Labella seeks Ombudsman intervention on stalled SB1

By: Jose Santino S. Bunachita November 28,2015 - 02:34 AM

With the court’s dismissal of the case questioning the sale of two South Road Properties (SRP) lots, Cebu City Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella wants the City Council to act on the stalled P2.8 billion Supplemental Budget 1 (SB1).

He wrote the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas to ask for the issuance of an order directing the City Council to immediately act on the SB1.

In a letter dated November 26 to Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Paul Elmer Clemente, Labella said the office has the duty to direct employees of the government to “stop, prevent and correct any abuse or impropriety in the performance of duties” based on Republic Act 6770 or the Ombudsman Act of 1989.

“The majority Sangguniang Panlungsod members’ deliberate and baseless refusal to act on SB1-2015 is a disservice to the City and, to the city’s employees, an undue deprivation of property in violation of their Constitutional right,” Labella said in his letter.

Labella, a lawyer by profession, had served as director of the Office of Ombudsman before he became an elective public official.

He noted how the City Council sat on the SB1 due to the case filed by former prosecutor Romulo Torres questioning the validity of the sale of the two SRP lots earlier this year.

He also said the majority bloc of the City Council “squelched subsequent motions for lifting the deferment of discussion on SB-1” for five consecutive regular sessions.

He said the court already denied the petition of Torres for a temporary restraining order as early as October 1.

But the majority bloc of the council still refused to act on the budget considering that it hasn’t been dismissed yet.

But eventually, the court also dismissed the main petition.

Labella said the dismissal removed any doubt on the validity of the sale of the SRP lots.

He said this should be more than enough reason to act on the additional budget already.

He added that the grounds for the refusal of the majority bloc of the City Council to act on the additional budget, which is alleged pendency of the civil case, should be rendered inexistent.

Labella said he has yet to meet with the other members of the council’s minority bloc to map out their next move.

He said the council is required by law to act on the budget — either to approve, disapprove or slash the proposed items and send it back to the mayor’s office —  and not to just sit on it.

Labella said it is the “bounden duty,” or obligation, of the City Council to act on SB-1 as mandated by the Local Government Code in Sections 305 (a), 321 and 458 (a) (2) (i).

Mayor Michael Rama submitted the proposed SB1 last August 14. It is to be funded from the P8.38-billion down payment for the SRP lots acquired by an SM-Ayala consortium and Filinvest Land.

The SB-1 contains the P2.4 billion prepayment of the SRP loan, P87 million garbage tipping fees, and P77.3 million Productivity Enhancement Incentive (PEI) for City Hall employees, among others.

Labella said the most important item under the SB-1 is the prepayment of the SRP loan since the city government has already completed the requirements for the loan payment.

“The prepayment would save the City of Cebu an estimated average daily interest of P148,000. It is an estimated amount due to the presence of foreign currency exchange rate fluctuations. The prepayment would also secure the city from any possible international financial fluctuations. In fact, the City of Cebu has already suffered foreign exchange loss in the total amount of P1.748 billion,” he said.

Labella said he hoped the Ombudsman would act on his request for assistance as soon as possible, saying this is based on “legitimate and valid grievance.”

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TAGS: Cebu, Cebu City Council, Cebu City Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, Deputy Ombudsman, South Road Properties, Supplemental Budget 1

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