Cebu City Council approves P18-B Kawit Island venture deal; Labella insists it was invalid

By Morexette Marie B. Erram |August 08,2018 - 11:22 PM

CDN PHOTO / MOREXETTE ERRAM

THE two-day impasse at the Cebu City Council’s session ended yesterday, with the Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK)-allied councilors voting to approve the undertaking of not one but two pet projects of Cebu City Mayor Osmeña that were previously rejected by the then-dominant opposition bloc.

The council, attended only by nine councilors from BOPK, voted to approve the proposed P18-billion joint venture agreement (JVA) between the city government and Gokongwei-led Universal Hotels and Resorts Inc. (UHRI) for the development of Kawit Island in the South Road Properties (SRP); and the construction of a 10-hectare sanitary landfill in Barangay Binaliw, Cebu City.

The twin move, however, came after nearly two days of stand-off between the nine BOPK councilors, who now constituted the majority in the council, and the eight United Barug Team Rama councilors, who while lacking in number were backed by Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, the presiding officer.
The impasse was only concluded after a showdown in the council’s leadership occurred.

Before that, however, tension escalated when a staff from the Office of the Vice Mayor attempted to take the mace and bring it out of the session hall.

The tension began on Tuesday when Labella, as presiding officer, kept on putting the session on recess to stop the majority from reintroducing the resolution that would authorize the mayor to enter into a JVA with UHRI.

The impasse, which began at the start of the council’s session at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, ended near midnight, or at 11:30 p.m., with everyone, already exhausted, agreeing to resume the session at 3 p.m. yesterday.

But as soon as the session started yesterday, Labella called to adjourn the session and left the session hall shortly thereafter together with other Barug members.

The BOPK councilors immediately protested this move since there was no consensus to adjourn the session.

The majority bloc then proceeded to hold the session, with lawyer Amando Ligutan, BOPK legal counsel, explaining to reporters that what the opposition did was simply to walk out of the session and did not constitute an adjournment.

The session resumed with Cebu City Councilor Dave Tumulak, the council pro tempore, who acted as the presiding officer in the absence of Labella.

“The majority did not vote to adjourn. There was no adjournment. So the session continued. They just walked out,” said Ligutan.

Labella, in a separate phone interview, however, insisted that they adjourned the session.

“Their session is not valid since they did not reach a quorum,” Labella explained.

BOPK has within its fold 10 of the 18 council members. But yesterday, only nine BOPK-allied council members were present since Sangguniang Kabataan (SK)-Cebu City Federation president Jessica Resch was out of the country for an official business.

Tug-of-war

The tug-of-war between the BOPK and Barug that began during Tuesday’s regular session centered on the proposed resolution authored by Councilor

Eugenio Gabuya Jr., that would allow UHRI to develop the eight-hectare Kawit Island into an P18-billion integrated resort.

Labella, in his capacity as the council’s presiding officer, struck out the resolution from Tuesday’s agenda.

Labella maintained that the resolution was no longer valid since it was junked last May 11 when it was first introduced in the council.

All members of Barug voted to junk the proposed JVA in May, which was also introduced by Gabuya.

During that time, Barug was still the dominant bloc with the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) federation president, Tisa Barangay Captain Philip Zafra, on their side. Zafra has since been replaced by a BOPK ally, Franklyn Ong of Barangay Kasambagan.

The vice mayor claimed that only those who voted against the resolution could revive the measure, citing the 2017 house rules of the council.

“When the resolution was first deliberated and rejected (in May), it was governed by the 2017 house rules of the council. We are now governed by the 2018 house rules which took effect last July,” explained Labella.

“Essential in the conduct of business in any parliamentary assembly is that the decisions made by such assembly are given a sense of permanence,” added Labella.

But Gabuya insisted it was still valid, and demanded for Labella to divide the House so that his proposal could be voted upon.

“He (Labella) is the presiding officer, he’s not the one who should decide on the resolution. It’s for the body, the members,” Gabuya said.
Labella, however, refused to give in to Gabuya’s challenge.

He refused to budge and insisted that the proposed resolution should no longer be in the agenda.

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