Council rejects mayor’s veto, seniors aid budgetBy Doris C. Bongcac
Cebu Daily News
Voting 15-3, the Cebu City Council yesterday shot down the mayor’s veto on an ordinance limiting his power to sell lots in the South Road Properties.
The council also returned, without approval, a supplemental budget for increased cash aid for senior citizens who were promised a higher sum of P10,000 each by Mayor Michael Rama in his State of the City Address last July.
Supplemental Budget (SB) No. 2 was returned to the mayor’s office with the note that availability of funds was not certified.
Councilor Margot Osmeña said acting City Accountant Diwa Cuevas only certified that P166.3 million was available out of a proposed P233 million outlay needed for increased subsidy for senior citizens.
The Bando Osmeña- Pundok Kauswagan bloc in the council also threw their weight behind a resolution asking the mayor to prepare a “contingency fund” to pay the Rallos heirs whose money claim remains locked in a court dispute with the city over their property in Sambag II.
As expected, the BO-PK dominated council had the numbers to override Rama’s veto on the ordinance entitled “Protecting the South Road Properties (SRP) and its stakeholders from unlawful and unauthorized transactions and dealings.”
The mayor’s three allies in the council tried to open debate on the veto.
“If we prohibit the mayor from even inviting an investor for the SRP, would that not be a usurpation of executive prerogative?” asked Councilor Edgardo Labella.
Labella, Jose Daluz III and Edu Rama tried to argue but Vice Mayor Joy Augustus Young cut short the discussion and called for a vote.
The City Council passed the SRP ordinance last month.
The mayor’s inadvertent signing of the last page of the ordinance has caused him much embarrassment, even as he maintains that his veto message is still valid.
Councilor Noel Wenceslao, author of the SRP ordinance, said the mayor’s signature on the last page “signified his approval” of the ordinance.
He noted City Administrator Jose Marie Poblete’s insinuation that a forgery was possible.
The councilor also said Rama failed to send his veto within the 10-day period set by the Local Government Code.
Councilor Daluz questioned a provision in the SRP ordinance giving sole authority to the Cebu Investment Promotions Center (CIPC) to market the SRP saying the center doesn’t have the legal personality to perform this function.
Labella, meanwhile, said the mayor’s veto was still within the 10-day period which lapsed on Aug. 6 since that date was a holiday.
Labella said prohibiting any SRP sales without prior council approval is already specified in the Local Government Code.
Later, Osmeña cited letters from the Department of Budget and Management on the city’s two supplemental budgets as basis for returning supplemental budget 2 on the senior citizens’ cash aid.
The letters dated June 7 and 14 called the city’s attention for its failure to review the 2012 supplemental budget 1 and the excess amount allocated for personnel services last year due to the passage of SB 2 and 3.
The DBM said they cannot review SB 1 until it receives a copy of the annual budget with all supporting documents.
As such Osmeña said the DBM declared all three budget ordinances as “inoperative.”
She said SB 2 will be sent to Rama’s office for review and refinement.
Councilor Augustus Pe Jr., moved to ask the mayor to set aside P133 million for the payment on the Rallos lot claim.
The amount will be included in the SB 3, Pe said. “I believe it’s now time to settle the issue. Since we have money to settle then it’s now time to pay,” said Pe, who presided over yesterday’s off-site session in barangay Luz, Cebu City.
But Daluz and Labella said passage of the motion may be cited as grounds by the Court of Appeals to cite the council in contempt.
“We will be going against the CA order. I will have to object,” Daluz said.
Labella said making an appropriation is tantamount to manifesting that the city was prepared to already pay the heirs of the late Fr. Vicente Rallos.
He said the appropriation should be made when the CA rules in favor of the Ralloses.
But Osmeña questioned why Postal Bank tagged about P124 million of the city’s bank deposits in order to comply with a regional court’s garnishment order.
“If the injunction applies to the banks, how come Postal Bank has a different opinion on the matter?,” she asked.
Councilor Rodrigo Abellanosa proposed to reword the council’s request by asking for a contingency fund for the payment.
Again, the BO-PK bloc voted to approve the proposal. Councilor Ronald Cuenco said the contingency fund won’t be released as direct payment pending the CA resolution of the city’s case with the Ralloses.
In a phone interview, Rama said it is the council’s right to override his veto even if his signature on the ordinance appeared only on the last page. “In effect I haven’t really signed the ordinance…I would ask my lawyers about this,” the mayor said.
He also questioned the haste with which the council proposed a contingency fund for the payment of the Rallos heirs, considering that there is a pending case before the Court of Appeals.
“Why are they such in a rush (to approve this?)…are they entering into an agreement with the Ralloses? This would weaken the city’s case and it would indicate that we are surrendering (to the family),” the mayor said. With a report from Stephen Capillas