Cebu News

Budget office told to use 2016 funds

The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines – The Cebu City Council has directed the budget officer to utilize the P6.4 billion 2016 annual budget instead of reenacting last year’s budget as the members of the majority bloc insisted that the approval of the budget ordinance was valid and in order.

Councilor Sisinio Andales moved for the council to direct the City Budget Office to use this year’s appropriations instead of the P13.4 billion budget in 2015.

“The budget ordinance was already approved and it is already a law,” Andales said.

Acting mayor Edgardo Labella refused to act on the budget, questioning its validity due to the lack of quorum when it was passed.

Starting January 1, Labella said the city temporarily operates on a reenacted budget since he has not approved the current budget yet. He said the City Council was short of one vote when it approved the appropriation ordinance since there were only nine councilors voted for its passage.

Section 323 of Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991 states that: “In case the sanggunian concerned fails to pass the ordinance authorizing the annual appropriations at the beginning of the ensuing fiscal year, it shall continue to hold sessions, without additional remuneration for its members, until such ordinance is approved, and no other business may be taken up during such sessions.”

“If the sanggunian still fails to enact such ordinance after 90 days from the beginning of the fiscal year, the ordinance authorizing the appropriations of the preceding year shall be deemed reenacted and shall remain in force and effect until the ordinance authorizing the proposed appropriations is passed for salaries and wages of existing positions, statutory and contractual obligations, and essential operating expenses authorized in the annual and supplemental budgets for the preceding year shall be deemed reenacted and disbursement of funds shall be in accordance therewith,” it added.

Andales said that the absolute majority now is nine since there are only 17 members of the City Council left following Labella’s assumption as acting mayor after Ma-yor Michael Rama was placed under preventive suspension.

“This inaction is tantamount to approval of the budget ordinance,” Andales said, saying that Labella failed to act on the budget within the 10-day period.

Councilor Noel Eleuterio Wenceslao said the budget ordinance should be acted by the City Council since there are items under the 2015 budget that were not in the 2016 budget.

“I’m concern because if we use the reenacted budget, there are essential expenses included in the 2016 budget that are not in the 2015 budget just like the budget for the election,” Wenceslao said.

Councilor Margarita Osmeña, chairperson of the committee on budget and finance, insisted that the City Council already approved the 2016 budget.

“We should use the 2016 Annual Budget because it was approved by the City Council and it is valid,” she said.

Osmeña cited an opinion of the Department of the Interior and Local Government which states that: “It is to be noted that with respect to the enactment of the annual and supplemental appropriations, the law is silent as to what kind of majority vote is required of that sanggunian, unlike succeeding provisions which specifically require qualified majority vote of that sanggunian for their passage. In its silence, the presumption is, the same is to be enacted only by a simple majority vote.” — Jean Marvette A. Demecillo/FPL (FREEMAN)

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