Sunday, November 10, 2013

Silent revolt brewing at SP

                                                BY RUEL CAMBA

SOME members of the majority bloc in the SangguniangPanlungsod of Dagupan City (SP) are grumbling over the way city hall is treating them.
Vice Mayor Brian Lim
            Their anguish worsened when they learned that contractual workers of the SP, including their own, have not been paid their salaries since July this year, according to a high-ranking SP official who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal from his former superior who is now the top honcho at city hall.
            “Most of these contractual workers have been working in the city council for years now and this is the first time they are experiencing this kind of ordeal because the city budget office insisted that funds are not available,” he said.
            The city’s contractual workers receive from P6,500 to P7,500 a month and most of those working in the SP were left with no other choice than to sell their salaries to loans harks at a discounted rate of 10 or 20 percent.
            Mayor Belen Fernandez reportedly requested SP approval of a third supplemental budget amounting to P15.992 million to cover among other things unpaid salaries of a number of emergency workers or contractual employees.
Mayor Belen Fernandez
            The two previous supplemental budgets already enacted by the SP covered the salaries of newly hired emergency workers working at the city hall, but not included were the SP contractual employees and consultants and former members of the Public Order and Safety Office who were not paid their two-month salaries even as they were made to work while the new POSO recruits were being trained.
            Members of the SP found out that only a little more than P70,000 was earmarked for the salaries of the contractual employees of SP in the proposed third supplemental budget.
            This prompted Councilor Jeslito “Jigs” Seen, a brother-in-law of the mayor and chairman of the SP finance committee, to call for another committee hearing on the proposed supplemental budget last Friday, the source said.
            Among those who attended were Councilor Red Erfe-Mejia who represented the minority bloc, City Administrator Farah Decano and OIC Budget Officer Luz de Guzman.
            It was learned that Seen, Erfe-Mejia, and Decano agreed to amend the proposed supplemental budget to cover the unpaid 4-month salaries of the SP contractual workers.
But De Guzman reportedly reiterated that there was not enough funds to cover the same even as the sum of P7.8 million is available for electricity expense; P250,000 for office supplies, P264,000 for representation expenses,  and P200,000 for financial aid.
“I think the proposed supplemental budget suffers from some legal infirmities,” the source said.
He said that Section 324 of the Local Government Code mandates that “full provision shall be made for all statutory and contractual obligations of the local government unit concerned.”
He said that even as the finance committee was deliberating on the proposed supplemental budget, a trimmed list of contractual employees and consultants working for the majority bloc in SP was secretly submitted to the office of the city mayor. 
“I don’t know exactly who submitted the list, but I have an idea,” the source said.
Not included in the list were the contractual workers and consultants working for the members of the minority bloc and the vice mayor, it was learned.
                                                Against house rules
This blog received reports that Majority Floor leader Maybelyn Fernandez without consulting the vice mayor included in the agenda that will be tackled by the SP on Monday the proposed supplemental budget for second reading.
When asked about the matter, the source said that under the SP house rules submission of proposed resolutions or ordinances is set every Thursday.
“The finance committee conducted hearing on the proposed supplemental budget only last Friday and she (Fernandez) should have waited for the committee report before calendaring for deliberation and voting the said proposed supplemental budget,” he said.
“I don’t know if the chairman of the finance committee (Seen) will allow himself to be bypassed by the majority floor leader,” he said.
Calendaring of the proposed supplemental budget resolution ought to be made on or before Nov. 14 (Thursday) and deliberation and voting may be done during the SP regular session on Nov. 18, he said.
“Why is the majority floor leader in a hurry even at the risk of ruining their own house rules which she herself helped in crafting them,” the source said.
                                    Budget preparation
Another thing that irked several members of the SP was the move by the local finance committee which arrogated unto itself the prerogative of the SP to prepare and submit through the vice mayor the proposed annual budget of the SP for fiscal year 2014 contrary to the provisions of the Local Government Code.
  Section 317 of the Code states: “Each head of department or office shall submit a budget proposal for his department or office to the local chief executive on or before the fifteenth of July of each year…”
The local finance committee prepared and submitted the proposed annual budget of the SP even without consulting the vice mayor and the councilors, the source said.
Comprising the local finance committee are OIC Budget officer Luz de Guzman, City Planning and Development Officer Romeo Rosario, and City Treasurer RomelitaAlcantara.
In describing the move of the local finance committee as a “big insult” to the members of the SP, he expressed serious doubts that the proposed annual budget of the city council as prepared by the said committee reflects the real needs and direction of the SP.
The Local Government Code mandates that the budget proposal of each department or office, including the SP, shall contain among other things the following:
1.      Objectives, functions, and projects showing the general character and relative importance of the work to be accomplished or the services to be rendered, and the cost thereof;
2.      Organizational charts and starting patterns indicating the list of plantilla positions with their corresponding salaries, and proposals for reclassification of positions and salary changes, as well as the creation of new positions with their proposed salary grades, duly supported by proper justification;
3.      Brief description of the functions, projects and activities for the ensuing fiscal year, expected results for each function, project and activity; and the nature of work to be performed, including the objects of expenditure for each function, project and activity;
4.      Estimated current operating expenditures and capital outlays with comparative data for the last two (2) preceding current, and ensuing fiscal years;
5.      Accomplishment reports for the last two (2) preceding and current fiscal years.
“I wonder if the budget proposal prepared and submitted by the local finance committee in behalf of the SangguniangPanlungsod is truly reflective of these requirements mandated by law,” the source said.
He said that at least three of the members of the majority bloc are now weighing their option to bolt the party because of the way the hierarchy is treating them.
“I think they will do it in due time,” he said.
Switching of political colors at the SP is not new. It happened when five members of the ruling Liberal Party last year shifted their support to then Mayor Benjamin Lim whose son, Brian, currently serves as vice mayor and presiding officer of the Sanggunian.
The SP majority bloc is comprised of Councilors Maybelyn Fernandez, Karlos Reyna, Alfie Fernandez, Jigs Seen, Marvin Fabia, Joeynetu Tamayo, and Jake Reyes as ex-officio member being the president of the city’s Liga ng mga Barangay.

This blog learned that Mayor Fernandez pledged support to the said councilors for them to be able to help their barangay leaders who ran in the recent barangay polls, but the pledge of support for some reasons did not materialize.

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