Cebu News

6 councilors sued

Gregg M. Rubio - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  Six members of the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) of the Municipality of San Fernando, Cebu are facing administrative complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman for approving the realignment of funds intended for the salaries of six complainants.

The six are councilors are Rizza Jessica-Osmeña, Juvy Procianos, and Jovelita Aratia, Sangguning Kabataan Federation President Riyadh Christopher Oacan, Association of Barangay Councils President Flores Guanzon, and former councilor Erico Enad.

The complainants, Evelyn Loguiber, Ronie Rayla, Valeriana Mejio, Patrick Toquero, and Fermina Naneth Parba said Vice Mayor Ricci Regen Reluya issued them with appointments that are valid from July 1, 2022 to December 31, 2022 as SB legislative staff.

Copies of the undated memorandum on the appointments were attached to the joint complaint-affidavit.

The complainants alleged that they have not received their salaries for July 2022 to September 5, 2022, the complaint-affidavit's date, after Municipal Budget Officer Eric Villasan refused to sign the Plantilla of Legislative Staffs.

“Municipal Budget Officer Eric Q. Villasan refused to sign the abovementioned Plantilla of Legislative Staffs because according to him, there is no more budget available after the Sangguniang Bayan of San Fernando, Cebu, passed Resolution No. 76 last June 06, 2022,” read the complaint.

A copy of the said resolution showed that it was Osmeña who moved for the realignment of “unused funds” amounting to P2.8 million under the SB budget's "Legislative Research and Codification for special purpose appropriation," and was seconded by Procianos, Aratia, Oacan, Guanzon, and Enad.

The salaries of the SB staff were included in the said realigned appropriation to fund various programs and projects of the Office of the Mayor.

The complainants claimed that Mayor Lakambini Reluya, whose term ended on June 30, 2022, did not sign and approve the said SB resolution.

The respondents are mostly allies of newly elected Mayor Mytha Canoy, who assumed office on July 1, 2022. Vice Mayor Reluya was reelected under the opposing party in the May 2022 elections.

Vice Mayor Reluya, the SB presiding officer, had sought for the Department of Interior and Local Government's assistance to shed light on the propriety and legality of the resolution, which the SB passed while he was away on official business.

In an August 3, 2022 legal opinion, DILG-7 Regional Director Leocadio Trovela said that “the savings of the Office of the Sanggunian cannot be used to augment an item under the Office of the Mayor."

"Further, while the resolution use(s) the word realignment, what happened was actually a reversion of funds, two concepts which are distinct from one another. In reversion of funds, the sanggunian has the power to revert any unexpected balance or “unused funds” no longer needed to the unappropriated surplus of the general fund only at the end of the fiscal year.”

Trovela further said “that the subject resolution for realignment of unused funds which is substantially a reversion of funds and a supplemental budget ordinance lump into one legislative act can still be subject to veto."

"Further, the same enacted legislative act not only duly approved and have yet to attain the status of a presumably valid act may still be subject of a legal opinion by this Department.”

The complainants alleged that despite such legal opinion, "the Municipal Budget Officer still refused to sign the Plantilla of Legislative Staff for the processing of our salaries.”

While the joint complaint was filed before the anti-graft office, Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Dante Vargas, on May 18, 2023, forwarded it to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, through the Office of Vice Governor Hilario Davide III, for referral to the appropriate committee to take action on the matter. /RHM

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