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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, November 11, 2014
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All about money


Many were dismayed that the near boxing spectacle between Bacolod Councilors Carl Lopez and Claudio Puentevella was aborted by the bell of Vice Mayor Greg Gasataya. The two councilors would have made history not only in this city but nationwide. The could-have-been bout is not unprecedented, of course since there had been swinging punches in some parliaments of the world. The ruckuses included throwing of bottles and shoes. But in Bacolod our legislature had been more “civilized”.

Some time back, Bacolod Councilor Inocencio Lucasan challenged Councilor Pablo Torre and other councilors to a boxing match to settle the issue about watch-your-car boys. Cencio was piqued and must have run out of arguments he simply resorted to more primitive solution - brawn versus brain.

I was there and would have enjoyed the spectacle after Cencio stood up, rolled his sleeves to show his bulging muscle, and dare those who were in favor of removing the watch-your-car boys. But the mild-mannered Dr. Torre simply ignored Cencio’s heroics as other councilors pacified Cencio. The boxing challenge took place inside the session hall but it did reverberate around the city. The two have passed away but the could-have-been match remained etched in the public mind and passed on into history.

Now two young councilors almost repeated the spectacle. However, while there was no actual fighting the news gave the citizens something to laugh about. It is no longer important who started what but the media pounced on Lopez, happily verbally.

Vice Mayor Gasataya and the other councilors should help ease tension. Reprimanding the two would only deepen the wounds and serves no long term good. The “judgment” should be left to the public.

The issue is all about money and the accounting of the money taken from the public coffers. There should be nothing unusual about this since under the law, those who handle public funds are duty bound to account for every centavo of it. There are rules to follow, including the time allotted for accounting.

From the news report we think that the boxing case is not the issue. While Lopez asked that the accounting be submitted within 30 days, the counter-proposal of a longer time is not difficult to surmount because the law also specifies the time given for accounting. In fact, there should be no argument about this because the law is very specific.

The problem is that those who received money last year have failed to submit the accounting of funds in accordance with law. Adding to its mistake is the failure of the city government to enforce the law by filing charges against those who did not comply with the requirements.

The case of the barangays should be different from that of the Kasadya Foundation. The barangays are government bodies and there are rules to follow, not only about bidding for services and purchases but also time for submission of liquidation report. If the responsible official failed, then they should be charged.

In the case of the foundation, it is a private organization that was granted funds for specific purpose. It should be made to account, not only for the public funds it received from the city treasury but also for all the money and materials it received during the MassKara Festival. The foundation acted in behalf of the city and therefore is also liable for every solicitation. If it managed the festival on its own, the city cannot demand that it account for the money – that is private money.

However, the Kasadya Foundation acted as surrogate of the city and as such, was clothed with public interest.

The city, from the executive to the legislative, is to blame for this situation. They gave money to the foundation although it failed to account for the millions it received last year. The SP, specifically those who voted to extend the funding assistance, is remiss and, in fact, is also liable for this negligence. They gave public funds when the previous one was not yet liquidated. I believe that there is a prohibition on this but the SP neglected to demand for compliance first before additional funds are extended.

Whatever happened to the Commission on Audit in the city?

The Save Bacolod Movement, or Councilor Lopez should take this failure of the foundation to account to the Ombudsman. The facts of the failure to liquidate are there in the SP which ought to have taken the appropriate step but it didn’t. In fact, it abetted and compounded that failure.*




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