Cebu News

ARMORED SUV WORTH P10M: ‘Grandiose’ car for Mike Rama

Iris Hazel Mascardo - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama has asked for a bulletproof and bombproof Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) worth P10 million, even without receiving any threats to his life.

And while the City Council already approved the request, City Councilor James Anthony Cuenco yesterday said he found it “extravagant” and out of Rama’s character to use public funds for such a “grandiose” purchase.

This was after the City Council endorsed during its regular session last Wednesday City Councilor Noel Wenceslao’s resolution requesting the procurement of a bullet-proof and bomb-proof vehicle for the mayor’s use.

Cuenco was not around during the said session.

“When I read through the documents, I found out nga kaning mura’g di man siguro ni gituyo gyud ni mayor.  Because I know him nga he wouldn’t really want to use the funds of the city for purchases such as this one, kay murag grandiose kaayo,” he said.

Cuenco said the request is understandable if the mayor is facing death threats and needs protection to this extent. He thinks that the mayor’s existing security detail may be enough already.

“Naa pa ganiy SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics policemen) nga gasunod sa iyaha,” he said.

The councilor said that based on the documents provided to the City Council, it was specified that the vehicle be like a “Land Cruiser”, which is considered a “very high-end” vehicle.

Rama’s signed request dated Oct. 6, 2023 addressed to Department of Interior and Local Government-7 Director Leocadio Trovela stated that aside from the P6,582,931 for a brand new SUV, he also wants P3,450,000 for bullet-proofing and bomb-proofing the vehicle.

Cuenco, though, said the Department of Budget and Management has prescribed the maximum allowable type of vehicle for certain officials.

“Ang gitugotan ra gud aning mga sobra ka high-end kaning mga top officials of the country like president, the vice president, senate president and the speaker of the house and the supreme court chief justice, mao ra pud ni sila ang gitagaan of an injunction under the law nga mag use of sirens and blinkers,” Cuenco said.

“This is very unlike the character of Mayor Rama,” he said, adding that had he been present during the session he would have asked for justification of the request.

“This is way too extravagant,” Cuenco said.

He, however, believed the mayor missed reading the fine prints when he signed the request.

“I am hopeful that the mayor will reconsider. Basin wa niya mabantayi lang ni, nga maybe his people were eager lang kaayo to please the mayor nga mao ni ilang gi-request,” the councilor said.

With its approval already secured, the City Council would now forward the request to the DILG for approval.

In a separate interview, Wenceslao said the request that he sponsor a resolution on the vehicle purchase came from the Office of the Mayor.

"Dugay kaayo na siya (Rama) nga wa na siyay (vehicle).  Iya nang personal nga car or hinuslan ra gali siguro na iyang Land cruiser. So he needs a Land cruiser. Nimahal man gud ni siya.  It’s because it’s bullet-proofed,” he said.

Wenceslao said the Commission on Audit allows the procurement of an SUV bullet-proof vehicle for mayors of highly urbanized cities.

He said the price is slightly higher because bullet-proofing is expensive.

He argued that the vehicle’s purchase is not just for Rama but also for the others who would come after him (Rama) as city mayor.

“I think ni kuan gyud sila og bullet-proof for security reason. Kay wa baya ta kabalo nga daghan na baya nahitabo sa uban nga mga cities… So, for the security of the mayor, we also have to purchase a vehicle nga ma-secure gyud na sya,” Wenceslao said.

Cebu City Administrator Collin Rosell, on the other hand, said the City’s top officials, who attend various activities not just in the lowland but also in the mountain areas of the city, need such type of vehicle, to be safe.

He admitted they would need DILG clearance to realize the request and added that the executive department would heed whatever its decision would be.

As to the P10-million budget requested, Rosell said it is just a preliminary projection.

“Again, safety and security ang concern. There’s only one chief executive. The local chief executive is expected to serve tanan nga mga constituents sa city, wherever they are, as long that they are in territorial jurisdiction sa city, including those tua outside sa city,” he said.

Rosell also said that they would come up with ways to make up for the bullet-proofing cost so the purchase would only cost less for the City.

He clarified that Rama does not death threats and it is not a motivation for the request.

“But anything could happen at any given time. Better to be prepared than be sorry. Mao lang siguro ang atoa,” he said.

He said improving security does not only mean against death threats but could also mean against dangerous terrain.

Sought for his reaction, former mayor Tomas Osmeña said, “Rama is not worth 10 million pesos.”

Also, lawyer Amando Virgil Ligutan, who is identified with Osmeña’s camp, said the request is not justifiable, especially in these “struggling times”.

“The fact that we can should not mean we should. How do we justify it to our residents who are struggling daily to make ends meet? Isn’t it a bit extravagant to spend that much in this hour of need?” he said. — /RHM (FREEMAN)

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