TUG of war is a sport that pits two teams against each other in a test of strength. That is exactly what is happening at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (provincial board) of Quezon province.
The feud about the contentious reorganization of the SP last September persists.It is already September but the 2021 budget of the province is still on the line.
First district Board Member Alona Obispo expects that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan will revert to the "status quo after 3 weeks" following the legal opinion of the Dept. of Interior and Local Government on the controversial issue of the SP reorganization that resulted to the reenactment of the 2020 annual budget of the provincial government for this year.
Obispo made the disclosure on Thursday at her residence in Tayabas City in an informal conversation with a handful of local media practitioners.
“In three weeks' time, I expect the Sangguniang Panglalawigan to revert to the status quo or to the status quo ante where we could have another reorganization,” Obispo said stressing that the DILG legal opinion clarified that the 3 ex-officio members in SP have no power to vote during a committee reorganization.
“According to our Internal Rules and Procedure they have the same powers and functions as the regular members on matters of passing local legislations and deliberations but not on extraordinary matter of committee reorganization” she said referring to ex-officio SP board members Ireneo Boongaling, Angelo Eduarte and Iris Armando who head the provincial federation of the barangays, the municipal councilors and the youth councils respectively in the province.
She said that excluding the 3 ex-officio members leaves 5 members of them – Obispo, Donaldo Suarez, Reynante Arrogancia, Rhodora Tan and Maria Yllana Liwanag-Asistio - with SP vice governor and presiding officer Sam Nantes acting to ‘break a tie’ in any issue and would make the SP proceeding smooth again with its standing committees.
Obispo who earlier had disclosed her intention to aspire for the higher post of vice governor in the May 2022 elections said that “if given the chance to get elected as vice governor, I will try to revisit the SP Internal Rules and Procedure so that there will be no room anymore for confused interpretation.”
Obispo appealed anew to her SP colleagues to reconsider the 2020 reenacted budget and pass the proposed 2021 provincial annual budget for the sake of their constituents who are suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Obispo and her 4 other allied colleagues believe that the committee reorganization that took place in September last year is not valid so they asked the opinion of the DILG for clarification.
DILG Undersecretary Mario Iringan has issued DILG Opinion No. 100 Series of 2021 on Aug. 5 in answer to the letter of board member Suarez who asked 3 questions for clarification if the SP reorganization in Sept. last year was valid:
The DILG answered that 3 ex-officio members are not allowed to vote in the organization and reorganization of standing committees as they are considered non-partisan local officials; furthermore, since they cannot vote, the DILG said only 5 regular members were supposed to have participated in the September reorganization with one of them acting as presiding officer which made it questionable; and that the designation of administrative personnel as acting SP Secretariat in the absence of SP Legislative staff does not render the session void or irregular.
The DILG legal opinion was understood and interpreted by the 8 other fellow board members –Sonny Ubana and his colleagues Jerry Talaga Jr., Elizabeth Sio, Romano Franco Talaga, Roderick Magbuhos, Boongaling, Eduarte and Armando - to be favorable to them and they claimed that the reorganization they conducted last year was valid and in order.
They said that the DILG opinion has cited the application of the exception to the general rule which is contained in the Internal Rules of Procedure (IRP) of SP that specifically provides that under Sec.3, Rule 1, both regular and ex-officio members have equal rights, power and functions in any SP deliberations.
On Aug. 25, it was the turn of Eduarte, Boongaling and Armando to send a letter-request for legal opinion of the DILG citing the DILG Opinion No. 34 issued on July 11, 2011 that Ex-Officio members of SP are non-partisan but they added an exception which is “if the SP’s duly approved IRP expressly allows the ex-officio members to do so.”
They said that it appears that the person who requested the DILG Opinion No. 100 did not disclose the duly approved IRP of the SP particularly Sec. 3 Rule 1 provision.
The controversial SP reorganization led to the rejection of the P3.875 billion 2021 provincial annual budget and the reenactment of the 2020 budget.
The 8 SP members led by Ubana maintained that the 2021 proposed annual budget is not in line with COVID-19 response and contains questionable lump sums in various budgetary allocations.