Bzzzzz: Cebu City Government 'liquid,' 'di pa bankrupt.' Despite P14.4B total budget for 2021 and revenue shortfall, numbers allay BOPK fear.

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'Third force' in Cebu City race

TALK of a "third force" in the Cebu City elections, particularly in Partido Barug ranks, started early this year but has been raised slightly in decibel because of two major kinks in the local party's selection of candidates. When asked about the progress of negotiation or decision, a party member said, "Wala pa gyud. Third force is coming."

Those are the bets for Congress in the city's two districts: Councilor Niña Mabatid and TV entertainer Richard Yap in the south; Councilor Edu Rama and former councilor Joy Pesquera in the south.

Or the third force could come from BOPK, if former congresswoman Rachel "Cutie" del Mar and former councilor Mary Ann de los Santos would both run and split BOPK supporters in the north.

Both Barug and BOPK leaders know the danger of a third force. A split in any part of the team could bring the entire party down, especially in the fight for the top two seats at City Hall.

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'Naa pa gyud (kwarta)'

During the Cebu City Council budget hearings last year and the hearing on the supplemental budget early this year, two councilors belonging to the opposition BOPK expressed the fear that City Hall might go bankrupt on or before the end of 2021. A third minority councilor worried over expenditures that, he said, were not related to Covid response and could be abandoned or deferred.

Their anxiety grew from the huge budget for the current year (a total of P14.4 billion, including supplemental budget) and the amount of money (P2.1 billion) scooped out of the SRP-lots-sale-fund barrel, coupled with the prospect of the city treasury not meeting tax collection target because of the pandemic.

The figures given by the accounting office and the budget office in the Sanggunian's regular session Wednesday, September 8, seemed to allay the fear, for now. They were the same numbers provided by the City Government to Commission on Audit, covering the period from January 1 to June 30, 2021. Gilbert Tabasa, assistant to OIC accountant Jerome Ornopia, and budget office OIC Marietta Gumia briefed the councilors.

THE NUMBERS. Roughly, the things looking good for the city's state of finances:

[1] It has P22 billion total assets, P10 billion total liabilities, P17 billion cash in the bank, and P19.3 billion equity.

[2] Of its P10 billion main budget for this year, only P4.5 billion -- less than 50 percent -- has been obligated.

[3] The treasurer's office had a gross income of P4.1 billion and needs to collect P3.8 billion for the rest of the year to meet the 2021 budget but they indicated that actual spending may be controlled if revenues fall are seen to fall.

The figures drew such comments from councilors as "naa pa gyud" (there's still money) and "di pa bankrupt.'

WILL LESS MONEY, SPEND LESS. Minority Floor Leader Nestor Archival said "shortfall in collection calls for shortfall in spending." That appears to be the job of the three offices -- budget, accounting and treasury -- to watch out for the red flag so they can raise the alarm for the cap on expenditures.

BOPK Councilor Alvin Dizon called attention to DBM Circular #580 of April 22, 2020, which calls on financial offices to exercise belt-tightening measures amid the pandemic. Mayet Gumia of the budget office didn't tell Dizon the larger role of executive and legislative leaders in curbing spending.

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Bomb threats on City Hall, Capitol

Not actually threats, just pranks, which sent occupants of both Cebu City Hall, last August 27, and Cebu Capitol last Monday, September 13, scampering out of their offices until bomb disposal teams declared it safe to return.

Both are government buildings, which made police investigators to say the "perp" must be the same person ("a big possibility"). They aren't tagging as suspect any job-order employee who hasn't been paid for months. But it's a "big possibility," isn't it?

Pranks like those won't stop unless police will have the capacity to trace the source of the threat or prank.

Apparently, they don't have that yet.

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