Lapu-Lapu Council’s calamity fund increase ‘invalid’

·2 min read

THE Lapu-Lapu City Council dominated by allies of Rep. Paz Radaza had no permission to add P66 million to the calamity fund intended for families affected by Typhoon Odette (international name: Rai).

The city’s accounting office, for its part, said it will not allow the release of the calamity fund if it will be distributed directly to the barangays.

This is because 28 of 30 barangays still have to liquidate the previous financial aid they received from the City.

Last week, the City Council approved the release of the P236 million calamity fund. But during its special session called by Mayor Junard Chan on Dec. 28, 2021, the City Council increased the fund to P302 million.

Worried mayor

Chan said he is worried that city officials, including him, will face charges of malversation of public funds if P66 million will be added to the calamity fund.

The City Council decided to source the additional P66 million from the fund intended for the City’s development projects (P76 million).

But City Budget Officer Judith Furuta said the fund for development projects cannot be realigned to other purposes such as the distribution of financial assistance.

Mayor Chan said the city can only give P236 million as financial assistance, not P302 million.

The mayor asked his constituents for understanding, saying he will find a way to expedite the release of the aid.

Chan is seeking a second term in the May 2022 elections, while Radaza, his predecessor, is challenging him.

Meanwhile, City Accountant Helen Dungog said before barangays can get their financial assistance, 28 barangays must submit their liquidation of the financial assistance they previously received from the City.

Lapu-Lapu City has a total of 30 barangays.

Dungog said the only office that can facilitate the distribution of the financial aid is the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) as the purpose is considered an “outright expense,” which means without restrictions or stipulations.

No difference

Radaza’s allies in the City Council have emphasized that there is no difference between releasing the calamity fund through the CSWDO or the barangay captains.

In a press statement, City Councilor Bobit Hiyas, who chairs the committee on finance, said it is not illegal to download the budget directly to the barangay captains since they are public officials.

The councilor said by downloading the calamity fund to the barangays, there would be a swift distribution of financial assistance to the typhoon-stricken residents since barangay captains know the situation in their areas.

Radaza-allied councilors also noted that barangays have more or less 750 personnel who can help in the distribution. The CSWDO, they said, only has around 50 personnel.

For his part, Councilor Michael Dignos questioned why Chan further delayed and blocked the assistance, stressing that only the mayor’s signature is lacking in order to distribute the aid to the affected residents. (FVQ / KAL, MKG)

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