Bickering over Mis. Or. budget may reach court

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/04 January) — Verbal fireworks which nearly turned into a fistfight at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) session last Monday may turn into a legal battle as Vice Governor Norris Barriera said he would file criminal and administrative charges against an SP member who allegedly tried to introduce a spurious budget ordinance.

But SP member Jesus Jardin, chair of the SP committee on finance, said that he and majority of his colleagues will stand their ground and question the 2011 budget submitted by the SP to the office of Gov. Oscar S. Moreno.

Jardin said that it was Babiera who tinkered with the ordinance specifying a budget of P1,385,215,095 passed on third and final reading on Dec. 28 last year.

Jardin insisted in a privilege speech Monday that the minutes of the second reading of the budget be reviewed to prove insertions in the budget allegedly made by Babiera.

He further insisted that the copy of the budget ordinance in his position Monday and signed by nine of the 14-member legislative body be transmitted to the office of the governor for approval or veto.

Majority of the SP members are opposed to Moreno and are allies of Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Vicente Y. Emano. They have slashed about P80 million from the budget of the governor’s office and increased by about P25 million the budget of the SP.

Emano was governor of Misamis Oriental from 1986, after the Edsa Revolt, until 1998 before becoming mayor of Cagayan de Oro, from 1998 to 2007. He was elected city vice mayor in May 2007 and won again as city mayor on May 10 last year.

Babiera however laughed off Jardin’s allegations that he tinkered with the budget and accused Jardin of trying to pull a fast one by “hoodwinking the SP to submit a wrong budget ordinance to the office of the governor.”

SP Secretary Felimon Aguilar told MindaNews that a staff member of Jardin’s had asked him to print a copy of the budget ordinance before the start of Monday’s session. After printing, he was asked to sign it to certify that it was a true copy.

But Aguilar said he did not sign it after he found alleged discrepancies in the document compared to the one approved last Dec. 28, 2010.

Babiera said that had the majority in the SP not suffered “too much distrust in him, there would have been no unnecessary quarrels in the SP.”

“They have already gotten most of what they wanted like budget cuts in the office of the governor and increases in the budget of the individual members of the SP, but their mistrust has destroyed their plan. It is a pity on their part,” he said.

What drew the suspicion of the majority, he said, was his refusal to sign the majority-sponsored budget after it was approved last Dec. 28. “But my signature is no longer necessary as the records of the SP would be the best evidence that the budget they sponsored is passed,” he added.

Babiera transmitted to Moreno Budget Ordinance 1217-2011 on Monday afternoon. The governor has 15 days to approve or veto it.

A staff member of Moreno’s said the governor was already studying the budget.

Majority in the SP expressed confidence they have the numbers to override a veto by the governor. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)