BY FELIX CODILLA III
ORMOC CITY-THE 13th Sanggunian Panlungsod (SP) here consists of a healthy mix of members from the opposing camps.
Notwithstanding their political allegiances, they have managed to coexist albeit uneasily to protect their own interests. Everyone is careful not to rock the boat.
The minority pro-administration is careful not to ruffle feathers so as not to give their counterparts a reason to block the mayor’s programs. The majority opposition doesn’t want to be seen as obstructionists. Besides, they enjoy riding on the accomplishments of the mayor.
Which is why heated debates from the rival camps, which happen very rarely, are a welcome treat for reporters covering the SP.
Their prayers were answered last Apr. 23 during discussions on the overdue resolution authorizing Mayor Edward Codilla to sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the implementation of the Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA).
A quick approval was expected after a thorough discussion on the matter by the Committee on Social Welfare three days before.
So the presence of Social Welfare Asst. Vilma F. Mendoza of the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) came as a surprise considering questions on the MOA have been sufficiently answered.
The SP’s motive was revealed when Councilor Vincent L. Rama complained of having not received a copy of the ESA’s master list of beneficiaries. According to him, he wrote CSWDO Officer Marietta Legaspi twice – March 11 and 19 — asking for the list.
But Mendoza denied knowledge of Rama’s concern considering Legaspi, who was on an official trip to Baguio, did not inform her about it.
Asked for the whereabouts of the second in command of CSWDO, she replied that Social Welfare Officer IV Imelda M. Dadulla attended a groundbreaking for a daycare center.
This prompted Rama to remark: “For the record, this shows the incompetence of that office!” Administration Councilor Ruben Capahi advised his colleagues to defer Rama’s concern and focus on the matter at hand. “Why don’t we reserve our comments when Mrs. Legaspi is here? However long and voluminous that list may be, perhaps we can wait and call Mrs Legaspi to our caucus next week or at a proper time when she is here. But for the moment that we are discussing the (MOA), I suggest that we proceed there from. If we wish to summon Mrs. Legaspi at the caucus next week, by all means let’s do so,” he said.
This did not calm Rama who was apparently trying to contain his frustration.
“I need that list now! I need that list now! I need that list now!” he told Mendoza in a fit of tantrum.
He also alluded that the CSWDO was hiding something.
But Capahi replied it was unfair to grill a person who is not present and therefore unable to defend herself.
“It is always a concern for me when the person involved in the matter such as this happens to be elsewhere not for personal reasons, but because of an official travel in relation to the functions that she performs for the city government. Because Mrs. Legaspi is not out gallivanting somewhere, she is on official travel,” he said.
Capahi further cautioned Rama from using inappropriate words. “I do have a concern about adjectives being used [here] – ‘incompetence’ for instance, ‘lack of transparency.’ All of these have been resolved in the sense that the master list has been disseminated to the barangay officials. How more transparent can we get?” he said.
Capahi went back to his point for them to go back and focus on the subject matter. “Why don’t we confine ourselves to the discussion on the resolution? There was not even a question on the resolution itself nor of the [MOA] that we have digressed precisely because Mrs. Legaspi is not here.”
Councilor Bennet Pongos came to the defense of Rama, his party mate, saying it was not uncommon for the SP to ask invited personalities like Mendoza questions that are not related to the main agenda.
But Capahi answered it is uncommon for the SP to raise to invited personalities matters they know nothing about.
“I do agree with Councilor Pongos when he said that we have called resource persons here and asked them about matters that are not necessarily related to the matter at hand. But that is precisely my concern. The person central to this is Mrs. Legaspi. She is not here. The (letter) request was [addressed] specifically to her and she is not here. The person she sent as representative this afternoon does not have that discretion.”
Aside from highlighting Rama’s temper and putting Legaspi on a bad light, the exercise did not accomplish anything to improve the lives of the Ormocanons.
The councilors were about to pass the resolution anyway which they did.
A veteran journalist and editor, Felix Codilla III writes from Ormoc city. The above article is republished from Codilla’s latest report.