisdiction of the local government unit concerned, to arrest the absent member and present him at the session.”

He explained that it was only to “compel” other members of the City Council to attend to the special session considering the urgency of the items to be discussed.

Carillo also pointed out that it was Archival himself who opened up the possibi-lity of the arrest by citing the provision of the law during the start of the special session.

Councilor Margarita Osmeña, in a motion, asked the secretary to provide all members of the City Council the minutes of the special sessions held last year. — Jean Marvette A. Demecillo/FPL (FREEMAN)












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