Kidapawan councilor says she was offered 100,000 pesos to stop opposing release of 13-M supplemental budget

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 14 June) — A member of the City Council admitted having been offered 100,000 pesos to change her stand opposing the release of a 13-million peso supplemental budget which the proponents claimed will be used to purchase medical supplies, devices, and other equipment needed to combat COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

Councilor Ruby Padilla-Sison said the offer was made at the height of their heated discussion when the presiding officer called for a recess during their 42nd regular session at the 8th Sangguniang Panglungsod on June 11.

Landmark in Kidapawan, North Cotabato. MIndaNews file photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

Sison disclosed a fellow councilor made the offer, believing she would change her stand.  She did not name the councilor.

“I was offered 100,000 (pesos) just to abandon my stand.  I was offered by a fellow councilor.  Abandoning means to forsake my own fight. My stand has no price at all,” she said.

The passage of the proposed ordinance for the supplemental budget was certified urgent by Mayor Joseph Evangelista.

Evangelista, in an interview, said part of the 13 million peso budget is for the purchase of a brand new refrigerated centrifuge or blood separator as the city’s machine has been non-functional since May 5. He said the City Health Office needs a new one in preparation for the onset of rains in June, which is also when dengue is prevalent.

The CHO, he stressed, expects an increase in the number of dengue cases in the city.

“True enough, a barangay here has registered 12 cases of dengue during the onset of rains.  The problem was, we don’t have blood separator if a patient needs platelet transfusion,” he explained.

Dr. Jocelyn Incienzo, City Health Officer, wrote a letter addressed to the mayor on May 21 telling him the urgent need for a brand new refrigerated centrifuge.

The City Council also allocated 5 million pesos for the salaries and wages of the doctors, midwives, nurses, and other medical workers which the city government intends to hire to man the isolation facility located at the Kidapawan City Hospital.

The 50-bed hospital will be converted, in the meantime, into a quarantine facility for stranded residents they will soon rescue as part of the city’s ‘Balik Probinsiya’, program.

Sison said she saw the urgency to purchase those medical devices and supplies, but insisted the chief executive must first submit to the Sanggunian his report on the expenditures of the previous supplemental budget that was released for COVID-19 measures.

“We agreed previously that before a supplemental budget can be approved for release, the Mayor has to prepare a liquidation report and submit to us for our perusal.  But it did not happen,” she said.

The City Council approved the supplemental budget on June 11.

“I was offered 100,000 (pesos).  If my fellow councilors were also offered the same, you, in the media, must ask them.   They might deny or confirm it.  But I won’t speak for and on their behalf,” she stressed.

Sison said the budget issue was not included in the agenda on Thursday.  But someone in the hall moved for its passage.

“Surprisingly, everyone in the hall agreed to it.  These councilors are part of what I term the ‘Super Majority,” she said.

Sison also explained that her opposition to the measure was not grandstanding.

“They said I have a political ambition to run for a higher post in 2022.   That’s not true.  I am poor. I know that if you have a one-on-one fight, you need lots and lots of money.  Honestly, I don’t have money, so the accusation of grandstanding and the political ambition to run as vice-mayor is far-fetched,” she said.

Councilor Aljo Cris Dizon denied having received 100,000 pesos from Mayor Evangelista when he proposed the passage of the ordinance.

“That accusation is baseless.   I worked for its approval because I felt the urgency.  This is a health issue that needs an urgent action from the government.  If we don’t do our part, our constituents will blame us if more and more people will die from dengue and other emerging infectious disease because we failed to do our duty,” Dizon said. (Malu Cadelina-Manar / MindaNews)