‘GAME OVER ON BUDGET ROW: Mayor orders budget office to prepare allotment release orders

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

MAYOR Jose Espinosa III is putting an end to the budget dispute at the Iloilo City Hall by ordering the City Budget Officer to prepare and issue the allotment release orders (AROs).

In Memorandum Order No. 6 series of 2019, Espinosa directed the City Budget Officer to prepare all AROs on the basis of the 2019 Annual Budget except for the vetoed items where the AROs should be based on the 2018 Annual Budget.

The City Budget Officer was also ordered to immediately release upon receipt the following:

-ARO for personal services and associated personal services costs for the whole year, ARO for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) for the whole year 2019;

-ARO for financial expenses for the whole year 2019; and

-ARO for Capital Expenditures.

“In accordance with the provisions of the Budget Operations Manual for Local Government Units (LGUs), the AROs shall be submitted without delay to the office of the city government of Iloilo and thereafter be recorded in the proper registry by the City Budget Officer and the City Accountant,” according to the Jan 89, 2019 memorandum.

The order came a day after the Sangguniang Panlungsod failed to override the veto of Mayor Jose Espinosa III on the P2.318-billion annual budget for 2019 last Jan 8, 2019.

Instead of overriding, the majority bloc at the council moved to strike out or erase the line vetoes of the mayor.

Moreover, the majority bloc passed a resolution directing the Local Finance Committee to observe and implement the 2019 Executive Budget initially approved by the SP.

Councilor Plaridel Nava, chairman on committee on appropriations, said that the veto of the mayor was “invalid”, “defective” and “not binding to the SP without citing any legal basis for his standpoint.

“The veto is null and void because it is not sanctioned, it is not based on the provision of law. For me this is just a mere scrap of paper,” Nava said.

City Administrator Hernando Galvez debunked Nava’s stance saying that the resolution of the opposition bloc has no obligatory or legal effect.

“We respect the resolution but it’s nothing but an expression of sentiment no binding effect, indi na obligatory and it’s not a law,” he emphasized.

On Dec 27, 2019, Espinosa signed the 2019 annual budget but with partial vetoes, particularly the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) allocation of the City Mayor’s Office.

In his veto message, the mayor explained that aside from being ultra vires or beyond the legal authority and is not allowed by law, some of the items like the new mechanism of splitting the budget into two tranches were deemed prejudicial to public welfare.

“The provisions dividing the disbursement into two would not only affect but greatly prejudice the operation and functioning of different offices. It would not only cripple but will also slow down the performance and efficiency of every offices concerned as they will be limited in cases of emergency, contingency, lack of supplies, lack of personnel, and inadequate equipment,” Espinosa stressed.

Sec. 55 of the Local Government Code states that unless the Sanggunian overrides the veto, the item or items in the appropriations ordinance of the previous year corresponding to those vetoed, shall be deemed re-enacted.