Nalzaro: Dizon more ‘popish than the pope’

·3 min read

Is opposition Councilor Alvin Dizon being “popish than the pope” when he said that the confidential funds asked by Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella under the 2021 budget is immoral and unjustifiable? Has a politician like Dizon the moral ascendancy to talk about morality? A person that is more popish than the pope is somebody who thinks he is speaking from a much higher moral ground and thinks he knows everything about morality and faith, when in reality, he does not.

Dizon, a member of the Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK), wants to scrap in the budget the P30-million confidential funds asked by the local chief executive, saying “it is both immoral and unjustifiable to spend that amount under the present circumstances that we are under the pandemic.” He urged Labella to reduce or abandon such expenses as there are more important programs that need funds.

“We need to prioritize the use of people’s tax money on more essential programs and projects geared at addressing the pandemic,” Dizon was quoted as saying.

Under the Local Government Code, the confidential funds should not be more than three percent of the annual appropriations or not more than 30 percent of the whole budget allocation for the peace and order program in the city. The mayor is entitled to an appropriation of P60 million, but he only asked for P30 million.

Labella, who is also chairman of the City Peace and Order Council (CPOC), said the confidential funds can be used to fight against criminality in the city, especially in the fight against illegal drugs. Anyway, if the funds will not be fully utilized, the excess can be returned after the year ends, he said. Besides, confidential funds can be used for Covid-19 responses under the guidelines of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

I will advise Dizon that next time before he opens his mouth and talk about morality, he will do some research. What is moral and immoral to him may not be moral and immoral to others and vice versa. Why is it immoral when it is provided for under the law and it should be spent for the purpose? By the way, confidential funds are for civilian entities like the local government units (LGUs) and government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), while intelligence funds are for the military.

It may be deemed immoral if Labella uses the funds not intended for the purpose or just pocket it. But under the auditing rules, the disbursement and liquidation of confidential funds is very strict. It’s a tedious process under the Joint Circular 2015-02, or “Guidelines on the entitlement, release, use reporting and audit of confidential and/or intelligence funds.” But knowing Labella, who came from the Office of the Visayas Ombudsman as Director before joining politics, I am sure he will be circumspect in handling those funds. I am not saying that Labella is a saint.

Under the joint circular, confidential funds shall be used only for the following confidential expenses: 1) Purchase of information necessary for the formulation and implementation of programs, activities and projects relevant to national security and peace and order; 2) Rental of transport vehicles related to confidential activities; 3) Rentals and the incidental expenses related to the maintenance of safehouses; 4) Purchase or rental of supplies, materials and equipment for confidential operations that cannot be done through regular procedures without compromising the information gathering activity concerned; 5) Payment of rewards to informer (non-employees of concerned government agency), and many more in relation to confidential and undercover activties.

Which is more immoral, appropriating and spending those confidential funds or a politician like Dizon who is blinded by his political master? Dizon is with the bloc of Tomas Osmeña in the Council. Where was he when his political master was the mayor and also asked millions of pesos in confidential funds? Dizon, a former member of a progressive group, is projecting himself as pro-poor, but failed to defend the underprivileged sectors against the excesses and abuses of his political master, like in the demolition of squatters and illegal vending.