Makati City councilors who are known allies of former Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr. on Tuesday defied the call of incumbent Mayor Abigail Binay to attend a special session to discuss the long-delayed 2019 budget of the city.
City Council presiding officer Vice Mayor Monique Lagdameo said despite the mayor’s call for a special session and her certifying the 2019 budget as urgent, the opposition councilors chose to purposely absent themselves from the plenary session.
“Instead, they met at the office of one of their members, in the presence only of their staff. By choosing to meet behind closed doors instead of the session hall, they failed the test of transparency,” said Lagdameo.
The said councilors are reportedly supporting the political comeback bid of the younger Binay who is running against his sister Abby in the mayoralty race this coming May elections.
“The welfare of our senior citizens, youth, city employees and other sectors are being held hostage by this display of narrow-minded partisanship,” Lagdameo said.
In previous years, according to Lagdameo, the Council would conclude its budget hearings and approve the budget by November of the current year so as to ensure that services and programs are not disrupted and citizens receive the benefits due them.
But after the political realignment, she added, the process became agonizingly slow, either by design or negligence, or both.
“The budget process should be a non-partisan exercise. Instead, the opposition has chosen to weaponize it in service of their political agenda,” Lagdameo said.
According to Lagdameo, the opposition councilors have questions about certain items in the proposed budget of the Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office.
“The head of the DRRMO has officially conveyed to the councilors his willingness to answer their question in today’s plenary session, in full view of the gallery and the residents watching the session on live stream. The opposition, however, wanted to hold it behind closed doors. Why the aversion to transparency?” she asked.
“And if the councilors have questions on the DRRMO budget, then why are they revisiting the budgets of other offices which they have previously approved?”
Lagdameo said the opposition councilors are also introducing revisions to the budgets of certain departments and offices, contrary to sec. 317 of Republic Act 7160.
“May I remind the councilors that these budget requests were prepared in accordance with targets set by the city government during the planning workshops which they attended and are fully aware of,” she said.
Special sessions will be held today (Wednesday) and on Friday as requested by Mayor Binay.