Thanks to Anonymous 2:52 for pointing out this news report which presents the Baguio City councilors’ side of the story. I maintain that there are more important things to spend the money on but, as wisely pointed out by Anonymous, let us look at all sides of the matter.
I’m not sure though if this report puts the councilors in a better light. “Let us think out of the box,” says one of them. Really? A government official using public funds to buy a car for him/her to use is so not thinking out of the box. Just about every public official who thinks s/he can get away with it, does it. Thinking out of the box would be advocating for the pedestrianization of Baguio.
Councilors okay car plan in good faith
By Rimaliza Opiña/Sunstar Baguio
The Baguio City Council was in good faith when it approved the allotment of close to P20 million to buy vehicles for themselves, the vice mayor’s and the mayor’s offices.
Councilor Galo Weygan added that the barangays were not shortchanged when they allotted P5.6 million from the P25 million surplus shares of the City Government from the 2006 Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) because aside from this appropriation, there are other sources of funds for other priority projects of the City Government.
The P71-million surplus from the 2006 budget as well as the planned P1 billion budget for 2008 are some of the sources where funds could be allotted for various projects, including the purchase of dump trucks for garbage collection.
Since last week, the City Council has been criticized by government employees as well as by ordinary citizens for allegedly being too capricious.
Weygan said the cars would be the property of the City Government. As a condition, they could no longer avail of their travel allowances and they are also obliged to shoulder gasoline and maintenance expenses.
And just like any government vehicle, its use would be limited to official functions, he said, adding that a car is a necessity for the council, especially when councilors have to travel to the barangays and in places outside Baguio.
“We really need it,” Weygan said, citing the problem usually encountered by his colleagues on the difficulty of reserving the use of the council’s service vehicle.
Just like the department heads and their counterparts in other local governments, Weygan said they too should be accorded the same privilege.
Councilor Isabelo Cosalan Jr., one of those who voted for the ordinance’s passage, said he is one of those who would reserve the use of the council’s vehicles at least two weeks ahead of schedule but oftentimes, his request gets turned down because the vehicle is “fully booked.”
As chairman of the committee on lands, housing and urban planning, Cosalan said he has to regularly conduct field inspections and do research as far as Manila, adding the work of the committee is impaired because their mobility is compromised.
In the draft proposal, more than P7 million was allotted for the barangays but the council decided to reduce this to P5.6 million because of a rule that only 20 percent could be allotted for the barangays.
“It is true that Baguio has other concerns which we (council) need to focus on but problems could not be solved all at once. Let us think out of the box. We need service vehicles,” Cosalan said while echoing the sentiment of his other colleagues that there are other sources of funds for various projects in the city.
“I hope the public will not judge us on this issue alone,” said Councilor Fred Bagbagen, another of those who voted in favor of the proposal.
“We need to be mobilized so we can serve the people better,” he added, hoping that the public would come to realize the advantages of being issued their individual service vehicles.
“It is our experience that when we want to go to the barangays, the service vehicle, which is supposedly for the use of the council, is not available,” Bagbagen said, adding that even less progressive cities than Baguio allot a budget for their local officials.
Councilor Nicasio Aliping Jr. reiterated that the council is not disregarding the needs of the public but their service vehicles is also a necessity for them to carry out their duties outside of their offices.
Baguio Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr., meantime, said he does not approve the idea of purchasing cars in lieu of other projects that he proposed to the council.
Asked if he would veto the ordinance, Bautista did not give a categorical answer but assured that he would review it the moment the document reaches his office.
In the ordinance, P4.6 million was allotted for the purchase of the mayor’s car. But Bautista said he was not aware that the council allotted an amount for his own service vehicle, adding he does not need a car.
Weygan, however, countered the mayor’s statement, claiming that before Bautista departed for Canada and the US, he was aware of the council plan.
The councilor said the mayor is privy to this because in a meeting at the Baguio Country Club, Bautista even requested for P3 million for his car and that prior to his departure for China, he asked an additional P1.6 million allotment for the purchase of a patrol car for the Baguio City Police Office.
Weygan explained this is the reason why, from the original proposal of P3 million, allotment for the mayor reached P4.6 million.
INFO SOURCE: Sunstar Baguio