Left with only 4 members: Japson cancels session, to wait for DILG opinion
Tony Calvento (The Freeman) - May 19, 2016 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Cebu City acting vice mayor Lea Japson cancelled yesterday’s council session pending the opinion of the Department of Interior and Local Government-7 whether or not they can validly transact business with only four members of the legislative body.

Japson said it would be a waste of time if they will conduct session if it is illegal, so they have to seek DILG’s opinion.

Initially though, DILG-7 legal officer Aiiza Fiel Nogra has said that the four remaining city councilors can conduct session based on a legal opinion issued by the department in 2012.

Nogra, however, added that she will ask further guidance from the central office of DILG if the said legal opinion in 2012 was not reversed.

 Yesterday, DILG-7 director Rene Burdeos issued a memorandum directing councilors Margarita Osmeña and Japson to assume office as acting mayor and vice mayor, respectively.

The memorandum was issued after the DILG implemented the suspension order against 14 city officials including Mayor Michael Rama and Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella last Tuesday.

The 12 other officials suspended were councilors Nestor Archival Sr., Mary Ann de los Santos, David Tumulak, Nendell Hanz Abella, Sisinio Andales, Alvin Arcilla, Roberto Cabarrubias, Ma. Nida Cabrera, Gerardo Carillo, Alvin Dizon, Eugenio Gabuya Jr., and Noel Eleuterio Wenceslao.

The Office of the President found the 14 city officials guilty of grave abuse of authority over the release of the P20,000 calamity aid to all City Hall employees in 2013. The case was filed by lawyer Reymelio Delute.

The remaining members of the council are Japson, Richard Osmeña, James Anthony Cuenco, and ex-officio member Phillip Zafra.

Should they get a favorable statement from the DILG, Japson said she will then issue a memorandum calling for a regular session on Wednesday, May 25.

“As for me, dili man siguro ma-stop ang operation sa Cebu City kay ang acting mayor, iyang gibuhat ang function as mayor. Maski upat ang naa sa council, ask sa DILG if legal ba. Para maka-session ‘mi and dili maka-disturb sa session sa council,” she told reporters after receiving the DILG memorandum.

“Mini-crisis”

As for Cuenco, he said he was supposed to file an official leave starting yesterday.

“However, upon consultation with my colleagues, we would like to have a sort of clarification first from the DILG whether it is possible to conduct sessions with only just four of us in attendance,” he said.

“We would not want to jeopardize the operation of the city government even though as we see it, there is a sort of mini-crisis going on,” he added.

Cuenco said Richard Osmeña told him that he was out of town while Zafra is also planning for a vacation.

“Kun maklaro tanan nga puwede ba ‘mi maka-conduct og session, I’m sure I will be able to convene on the others to stay behind.  Kun maka-convene ‘mi, or valid gyud, we will kay ang katawhan mag-suffer. In the meantime, we will still be operating in on a re-enacted budget,” Cuenco said.

He said that if such would be the case, he will lift his planned official leave.

“I will go back, because primordial among everything is the passage of the budget which is as we all know being held in abeyance and still in limbo,” he added.

Revised budget

Among the primordial concerns Cuenco said should be addressed in the level of the City Council is the pending P9.8-billion revised 2016 Annual Budget.

Japson has said she wants to participate in the session since she is the only one from the remaining members of the council who is from the Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan.

Cuenco, for his part, said they can “rise behind politics” especially in resolving the revised annual budget.

Japson said though that they will not act on the revised budget if the executive department still fails to submit supporting documents on the questioned items such as the P5 million for bags and other supplies for daycare teachers and workers; the P24 million for other supplies and materials for senior citizens; the P170 million for educational assistance program; and the P2.6 billion prepayment of the South Road Properties loan, among others.

The executive department pushed for a revised budget after the Department of Budget and Management declared the P6.4 billion 2016 Annual Budget as inoperative for its failure to provide allocation for the city’s contractual obligation, which is the amortization of the SRP loan.

Sought for comment, Margot, with her now sitting in the executive department, said she will look for these supporting documents or see if these really exist.

Meanwhile, the city’s General Services Office is currently accepting city government-issued vehicles from all departments and barangays.

As of 5 p.m. last Tuesday, only three departments including the City Planning, Engineering and Agriculture Office have returned vehicles, said GSO assistant department head Ronaldo Malacora.

Malacora emphasized that by having an inventory, they can determine how many vehicles are needed in each department and barangay. — (FREEMAN)

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