Bzzzzz: We didn’t know Cebu City Council members got new cars under 2021 P10-B budget. Mayor Labella tells Sanggunian he’ll be back Aug. 19.

·3 min read

Mike to end acting role

MAYOR Edgardo Labella will be back as Cebu City mayor Thursday, August 19, thus ending his medical leave and Vice Mayor Mike Rama’s stint as “extended acting mayor.”

Labella has been on medical leave four times, the last one starting last July 14, just 13 days after he returned to work following a three-week medical leave last June. The reason for the leave he was set to end today: “a persistent cough.”

In a letter to the City Council (read by Sanggunian secretary Atty. Chappy Piramide), Mayor Labella regretted he could not join the Wednesday, August 18, regular virtual session but would re-assume his post the following day. The Sanggunian, in a resolution filed by Councilor Franklyn Ong, had requested the mayor’s participation.

He didn’t specify if he’d be working from home or at City Hall but earlier City Administrator Floro Casas Jr. said the mayor would divide his time between his residence and his office.

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We didn’t know; now we do

Funds were appropriated to buy each member of the Cebu City Council a brand-new car under the annual budget for this year, 2021. Or more accurately, for the office of each member.

The item was included in the P10 billion general appropriation ordinance approved by the Sanggunian last December 23. It is not known how much was spent for the vehicles assigned to the offices of 16 elected members, two ex-oficio members (ABC chief and SK head), and the vice mayor.

NOT IN THE NEWS. No mention of the vehicles was made in the stories published about the budget; at least it doesn’t appear in the local news archives. The SunStar story of December 24, 2020 said, quoting Councilor Alvin Dizon, the item for the purchase of new vehicles for three offices was removed but P5 million was allocated for new cars for the offices of the mayor, the vice mayor and city administrator. No word about buying new cars for the councilors.

The spin then was that a bipartisan effort scaled down the 2021 budget from P10.4 billion to “only” P10 billion.

Councilor Raymond Alvin Garcia, chairman of the committee on finance and majority floor leader, at the time talked about reduced allocations for travel expenses, some infrastructure projects, training expenses and the mayor’s confidential funds. Apparently, reporters didn’t look at the budget summary or didn’t ask other sources.

WHO LEAKED IT. It was Councilor Garcia himself who spilled the information, intentionally or not, about the cars. In the August 18 session, Councilor Dizon complained, for the second time, about not getting the laptop allocated for the councilors, which he said he and his colleagues need for their legislative work.

Councilor Joy Young kidded, “Ilisi ang presidente” (change the president), referring to Garcia’s being chairman of the finance committee.

In reply, Councilor Garcia apologized to Dizon but, in rebuttal, said that (unlike the chairman in the preceding administration), he was able to provide a new car each for the councilors plus fuel and communication allowances, without leaving out the minority members.

Councilor Young, a BOPK member, quickly changed tack, also in jest: “Ayaw na’g ilisi.”

Midway in Garcia’s reply, Councilor Alvin Dizon (BOPK) butted in to say he told Raymond not to include him as he was content with the private car he was using. Especially, he told SunStar later, that he was “very critical” of the annual budget with the “inclusion of non-essential items amid the pandemic.”

The cars were bought already and being used by some councilors. Dizon said, “I declined the issuance of government service vehicle to my office.” So who got the car intended for the BOPK councilor?

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