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TRO stops implementation of the Appropriation Ordinance No. 13-002 for Samar’s 2010 Annual Budget

By EMY C. BONIFACIO, Samar News.com
September 2, 2010

CATBALOGAN, Samar  –  The five (5) Board Members of Samar, representing the opposition block, has petitioned for the court’s legal intervention by issuing a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in an effort to forestall the execution of an illegally and arbitrarily approved Appropriation Ordinance on the 2010 Annual Budget, as alleged.

Yesterday’s issuance of the TRO by Judge Reynaldo Clemens, Calbayog RTC Executive Judge, will be effective for the next seventy two (72) hours. All the Offices concerned, including the Land Bank of the Philippines - Catbalogan Branch, were provided copies of the TRO for their guidance.

The decision to seek for a TRO came after a Letter of Disclaimer, dated August 27, 2010, was sent to the Office of the Vice-Governor. The letter formally and officially disclaimed the validity of the ordinance for the approval of the P1.1 Billion Annual Budget of the Province of Samar for 2010 that transpired during the regular session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on August 26, 2010 at the Samar Provincial Capitol Building. The letter manifested that all transactions and/or dealings pursuant to the said invalid ordinance shall be ineffective and has no force and effect of the law.

Furthermore, the signatories are convinced that the procedure adopted by the members who took part in the approval of the said budget was improper and illegal, as it failed to meet the necessary requirements for the approval of an Appropriation Ordinance which requires the majority vote of all the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, imposed under paragraph (g), article 107 of the Local Government Code Implementing Rules.

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of the Province of Samar is composed of fourteen (14) members including the Vice-Governor as Presiding Officer. Simply said, at least eight (8) members should have voted for the ordinance in question, the petitioners argued.

It was learned that when the session started at eleven in the morning, nine (9) SP members were present, to include the Presiding Officer. During the second break or recess, Hon. Arthur Vaughn M. Zosa arrived. However, two (2) of its members (Hon. Noel Sermense and Hon. Jimmy Dy) walked out and boycotted the session when they sensed that the budget would be railroaded. The walk out was in protest of the irregular proceedings that they have witnessed. After their departure, the session resumed with only a total of seven (7) members present, a number which is not sufficient to constitute a quorum when the “voting or approval by general consent” was conducted.

“Moreover, the 2010 Annual Budget was unceremoniously, clandestinely and surreptitiously treated as it was not calendared on the said session and it was only treated on the item for Other Matters, despite the fact that said 2010 budget is already with the proper Committee and is under treatment and consideration of the concerned committees”, the Board Members add.

The ruling of the Presiding Officer on the approval of the 2010 Budget was arrived, despite the absence of a quorum, when Hon. Juan C. Latorre was acknowledged to take the floor and cited an alleged provision in their Internal Rules of Procedure that allows them to recall the proposed 2010 Annual Budget from the two (2) Committees for its failure to submit a required report after a lapse of one (1) month since its referral. Accordingly, Latorre on a verbal manifestation, moved that the Committee on Finance and Appropriations and the Committee on Laws and Legal Matter be divested of their jurisdictional authority over a referral so that it could be brought back to plenary for direct disposition. After a corresponding motion was presented, a “voting or approval by general consent” procedure ensued. As anticipated, the budget was approved by a simple minority, having voting members identified to belong to the administration block.

As of press time, capitol employees are queuing up at its lobby, hoping that their benefits will be released after the TRO expires on Friday. However, they do not discount the possibility of an extension of the TRO. “Kun ano man it ira ginsasaramukan hiunong hito nga budget, deri gad kunta kami ig api. Damo na ha am an nagugutom ngan naglalaum nga makakabulig hin dako ha amon tagsa nga pamilya ini nga mga benipisyo. Kunta an matuod ug tama an ira buhaton kay mga Honorable man ada hira. Deri dapat gamiton an amon mga katungod ug panginahanglon nga rason para magpressure hin bisan kanay nga grupo. Baga kamin an gin hostage kay kami la it ginhimo nga pasangil. Kay ano man nga mayada man mga vouchers ug checks nga nasuklian han martes han aga? Kay ano nga waray kami nga mga empleyado an unaha? An para ha amon, ihatag gad man”, was an employees’ appeal to our provincial leaders.

On the other hand, other agencies are happy that the budget has been approved. Ms. Luz Tacal of the PSWDO excitedly announced that the social development funds she had requested to be placed under her Office was provided. She feels assured now to be able to deliver effectively the services that are mandated under her office. Likewise, a GSP volunteer is happy that the budget is now approved because for quite a time, their organization was not able to receive subsidies from the provincial government due to the unapproved budget.

A Financial Manager, who refuses to be identified, said that the benefits of capitol employees are most affected by the TRO. He explained that the release of the 25% salary adjustments are already delayed and that the Office of the Governor is already mandated by the court to release the P25,000 Productivity Enhancement Incentives. The payrolls are already prepared for the purpose, but the TRO prevents them from disbursing the funds, he further stressed.

SN.com Team is still to confirm reports regarding releases and encashment of checks with huge amounts that has been paid to contractors prior to the effectivity of the Temporary Restraining Order.