7-man majority walks out of MBTF’s session with SP
AFTER VM KUA’S RELUCTANCE TO ADJOURN
THE majority members of the Dagupan Sangguniang Panlungsod spurned the appeal of Mayor Belen Fernandez for unity and reconciliation and to pass both the 2023 annual budget and the Annual Investment Program when she addressed the legislative body in last week’s regular session, on February 7.
Mayor Fernandez appeared at the session hall accompanied by department heads on the invitation of Vice Mayor Bryan Kua to address and update the city council of programs and activities of her administration and to respond to questions about her submitted annual budget and the annual investment plan.
A hostile reception immediately formed when Majority Floor Leader Librada Reyna-Macalanda questioned the mayor’s presence during the week’s regular session and Minority Leader Michael Fernandez had to cite Chapter 3, Section 455, sub-paragraph (111) of the Local Government Code that delineate duties of the city executive which include “presentation of the program of government and propose policies and projects for the consideration of the Sangguniang Panlungsod … and as often as may be deemed necessary as the general welfare of the inhabitants and the needs of the city government may require.”
After Mayor Fernandez was given the chance to detail her administration’s programs as listed in the proposed annual budget, which she described “as the collective work of Dagupeños who participated in executive consultations that culminated in the Local Development Council meeting, she clarified her role and presence.
“I am here as the duly elected representative of the people of Dagupan humbly asking my colleagues to extend the hands of unity with me so that together we can move our city forward”.
“Let’s start by passing the annual appropriations ordinance and please know that the proposed annual budget is neither drawn from my imagination nor from my own dreams,” she intoned.
The members of the minority tried to set the tone by interpellating her on her presentation but the members of the majority were unmoved. Councilor Redford Erfe-Mejia chided the mayor for her one-and-a half hour speech and the “scripted“ questions from the members of the minority. He even insinuated that the city council had to spend public funds to purchase CSI bottled water for distribution inside the hall. The comment drew a response from VM Kua who clarified it was he who bought these from his personal funds.
Erfe-Mejia went on to cite the mayor’s ninety minutes speech as a violation of the rules of the SP that provide that a member of the city council is only given only 15 minutes to speak during the privilege time, and warned that her appearance cannot be construed as a public hearing on the annual budget, because a committee was already tasked to conduct hearings.
“The mayor has no authority whatsoever to conduct her own budget hearing. This is completely illegal,” Erfe-Mejia said as he challenged Vice Mayor Kua and the SP “to be in the forefront of defending the Sanguniang Panlungsod’s independence as the presiding officer,”
Erfe-Mejia said the mayor cannot blame the majority for the delay in the passage of the budget citing her refusal and her department heads to appear before the committee despite an official invitation.
When Vice Mayor Kua cautioned Erfe Mejia for his “disrespectful” demeanor towards the city executive, the latter countered that the majority in the SP already showed its respect by allowing her to speak for one and a half hour and proceeded to remind the executive that it is his committee that will evaluate the budget.
In an obvious dig on Mayor Fernandez, Erfe-Mejia said, “Hindi ito pribadong sector na kung ano ang sinabi ng boss, ay masusunod agad”.
He ended his tirade with a motion to adjourn using the scheduled committee hearing as a reason, a move that was quickly objected to by Councilor Michael Fernandez. Noting that VM Kua was reluctant to adjourn the session, Alfie Fernandez and other members of the majority walked out, leaving only the five members of the minority in the SP session hall.
And before the VM Kua could rule on the motion to adjourn, Councilor Michael Fernandez reacted to the walkout citing Sections 323 and 455 states that SP members cannot ignore their responsibilities. “
Councilor Lino Fernandez added “Nakikiusap kami ng maayos, Sabi ninyo walang bastusan. E bakit binabastos ninyo ang ating mahal na mayor, nag-aasal nang hindi maganda?” (Leonardo Micua)
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