Lack of quorum prolongs Makati budget impasse
The approval of the Makati City government’s P18.17-billion budget for 2019 remained uncertain after a lack of a quorum forced the council to adjourn session on Wednesday.
Only seven out of 17 councilors showed up for the third hearing specifically called to pass the budget. There should be at least nine members present for a quorum to be declared.
All of the five minority councilors were in attendance — Maria Concepcion “Ichi” Yabut, Virgilio Hilario Jr., Luis Javier Jr., Armand Padilla and Rodolfo San Pedro Jr.
On the other hand, only two of the 12 members of the majority attended the session — majority floor leader Nemesio “King” Yabut and Divina Jacome.
“It’s sad that councilors of the majority are not here as we are taking up a very important agenda. This [approval of city budget] has been calendared since Oct. 24, 2017, and we have not moved forward,” Maria Yabut said.
Earlier, the minority, as well as the council’s presiding officer, Vice Mayor Monique Lagdameo, accused the majority of holding the budget hostage, citing politics for the delay.
The minority is aligned with Mayor Abby Binay while the majority have expressed their support for her brother, Junjun Binay, who is eyeing a political comeback. The two siblings are both running for Makati mayor in the May elections.
Nemesio Yabut and Jacome, the respective heads of the committees on laws, rules and ethics, and appropriations and budget, however, denied their colleagues’ accusation.
They pointed to the city’s Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (DRRMO) as the cause of the delay, saying it has yet to submit documents required by the committees during a hearing on Dec. 19, 2018.
When Maria Yabut said the DRRMO had already presented its budget proposal, Nemesio Yabut countered her, saying: “What we require are the documents which their representatives were asked to provide. We have questions that need answers, not showboating or showmanship.”
In a Jan. 14 letter addressed to the council members, Nemesio Yabut and Jacome said they told DRRMO head, Richard Raymund Rodriguez, to submit “quotations, estimates and technical specifications” of items for its procurement plan, noting possible “irregular, unnecessary and excessive” components.
Among these were the upgrade of the citywide closed-circuit television cameras for P150 million and the purchase of seismic monitoring equipment worth P85 million and over 37,000 emergency bags pegged at P94 million.
According to Jacome, last year’s budget, which was approved on Nov. 17, 2017, could have also been delayed as the council was questioning part of the DRRMO’s procurement plan. “But [Rodriguez] said the expenditures were urgent and necessary for the ‘Big One,’” Jacome said, referring to a devastating earthquake that experts said could hit Metro Manila.
Jacome pointed to several seemingly overpriced items bought by the DRRMO last year, such as four mobile command centers at P50 million each. “Someone told me that we should not have purchased them even at P20 million each,” Jacome said.
She also questioned the P49-million budget for 5,508 pieces of permanent and whiteboard markers.
“The difference might be just a small amount but if you put them together, the total amount of questionable funds could be hundreds of millions,” Jacome noted.
“We have nothing to hide, and the only thing we are protecting are our reputations which this administration is only too willing to smear to make themselves appear clean,” Nemesio Yabut said./ac
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