TOM TAKETH AWAY
Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña continued yesterday with his series of recall orders for city-owned properties, this time involving ambulances and mini buses issued to barangays whose leaders are identified with his predecessor, Michael Rama.
The Association of Barangay Councils (ABC), however, declared that all barangays in the city intend to defy Osmeña’s memorandum ordering the return of the mini buses and ambulances to the city’s General Services Office for “inventory.”
They also intend to defy earlier directives of the mayor for the return of the P800-million aid given to barangays during the Rama administration and the service firearms issued to village chiefs.
But Senior Supt. Joel Doria, the acting city police director, said they would follow the directive of the mayor and return all firearms issued by the city to the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO).
Most barangay captains, during the ABC’s second quarter assembly yesterday, were dismayed over the impending loss of the vehicles which are essential in delivering public services and responding to emergencies.
“Sakit gyud huna-hunaon nga panguhaan mi sa mga sakyanan ilabi na dunay emergency. Naay usahay among sakyan dump truck na lang. Pait kaayo mamatay nalang ang pasyente (It is painful to think that we will be deprived of these vehicles especially since there will be always be emergencies. Sometimes in order to save a patient we will let them ride a dump truck),” Sapangdaku Barangay Captain Lorna Damarillo told Cebu Daily News.
Recalling the vehicles of mountain villages was particularly harsh, they said, since most have to travel at least 20 kilometers just to reach the city proper.
As of yesterday, only Barangay Captains Noli Anne Alcover of Agsungot, Rey Lauron of Cambinocot and Cesar Dolorito of Babag received Osmeña’s memorandum dated July 14. The village chiefs of these mountain barangays are all allied with Rama.
But Osmeña said his recall order covers all barangays and not just those identified with Team Rama.
GSO officer-in-charge Ronald Malacora also said the recall order is only for barangays that have more than one ambulance or emergency vehicles.
Osmeña said in a press conference yesterday the recall would be temporary as he only wanted the GSO to check the condition of the ambulances.
“One of that is inventory and another is that I’m asking ERUF (Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation) to evaluate the whole program. Because many of those people (manning) the ambulances don’t even have any paramedical training,” he said.
But he said his decision on where to redeploy the units would depend on the evaluation and recommendation of ERUF, considered the country’s best team of paramedics, and who will provide paramedical training for those operating the ambulances.
“Many ambulances are not being used. We don’t even know what their running conditions are. So it should be brought in, it should be evaluated and it might be redeployed based on their recommendations,” he said.
Cebu City Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, a Team Rama member, however, urged the city’s ABC to raise the matter before the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas so that the anti-graft office could issue an order directing Osmeña to spare the barangay ambulances and the mini buses considering their importance to their communities.
“Hangyoon nato and (We will request the) Ombudsman. It’s not a complaint against the mayor but a request to spare the said vehicles,” he said.
Pending appeal, Labella said the barangays should continue using the vehicles. He said that requesting the Ombudsman should be their first step and filing a complaint or a case will be their last resort.
Barangay aid, too
Aside from the ambulances, Osmeña also wants the barangays to return the barangay aid distributed by the city government during the Rama administration.
“In view of the notice of disallowance issued by the Commission on Audit (COA) on the aid to the barangays amounting to P800 (million), all barangay captains concerned are hereby warned to stop using the amount received and return any remaining balance thereof to the office of the City Treasurer,” said Osmeña in his July 12, 2016 memorandum order.
The COA earlier disallowed the aid as it was charged to the city’s Maintenance and Other Operating Expenditures (MOOE) instead of Personal Services (PS).
But as with the ambulances, the ABC also plan to defy the mayor’s order.
ABC Vice President and Apas Barangay Captain Ramil Ayuman said they would not heed the order since the COA disallowance was not yet final.
“Kung moingon siya sa DILG ‘sue me’ ato sad siya baw-san og ‘sue us’ (If Osmeña could tell the DILG to ‘sue me,’ we can also tell him to sue us),” Ayuman said.
The City Council had approved the P800-million aid to barangays, at P10 million per barangay. However, Rama disregarded the condition to equally distribute the assistance and instead turned it into a lump sum fund that he gave away to barangays as he saw fit.
But Osmeña warned that those who would defy his order for the return of the aid might face theft cases that could land them in jail.
Rama, in a separate interview, however said they are ready to provide legal assistance to the barangay captains, with Labella, a lawyer and a former Visayas Ombudsman, heading their defense.
As to the firearms also ordered recalled by the mayor, Cebu City Councilor David Tumulak, who chairs the Peace and Order Committee, expressed concern over its effect on the city’s police operations since the recall order did not only cover those issued to city department heads and employees but also those given to the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO).
But the mayor said he only wants a firearms’ inventory by the GSO to check if the city-owned firearms are still in the possession of policemen no longer assigned in the city.
“The city is not going to keep the firearms. We’re just trying to make sure the guns end up with police who are actually working here,” Osmeña said in his social media account.
Doria assured the firearm recall would not affect the peace and order situation in the city because CCPO has Philippine National Police (PNP)-issued firearms.
Tumulak said the city has 279 short and long firearms distributed to department heads, barangay captains and police when Osmeña was mayor a decade ago.
GSO records showed 70 assorted firearms were not returned to the city government on the days prior to Osmeña’s recall order. As of yesterday, however, 22 had been returned.
The remaining 48 firearms were mostly assigned to city policemen who might have yet to receive the recall order, said Doria.
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