Cebu News

‘Politics’ in financial aid to barangays assailed

Iris Hazel Mascardo - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — Last week’s Cebu City Council approval of the allocation of P400 million as aid to the city’s 80 barangays did not come smoothly, as there were members who complained that the financial assistance was “not devoid of political color”.

This was because the allocation documents include the mention of “BARUG”, which is the political party of Mayor Michael Rama, who is currently serving a six-month preventive suspension.

“Considering…that the subsidy is coming from the City Government, this being public funds, I have observed that in Section 4 in the fund utilization of the financial subsidy there is a mention of the policy direction of ‘Barug Cebu City’. There were several mentions,” said City Councilor James Anthony Cuenco.

In particular, the “guidelines and utilization” for the amount stated that “(t)he financial subsidy to the barangays shall be used to fund only projects that are geared towards the realization of the platform of governance, BARUG CEBU CITY….”

“I believe that the use of these funds should be devoid of any political color and so, if I may, that this memorandum be amended to delete those words that are leaning towards a particular political party, this being government funds,” Cuenco said.

City Councilor Jocelyn Pesquera, who co-authored the allocation resolution with Ex-officio Member Franklyn Ong, the Association of Barangay Councils president, explained that BARUG is the acronym for the policy direction of the administration and which was approved under the Executive-Legislative Agenda (ELA) in 2022.

She said the association of the term BARUG is not political in nature and if the council wants the appropriation amended the ELA should be amended first.

Councilor Nestor Archival, Sr. also argued that regardless of the acronym they did not know what BARUG stands for so they still “suspects” that it refers to the political party of the mayor.

 Ong then explained that the BARUG is an acronym and it stands for “Better business environment and employment opportunities; Adequate water supply; Resettlement and housing; Urban-upland development; and Good governance, public safety and resiliency”.

Archival the suggested that the acronym be spelled out in the memorandum to avoid misconceptions over the usage of BARUG.

“Because without that mura man gud og tailor-made ba,” said Cuenco, who also questioned the association of a “Singapore-like vision” in the memorandum for the appropriation.

Ong, however, said the amount is in line with the plans of the mayor, whose direction is for a “Singapore-like Cebu City” that to him should be respected.

City Councilor Rey Gealon, on the other hand, argued that the beneficiaries of the resolution are all the 80 barangays of Cebu City, which means no political considerations were involved in the financial assistance.

Another discussion that came to be prior to the approval of the financial assistance was what while 16 barangays got P13 million each, the rest only got P3 million.

Ong, however, answered that he “cannot questions the wisdom” of Mayor Rama on the distributions.

“I would like to appeal to the wisdom of the mayor to consider the amount being given for each barangay, especially for bigger barangays, to possibly increase the subsidy that will be extended to them,” said City Councilor Philip Zafra.

 City Councilors Renato Esmeña Sr., Jonathan Guardo, Cuenco, and Edgardo “Jaypee” Labella II likewise made similar manifestations.

In response, Ong said that of the 16 barangays, 12 of the 16 were mountain barangays, which need more help due to their lesser annual budgets.

Despite the questions raised, the city councilors, as a body, approved the financial assistance, with the manifestations of a few of them being noted in its passage. /RHM (CEBU NEWS)

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