CEBU, Philippines – Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, the presiding officer of the Cebu City Council, should not be included in the count to determine the Council’s majority bloc, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said.
DILG issued the opinion upon the request of Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) following shifts of political allegiances among city councilors.
Councilors belonging to Barug Team Rama have argued that the presiding officer can be counted in determining a simple majority, as ruled by the Supreme Court in a 2012 case of La Carlota City, Negros Occidental vs. Lawyer Rex Rojo.
But the DILG cited a more recent ruling of the Supreme Court, which supersedes the 2013 ruling.
In the August 3, 2016 ruling in the case of Tobias Javier vs. Rhodora Cadiao, et.al., the Supreme Court said, “The Vice Governor, as the Presiding Officer, shall be considered a part of the SP for purposes of ascertaining if a quorum exists.
In determining the number which constitutes as the majority vote, the Vice Governor is excluded. The Vice Governor’s right to vote is merely contingent and arises only when there is a tie to break.”
The vice governor is the presiding officer in a provincial board while the vice mayor is the presiding officer in a city or municipal council.
The DILG opinion dated July 24 reads:
“All concerned offices are hereby advised that in the conduct of business of the Sangguniang Panlungsod, the presiding officer should be counted for purposes of ascertaining the existence of a quorum, but not in the determination of the required number of votes necessary to uphold a matter before the SP.”
DILG Undersecretary Austere Panadero signed the opinion.
On the basis of the DILG opinion, BOPK now holds the majority bloc with nine councilors. Barug Team Rama, meanwhile, has eight.
BOPK councilors have also decided to assume chairmanships of the committees in the Council.
Councilor Nendell Hanz Abella will sit as chairperson for committee on budget and finance; committee on education; committee on science and technology; and committee on environment, energy, transportation, communication, and other utilities.
Councilor Alvin Arcilla will head the committee on urban planning, committee on agriculture and rural development, and committee on markets and social services.
Councilor Eugenio Gabuya Jr. will head the committee on housing; committee on public services; and committee on games, amusement, and sports.
Councilor Jerry Guardo will head the committee on youth and sports development and the committee on infrastructure.
Councilor Sisinio Andales will head the committee on laws, ordinances, and styling; committee on labor, employment, cooperative and livelihood; and oversight committee.
Councilor Augustus “Joy” Young will head the committee on trade, commerce, and entrepreneurship. He will also handle the scholarship program.
Meanwhile, Councilor David Tumulak will head the committee on public order and safety and the committee on information and communication technology.
Councilor Mary Ann Delos Santos will head the committee on health, hospital services and sanitation while Councilor Margarita Osmeña will head the committee on tourism, sister cities relations, and arts and culture; committee on women and family affairs; and committee on disaster risk reduction management and climate change adaption.
Councilor Phillip Zafra will head the committee on barangay affairs.
In a privilege speech, Delos Santos asked that Labella be fair in presiding over the Council.
“I now pose the question or rather the challenge to the Honorable Chair (Labella), being a man of the law and one who adheres to the decision of the Highest Tribunal of the country, can the chair please be an embodiment of impartiality, a cold and neutral arbiter of our businesses here and not to readily take sides or to cast a vote to every question put in the body?” she said.
Delos Santos said that on July 4 during the annual organizational session, Labella allegedly ended the session unfairly because he did so without hearing the opinion of other councilors over the issue of determining the simple majority.
At that time, Labella allegedly insisted that the SC ruling on the La Carlota case be followed.
Yesterday, Labella said Delos Santos’ impression of his actions was incorrect.
“May I just correct the impression of member the Delos Santos. When the chair ruled that the matter should be threshed out, the chair was not acquitted with ill-motive or malice… I was always been fair to everybody and adapted the core mentality of a judge,” he said.
Labella said Barug Team Rama will respect the DILG opinion but will not stop members of the party to go to court. (FREEMAN)