Tension erupts at City Council over budget deliberations for Covid-19
CEBU CITY, Philippines — Tension erupted during the regular session of the Cebu City Council on Wednesday evening, Feb. 12, 2020, as councilors argued on the budget to be allotted for the procurement of medicines, machines, and protective equipment against the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19).
It was already past 6 pm but the City Council has not yet adjourned as councilors scrutinize the P28 million budget proposed by the City Health Department (CHD) for preparations against the spread of Covid-19.
Councilors Nestor Archival, Eugenio Gabuya, Jr., and Eduardo Rama, Jr., continuously shot questions at City Health Officer Daisy Villa.
Archival questioned why a budget was allotted for the training of personnel when this was not “urgent.”
In the middle of the heated discussion, Councilor David Tumulak, the chairperson of the council’s committee on disaster risk reduction and management, asserted the urgency of the situation and urged his colleagues to approve the budget.
“The clock is ticking. This is a matter of urgency…” said Tumulak.
The response from Vice Mayor Michael Rama surprised the council members as he ordered a recess and went down the presiding officer’s seat to confront Tumulak.
“Wala may naghisgot nga dili ni urgent, Dave! Mura man nimog giingon nga we are not treating this with urgency” said Rama with a loud voice. “Kita tanan hangtud karong orasa naa diri para ma approve na. Wala may nagsulti nga dili ni urgent,” said the vice mayor.
As the vice mayor approached Tumulak’s table, the councilor jumped from his seat and firmly asked the vice mayor to calm down.
“Don’t raise your voice! I respect you,” said Tumulak.
The vice mayor later apologized to Tumulak and the council approved P15 million for the immediate use of CHD.
After the session, Tumulak said he was disappointed with the budget slash for the Covid-19 because this would mean that the personnel will not be trained properly to handle the new equipment the city will buy.
When asked if he was offended by the way the vice mayor acted, he admitted feeling so.
“Yes. I don’t know what happened to him, but I am a professional so of course, I accepted his apology,” said Tumulak.
For Rama, he said his “reaction” was brought by Tumulak’s “affront” pursuit to immediately approve the budget. He said that the city council understands the urgency that was why they remained to be in the session hall beyond the normal span of a typical regular session.
“It’s as if he is saying nga gilisod-lisod namo sila nga wala man. We are just trying to protect public funds,” said the vice mayor.
He said the budget had to be scrutinized because the CHD divided the budget quarterly, but if the procurement is really urgent, the budget must be used immediately.
He said the P15 million would suffice for the immediate procurement of medicines, equipment, and machines.
Rama said he was not offended by Tumulak as he was a “professional” and only sought to uphold the integrity of the City Council. /rcg
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