BIG­GER CASH AID YET BUD­GET CUT?

Sun.Star Cebu - - FRONT PAGE - FE MARIE D. DUMABOC / Su­per­balita Cebu Cor­re­spon­dent

Ad­min­is­tra­tion and op­po­si­tion of­fi­cials claim the other is pol­i­tick­ing—the former for in­creas­ing ap­pro­pri­a­tions for se­niors, job or­der em­ploy­ees and do­na­tions, the lat­ter for slash­ing some items of the pro­posed 2019 bud­get

Man­daue City Mayor Luigi Quisumb­ing’s pro­posed P2.4 bil­lion bud­get was slashed by the op­po­si­tion dur­ing the bud­get or­di­nance’s first read­ing at the Cebu City Coun­cil’s reg­u­lar ses­sion last Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, Dec. 5.

Most of the items slashed were for so­cial ser­vices.

Quisumb­ing pro­posed a P2.4 bil­lion bud­get for 2019, lower than this year’s bud­get of P2.4 bil­lion.

Based on the re­port of the com­mit­tee on bud­get and fi­nance, P10 mil­lion was slashed from the item on fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance, while an­other P10 mil­lion was slashed from the hon­o­rar­ium of job or­der ( JOs) em­ploy­ees.

Vice Mayor Carlo For­tuna, who pre­sides over the ses­sion, said that all slashed items were im­por­tant. He claims that pol­i­tics is be­hind the move of the op­po­si­tion, some­thing that As­so­ci­a­tion of Barangay Coun­cils pres­i­dent Ernie Manatad threw back at For­tuna. Manatad said that grant­ing ad­di­tional fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance months away from the elec­tions is clearly pol­i­tick­ing.

Manatad was among those who signed the com­mit­tee re­port as vice chair­man of the com­mit­tee on bud­get and fi­nance, chaired by Coun­cilor Nenita Layese, who failed to at­tend Wed­nes­day’s ses­sion. Coun­cilor Mal­colm Sanchez also signed the re­port as a mem­ber of the com­mit­tee.

For this year, the bud­get for the JOs is P320 mil­lion. For 2019, the ex­ec­u­tive pro­posed P330 mil­lion. On the item on fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance, this year’s bud­get is only P17.5 mil­lion but the pro­posed bud­get for 2019 was dou­bled to P35 mil­lion.

The pro­posed bud­get for do­na­tions was also dou­bled to P45 mil­lion from this year’s bud­get of P22.5 mil­lion.

“Those are cru­cial op­er­a­tions, be­cause this is where the peo­ple feel that gov­ern­ment ex­ists. Since our pop­u­la­tion in the city is al­most 380,000, we ex­pect that next year, the num­ber of ben­e­fi­cia­ries will in­crease. That is why we in­creased (the ap­pro­pri­a­tion for fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance), and (for the) do­na­tions, part of this will be used for the in­crease of the fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance for se­nior ci­ti­zens,” For­tuna told mem­bers of the me­dia.

Also last Wed­nes­day, Coun­cilors Nilo Seno and Raul Cabahug filed a pro­posed or­di­nance to in­crease the cash gift for se­nior ci­ti­zens from the cur­rent P6,000 to P8,000.

For­tuna said the city is mak­ing the pro­grams un­der the City So­cial Wel­fare and Ser­vices (CSWS) more ex­pan­sive through the Hin­a­bang sa Edukasyon, Liveli­hood ug Panglawas (Helps). More peo­ple are ben­e­fit­ing from the city’s burial, medicines and hos­pi­tal­iza­tion, and ed­u­ca­tional as­sis­tance. Ben­e­fi­cia­ries could avail them­selves of up to P25,000 in hos­pi­tal­iza­tion ser­vice.

CSWS Chief Jessie Perez said that in 2017, 500 peo­ple ben­e­fited from Helps. This year, over 1,000 took ad­van­tage of the P3,000 ed­u­ca­tional as­sis­tance ev­ery se­mes­ter for ju­nior, se­nior high school and col­lege stu­dents.

If in the last few years peo­ple could only avail them­selves of the fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance for med­i­ca­tions, hos­pi­tal­iza­tion and burial once a year, this year, Perez amended the rules. This time, ben­e­fi­cia­ries can avail them­selves of the as­sis­tance ev­ery three months.

Manatad asked why the ad­min­is­tra­tion in­creased the pro­posed ap­pro­pri­a­tions for JOs’ hon­o­rar­ium, fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance and do­na­tions when the pro­posed ap­pro­pri­a­tion for the other items were de­creased this year.

“Dou­bling the bud­get for do­na­tion is un­jus­ti­fied con­sid­er­ing elec­tions are com­ing and we can­not use gov­ern­ment funds for po­lit­i­cal ad­vance­ment... The coun­cil is not a rub­ber stamp! Our role is to tem­per the ex­cesses of the ex­ec­u­tive un­der the prin­ci­ple of check and bal­ance!” added Manatad.

The 2019 pro­posed an­nual bud­get will un­dergo a sec­ond and fi­nal read­ing next week.

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