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Majority pushes TRO to block budget release

By GINA DEAN-RAGUDO, Samar News.com
September 2, 2010

CALBAYOG CITY  –  To make it stronger, Samar’s first district board members filed a petition in court questioning the validity of the budget approval last August 26, 2010 during the regular session. Such move was preceded by a disclaimer executed on August 27 signed by Majority Floor Leader Charlie Coñejos, SP members Noel Sermense, Renato Uy, Prudencio Dy, Jasper Sumagang, Eunice Babalcon and Jimmy Dy addressed to Provincial Budget Officer Maximo Sison.

Liberal Party’s Legal Adviser Roger Casurao said that the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) is the most convenient and appropriate way of approaching the problem in order to prevent the province from releasing the budget. The passage of the 2010 budget was declared null and void because the procedure adopted by the board members present was improper and illegal as it failed to meet the necessary requirement for approval which requires the majority vote of all the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

Based on the record, only 5 members of the Sanggunian signed for the passage, while the letter of disclaimer was signed by 7.

Moreover, the 2010 annual budget was unceremoniously, clandestinely and surreptitiously treated during said regular session as it was not calendared and was only brought on the item for Other Matters despite the fact that said 2010 budget is already with the proper committees, and is under treatment and consideration.

“We learned our lessons already in approving the budget. If you’re going to examine the budget very closely, it is characterized by absurdities. Too much concentration on the purchase of medicines by hundreds of millions”, he recalled as a former SP member.

Clarifying the “walk out scenario” of Board Member Sermense, Casurao admitted that the former has indeed left the session hall when Liga President Joseph Escober injected the idea of discussing the budget under Other Matters, followed up by BM Juan Latorre who spoke for its approval manifesting his argument that the committees in charged were no longer taking part in the budget hearing and the August body should assume responsibility (overlooking the 8-vote requirement and the petition).

Be it noted that it was Latorre who spared the majority bloc from opposition’s annoyance. He justified in the previous press conference initiated by Governor Sharee Ann Tan that the new set of board members are rational compared to the old one.

As a consequence, former SP member now Calbayog City Councilor Roger Casurao explained the non-passage of the 2009 budget for its unjust formulation as it actually did not address the real problems of the province. The Annual Investment Plan (AIP) submitted to the August body was highly questionable. First, the economic policy of a local government unit should be based on a 10 year Comprehensive Development Program and not on a yearly basis.

“So I was wondering where they got their AIP. There was nothing to take it from! Why should we entertain an annual budget that is not precedent to the AIP? And even if there was, we are certain… that AIP was bogus”, he asserted.

Casurao added that if there is a failure to come out with a regular budget the law on reenactment will come in. The reason is to prevent the hiatus in the delivery of basic services in the province. Irrespective of whoever sits as local chief executive, the fixed mandatory budget such as the 5% calamity fund, personnel services and MOOE (Miscellaneous and Other Operating Expenses) shall not affected. What prevents the majority from passing the budget is the utilization of the 20% Development Fund.

“The reason why we are against the budget because of the poor utilization. Kag-upay pa ba san mga ngaran san ira programa – poverty alleviation, hunger mitigation, but it has no meaning! Ada la iton san paraffle, panhatag bugas and the like. Magsakit ira buot kay diri nira nadudukaw an 20% Development Fund nga mao pirme an source of corruption”

He revealed that the province’s income is only P3M and the government is just relying on the IRA (Internal Revenue Allotment) without formulating tax efficiency measures and improving production.