EIGHT Lapu-Lapu City councilors and members of the city’s Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) secretariat have been ordered by health officials to isolate and have themselves tested after one of the reporters covering their session on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, tested positive for Covid-19.
The Lapu-Lapu City Health Office issued orders to City Councilors Rico Amores, Flaviano “Bobit” Hiyas, Gregorio Paquibot, Rudy Potot, Michael Dignos, Rex Mangubat, Junrey Gestopa and Eduardo Cuizon (an ex-officio member being the Association of Barangay Councils president) to get tested for Covid-19.
Aside from the eight councilors, SP personnel led by SP Secretary Franco Limpangog and local journalists who attended the session were also swabbed and ordered to isolate as well as they were present during the session at the Marina Seaview restaurant in Barangay Ibo on Thursday.
The journalist was already experiencing Covid-19 symptoms when he attended the session last Thursday, said Vice Mayor Celedonio “Celsi” Sitoy.
The eight councilors, who are allied with former city mayor and incumbent Lapu-Lapu City Rep. Paz Radaza, defied an order issued by Sitoy not to conduct a physical session after 15 City Hall employees were found positive for Covid-19.
The eight councilors reportedly initiated the face-to-face session at the Marina Seaview on Thursday to tackle two resolutions, one of which was to call upon the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to give a clearance to the 400-hectare Mactan North Reclamation Project in Ibo.
The project, which was approved in 2015 during Radaza’s term, was not given area clearance because of a case pending in court between the project’s contractors.
According to a previous SunStar Cebu report, Sitoy had issued orders to the city councilors to hold their weekly sessions virtually starting Thursday, Aug. 26, as they could not physically conduct sessions at City Hall because of Covid-19 cases.
Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan ordered the temporary closure of City Hall from Aug. 26 to 30, after 15 of his employees tested positive for Covid-19.
The city personnel conducted misting and disinfection operations inside City Hall during the dates that the building was closed to the public.
Ignoring Sitoy’s order, the eight councilors held a physical session on Thursday.
Based on initial reports, Sitoy and city councilors Janvi dela Serna, Nelson Yap, Efren Herrera, Queennie Malingin Amman and Sangguniang Kabataan Federation president Laika Tampus failed to attend the session.
Chan told SunStar Cebu Tuesday that two of his personnel who were present during the session informed SP Secretary Limpangog that Sitoy and the five councilors actually wanted to join the eight councilors in their discussions albeit in a virtual setting.
Sitoy could not join the session physically as he was being isolated after his wife tested positive for Covid-19.
Chan claimed that Limpangog ignored Sitoy and the five councilors.
Chan was also surprised that Limpangog was present in the session even though he and his personnel were ordered to isolate themselves as they were considered Sitoy’s close contacts when the vice mayor’s wife tested positive for Covid-19.
Following the incident, Chan criticized the councilors for defying Sitoy’s order not to conduct physical sessions, just so they could approve the controversial measure.
“Their motives were very suspicious when they conducted a physical session even though they were ordered by Vice Mayor Sitoy to just hold virtual sessions. Why are they in a hurry to approve that measure even though the proposed reclamation project is still being settled in court?” Chan told SunStar Cebu in Cebuano.
Chan said he will leave it to Sitoy to decide on what he intends to do with the eight councilors and Limpangog for disregarding his order.
In a joint statement submitted to SunStar Cebu, the eight councilors represented by Dignos said that the physical session they conducted on Thursday was made with Sitoy’s blessing.
“The notice of the Vice Mayor for the SP members to proceed to Marina Seaview for the session or if others could not attend may join via Zoom, but due to the internal rules of the City Council providing for a physical session, the Zoom session could not be made unless the internal rules is amended,” they said.
The eight councilors also said they decided to appoint Amores as temporary presiding officer as Sitoy could not attend the session physically as he was considered Covid-19 suspect. (JKV, FVQ, GCM)