EXPLAINER: Cebu City Council makes new declaration of state of calamity in 24 barangays but wants specifics on damages and repairs in wake of Agaton. A few things on law, procedure confused councilors.

·6 min read

THE Cebu City Council last Wednesday, April 27, again declared a state of calamity (SOC) in 24 barangays, 16 days after Tropical Depression Agaton's heavy rains inflicted damage on roads and waterways.

In effect, it has set aside the state of calamity in 35 barangays (not 36), declared a week earlier, on April 20, when only four members, including the vice mayor-presiding officer, were present when the resolution was adopted.

The change was on the number, from 35 to 24, and on request for more information, specifics on the damage in each barangay, the repairs needed, and the cost estimate, to be submitted in 10 days.

It was a debate on the issue all over again, this time eating up one hour and 30 minutes of the Sanggunian's time. As in many other similar discussions, what lengthened last Wednesday's talk was the councilors' lack of knowledge or disregard of law and procedure. Most, including the presiding officer, apparently weren't sure about the process of declaring state of calamity and its effects.

The uncertainty, if not confusion, over state of calamities was exemplified by Minority Floor Leader Nestor Archival Sr.'s stance early in the discussion. He kept asking for data on how much the damage was and the things to do ("What will happen next?") until (a) Councilor Edu Rama said the "charging" of expenses will come to the Sanggunian after the state of calamity is declared and (b) Councilor Jerry Guardo clarified that his resolution asks only for the SOC declaration, not yet for money.

Here are some points where the City Council, or some councilors were not sure about and thus fumbled during the discussion:

[1] DOES IT UNLOCK FUNDS AT ONCE? Councilor Archival seemed to think so, thus his reluctance to agree on a SOC until he'd know the specific damage and amount sought, what the funds are for and the expected results.

Councilors Rama and Guardo said the declaration is just the first step. Specifics on damage and cost of repairs will come later when the Sanggunian approves the charging of funds.

A bit of uncertainty here: Councilor Jocelyn Pesquera at first said the mayor may spend the quick-response funds without waiting for City Council approval of the charging and meeting other requirements, such as bidding, all in the name of emergency. Later though, she said, Sanggunian OK may be needed as the crisis had passed. Thus the apparent inconsistency: requiring the SOC declaration, yet imposing the usual restraints on spending.

[2] BARANGAY DECLARATION NOT ESSENTIAL. Majority Floor Leader Raymond Alvin Garcia was categorical that SOC resolution from the barangays is not required ("dili oy"). So was Councilor Pesquera. Also, it's not one of the requirements under Republic Act #10121, the 2010 law on the system of disaster risk and management.

Not all the 24 barangays (from the earlier 35) had submitted SOC resolutions but those that failed were "in the process" of adopting one, according to former councilor Gerardo Carillo, the mayor's surrogate in the city's Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (DRRMC).

Archival feared overlapping of spending: city and barangay funds poured over the same damage in the same barangay, which, however, is supposed to be watched by regulatory agencies, including City Hall treasury and budget offices, from where the money flows.

[3] ESTIMATE/ANALYSIS OF DAMAGE REQUIRED. The local Sanggunian, under the disaster risk and management law, declares or lifts a state of calamity, on recommendation of the local DRRMC, based on results of the damage assessment and needs analysis.

The disaster law's implementing rules and regulations entrusted to the National DRRMC the task of providing the implementing rules on declaration of state of calamity, which the national agency did in its memorandum order #60, series of 2019 (revised guidelines).

The local disaster council's tools for estimate and analysis include (a) RDANA or rapid damage assessment and needs analysis, (b) PDRA or pre-disaster risk assessment, and (c) PDNA (post-disaster needs assessment.

Atty. Carillo admitted the other Wednesday he didn't have RDANA yet for each barangay and was asked by Councilor Pesquera to submit them in this week's session. No one, not even Carillo mentioned any PDRA or PDNA.

[4] ANY ONE OF 7 CONDITIONS. Councilor Alvin Dizon asked the City Council Wednesday if the local DRRMC ascertained if the criteria are met on the extent of the damage. He mentioned the figures 20 percent and 40 percent but the revised guidelines require only 15 percent of the affected population and at least 30 percent of the means of livelihood on agricultural business and industrial sectors are affected.

The national DRRMC's guidelines list seven conditions for the declaration of a state of calamity but only one ("any') of the seven is required. Dizon must have read an earlier version of the guidelines.

[5] SANGGUNIAN'S POWER OF REVIEW. The city DRRMC composed of at least 23 members, led by the mayor or his representative, is supposed to be trusted in its assessment and analysis. After all, it has people from all the government agencies involved in disaster work and are presumed to have skills set and resources for that. The cluster is composed of not just City Hall people -- the DRRM office chief, the mayor's surrogate Atty. Carillo in the DRRM council, and a City Council member -- but also many other government officials and a private sector representative.

The local disaster council has more resources in estimating and analyzing the damage. Which, however, may not strip the Sanggunian of its authority to review the local DRRMC's recommendation and question its conclusions. In this case though, there are no specific estimates and analysis yet for the City Council to "peruse."

[6] 2 BARANGAYS OR MORE FOR CITYWIDE SOC. The call of some city councilors for evidence of calamity in each barangay -- as highlighted by demand for barangay council resolution and solid information ("not just pictures") -- tells the public they don't know or have forgotten that, under the 2019 revised guidelines, "when two or more barangays are affected by a disaster, the Sanggunian may declare the entire city (or town) under a state of calamity" (#4, section a.11 of the NDRRMC circular).

Had a City Council member pointed that out, discussion about the extent of damage in the 24 barangays might have been less lengthy. And they could've confined to only a few barangays even if they were to declare a citywide SOC.

[7] WHERE THE MONEY'S FROM, FOR WHAT. Councilor Archival repeatedly asked how much funds will be spent and for what. Once the SOC is declared by the local Sanggunian, the QRF (quick response fund} out of the local disaster fund or "standby fund" shall be "utilized for relief and recovery programs in order that situation and living conditions of people in communities or areas stricken by disaster, calamities, epidemics or complex emergencies normalized as quickly as possible."

The mechanism is supposed to rush the release of government funds for relief and recovery after a disaster but at the same time safeguard the money. Councilors Garcia and Guardo spoke of urgency in the money's use. Councilors Archival and Dizon wanted guard rails to curb waste of funds.

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