Editorial: Cebu City’s ‘shortcut’ budget

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama is now 68 years old. Today, Oct. 28, 2022, is his birthday. Earlier this month, he promised that the qualified elderly residents—people who are 60 years old and above, like the mayor himself—would receive their financial aid on the day of his birthday.

To fulfill his promise, the mayor does not have to withdraw his personal money from the bank. The Cebu City Council, dominated by administration allies, just had to pass the mayor’s office-proposed Supplemental Budget 3 (SB3) of P1.2 billion, of which P314.5 million is set for the senior citizen cash aid.

The Cebu City Council approved SB3 two days before Rama’s birthday during its regular session on Wednesday, Oct. 26.

The Office of Senior Citizens Affairs welcomed the SB3 approval, as it has scheduled the release of the P2,000 senior citizen cash aid Friday, Oct. 28. SB3 also covers the allocation for Christmas bonuses of government officials and employees.

Imagine a legion of senior citizens, public officials and City Hall employees who would be sad if SB3 had not been approved.

The approval of SB3 though was not without controversy—City Councilor Nestor Archival, the minority floor leader, questioned the budget approval, saying the council took a “shortcut.”

Reportedly not seeing the proposed SB3 being discussed in the first and second reading, Archival raised the question during the Wednesday session of why the measure was already in the third and final reading.

He sought out City Council Secretary Charisse “Chappy” Piramide for the answers, and the latter told him that the endorsement of the proposed supplemental budget from the office of Mayor Michael Rama already constituted the first reading and the committee report was the second reading. Piramide, a lawyer, said this had been the practice of the council “since time immemorial.”

Archival, a veteran councilor, knows this hard truth in politics: It is always the majority in a lawmaking body that wins. There were years when Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK), a local party which Archival is still a part of, was a dominant force in the City Council. Whatever their party boss, then mayor Tomas Osmeña, wanted from the council, the BOPK lawmakers gave it to him most of the time, if not all the time.

Rama-allied councilors approved SB3 so the mayor could fulfill his birthday promise to his elderly constituents. The mayor was confident to make a promise to the senior citizens because he knew the composition of the City Council. That is another hard truth.

Making the city’s senior citizens happy is just one of the many political moves; it is also an investment for politicians’ future, for their survival. Do they really regard public service with all sincerity?