EXPLAINER: Cebu City Council OKs P50-million aid to quake-struck local governments in Luzon. Amid questions of haste, wrong document and wisdom in giving away funds, the City itself has to cope with its share of disasters.

·4 min read

WHAT JUST HAPPENED. At the special session Friday, August 12, members of the Cebu City Council, including two from the minority Bando Osmena Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK), said they were in favor of helping the cities and towns in northern Luzon that suffered damages from the July 27 magnitude-7 earthquake.

The minority only questioned the size of the aid, given Cebu City’s own needs during disasters, and alleged failure to follow procedure and requirement for the cash-out.

But as everyone expected, the majority Barug got what it wanted: the Sanggunian approved the grant of P50 million, intact and unscathed.

MINORITY ARGUMENT. Minority Floor-leader Nestor Archival Sr. used the city treasurer’s certification of availability of funds (CAF) for only P10 million as reason for opposing the grant of P50 million.

Archival’s Bando Osmeña – Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) colleague Councilor Mary Ann de los Santos cited “conflicting” figures in documents sent to the Sanggunian. Both also raised the issue of the City not having enough funds for itself. They didn’t say it but only two days before, on Monday, August 8, the mayor’s secretary, Atty. Colin Rosell, told the public the City is cash-strapped, having spent more than it earned during the last two years . Would the City have funds to cover disasters during the rest of the year? De los Santos used clichés “charity begins at home” and “haste is waste” to support her point, to no avail.

Majority Partido Barug, through Councilor Noel Wenceslao, chairman of the committee on finance, said the treasurer already “corrected the error.” The revised CAF was delivered to the Sanggunian secretariat past 4 p.m., towards the end of the special session and during a recess called by Vice Mayor Raymond Garcia, the presiding officer.

The important thing, Wenceslao said, is that they now had the right document. He didn’t address the issue of the city’s depleted resources and preparing for emergencies that may strike Cebu City the rest of 2022.

MAYOR’S COMMITMENT. Atty. Gerardo Carillo, the city’s disaster council chief – more precisely, the mayor’s representative in the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (DRRMC) – said the City would still have about P50 million, after deducting the P50 million that would go to the Luzon earthquake victims, in its “quick response” or QR fund.

But from that balance in the QR fund would be paid what it still owed in cash aid to victims of recent disasters in a number of places in the city. Would the remaining P25 million or so be enough to respond to disasters in Cebu City in the next four months?

Whatever, Carillo, a former city councilor, told the Sanggunian twice that it’s the call of the legislature on how much to give as cash aid to the Luzon earthquake victims. He didn’t say the administration was committed about the P50 million since Mayor Michael Rama already announced it nine days earlier, in an August 2 press conference. And Carillo didn’t have to say the Rama administration controlled the City Council.

.CORRECTED CAF. Despite the almost two-hour debate, the Sanggunian handily passed the P50-million cash aid, with only two expressed objections, from Archival and de los Santos.

The majority didn’t heed (a) the suggestion of Archival that the City approve only P10 million that day and add more in a succeeding session or (b) de los Santos’s caution to slow down. It approved Archival’s corollary motion, though, to require the city treasurer to inform the City Council next week on the actual status of funds for disaster relief. Not an unusual appeasement to the minority, which would often ask for documents even though the opposed measure was already approved.

ABSENT PESQUERA. “Conspicuously” absent was Majority Floor Leader Jocelyn Pesquera who would’ve led the steering of the appropriation measure and explained the “error” in the CAF.

An interesting note was that the city treasurer sent the certification to her office and it was only for P10 million. Did Pesquera favor and ask only for the reduced amount; thus, the treasurer’s P10 million CAF, which had to be revised later to P50 million and sent to the Secretariat “at the last minute”?

CEBU’S SAMARITAN ACTS. Cebu, notably Cebu City, has built a reputation of helping other local governments in times of disaster and other emergencies.

For the City particularly, there’s an added motive for the Samaritan acts. Mayor Rama, recently elected president of the League of Cities, now has an extended constituency, particularly the country’s other cities whose people suffer from disasters. More than ever, to Mayor Rama, charity cannot be confined to home.