Sep 19, 2020

City opposition claims barangay budget may have been used for election campaigning

City councilor Peter Maristela questions the abrupt depletion of the City Mayor's Office (CMO) P31 million fund for 2019 Ugnayan sa Barangay program.

Opposition city councilors are demanding an explanation from the city government why and how it spent an entire year’s budget of some P30 million allotted for barangay assistance during a 3-month period in the lead up to last May’s local polls.

This, as the City Council approved Monday another supplemental budget for 2019 amounting to some P357.5 million that included a replenishment for the depleted budget for the city government’s “Ugnayan sa Barangay Program”.

Councilors Peter Maristela and Patrick Hagedorn questioned the depletion of the fund during the plenary deliberations for the approval of the 2019 supplemental budget.

Maristela suggested the fund may have been irregularly utilized for campaigning by administration candidates in the barangays.

In a privilege speech, Maristela objected to the inclusion of another P25,751,090 fund to replenish the Ugnayan sa Barangay Program, a budget item under the City Mayor’s Office (CMO) budget.

Maristela argued that this program was already allotted earlier with P30,936,683 under the city’s annual budget, which the CMO consumed only within the first three months of 2019.

“Ang tanong, saan ginugol ang napakalaking pondo na ito? Bakit inubos ang pondo para sa isang taon sa loob lamang ng tatlong buwan? Hindi kaya nagamit ito sa pangangampanya? Sa loob ng dalawang termino ko bilang konsehal, ngayon lamang po ako nakaalam na maaari pala gamitin ang pondo na nakalaan para sa buong taon ng isang programa sa isang quarter lamang, lalo na sa first quarter lamang,” Maristela said.

Maristela noted that the City Government had distributed rice to the public under this program earlier this year, and asked that the fund be properly accounted for.

“Magkano po ba ang kabuuang halaga ng ipinamahagi natin na bigas? Ilang libong mga kababayan natin ang nakinabang dito? At saan o kanino po natin binili ang libo-libong kilo ng bigas na ito? Sa National Food Authority ba o sa pribadong negosyante?” Maristela asked.

He also filed a resolution requesting CMO Ugnayan sa Barangay program manager Feliberto Oliveros III to furnish the City Council the list of expenditures of the program.

In a separate interview with Palawan News, Maristela said he was surprised to learn that the entire funding had already been used.

“Paano na lamang kung nagpalit ang mayor [pagkatapos ng election noong Mayo], di wala na siyang gagamitin sa kaniyang termino kung papayagan natin na ang budget ng mayor’s office gagastusin sa first quarter ang budget para sa 2019? Hindi kaila sa atin na mag-e-election noon, at ang election ban ay nagsimula noong March 29, kaya siguro ginamit nila ang pondo na ‘yon before March 29, para ang pamimigay ng bigas ay hindi mapasok sa election ban. Ako wala akong nakikitang ibang dahilan,” said Maristela.

Sought for a reaction, City Budget Officer (CBO) Regina Cantillo told Palawan News it is the prerogative of the administration responsible for the fund to implement its program and even use up the entire funds allotted for the year.

“Wala kang makikita doon sa budget na ‘yon ay for the whole year. Meron kasing project na hindi mo puwedeng (extend) ng one year. Parang (road) concreting, dapat tapusin mo ng isang buwan, alangan namang tapusin mo ‘yon ng isang taon,” she said.

“May mga activity tayo katulad ng Pista Y ang Cagueban o Balayong Festival, hindi mo puwedeng i-one year ‘yon,” she added.

She also claimed that the CBO had asked for the financial timeline of Ugnayan sa Barangay through the annual budget’s project procurement management plan (PPMP), and it indicated a “good for one quarter” program only.

Cantillo said the newly-approved P25,751,090 fund replenishment from the supplemental budget is now also under the CMO’s prerogative, through its Ugnayan sa Barangay program, on the proper time to use.

“So depende sa kanila kung ngayon ba nila isasakatuparan o sa last quarter pa,” said Cantillo.

Cantillo also claimed that the rice distribution activity by the city government underwent proper procurement process.

“Basta sa akin dumaan siya, hindi ako magpo-pondo hanggang walang ordinansa. Kasi ako nagce-certify ng appropriation. So after my office dadaan na sa BAC (Bids and Awards Committee). Ang BAC mayroon din silang susunding proseso at batas,” said Cantillo.

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