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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE proposal to convert provincial and district hospitals into economic enterprise is another stumbling block to the passage of the Iloilo provincial government’s P1.3-billion budget for 2010.

Vice Governor Rolex T. Suplico said they need more time to study the executive department’s proposal to turn the Iloilo Provincial Hospital in Pototan town and 5 district hospitals into income-generating entities.

Suplico said the proposal is included in the 2010 budget which he finds strange as they have yet to pass a provincial ordinance allowing the conversion of the hospitals into economic enterprises.

“It’s already in the 2010 budget which is a case of putting the cart before the horse. We don’t have an ordinance on economic enterprises yet. So we need to study this proposal carefully before we can approve the 2010 budget,” Suplico said.

Suplico said the provincial will have to operate on a reenacted budget until they have passed a new budget next year.

The vice governor said provincial Board Members Rodolfo Cabado, June Mondejar and Shalene Hidalgo, who are sympathetic to Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr., agreed to study further the proposed economic enterprise.

The opposition dominated Sangguniang Panlalawigan is wary that Tupas’ proposal will deprive poor patients of health services if hospitals charge fees on all services offered.

Suplico said provincial and district hospitals are supposed to help the poor, not earn profit from their operations.

Earlier, Board Member Arthur R. Defensor Jr., vice chair of the committee on appropriations, said they have no time left to pass the 2010 budget because the extra cash gift and allowances of volunteer health workers consumed their remaining session days.

In a statement, Provincial Administrator Manuel P. Mejorada said money-making is not the ultimate purpose of the plan to convert hospitals into economic enterprises.

“What the province hopes to achieve is empower our hospitals to become self-sustaining enterprises that can vastly improve their infrastructure and medical facilities to better serve the Ilonggo people. The concept of economic enterprises is enshrined in the Local Government Code of 1991. Local government unites are encouraged to embark on income generating activities to help raise revenues aside from taxes,” Mejorada said.

Mejorada said hospitals “will invest in private rooms, state-of-the-art equipment, well-trained hospital staff and efficient laboratories so that patients who can afford the services will patronize them.”

Such upgrading will require heavy investments, and the cost can be recovered through the long term with revenues generated from paying patients.

Poor patients will still enjoy affordable or free hospital services as the expected rise in income will help shoulder the cost for charity services.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Commission on Audit (CoA) has reminded the Iloilo provincial government and more than 11,000 volunteer health workers (VHW) to refund the P23.2-million financial assistance given out December 2008.

In its Notice of Disallowance No. 09-011-100 (08) dated November 20, 2009, the audit agency said the financial assistance to VHWs has no legal basis as the provincial government was operating under a reenacted budget.

The office of Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr. received a copy of the notice of disallowance November 23.

The provincial government reenacted the 2007 budget after the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) ruled the 2008 annual budget as entirely inoperative.

The grants were given to the volunteer health workers December 2008 after the Sangguniang Panlalawigan approved Supplemental Budget No. 1 per Appropriation Ordinance No. 2008-08.

The DBM had also declared the grant to VHWs as inoperative since the provincial government was operating on a reenacted budget. Since there was no annual budget, the SP cannot pass a supplemental budget.

The CoA 2008 Annual Audit Report on the Iloilo provincial government also pointed out the same flaw in the release of the VHWs’ allowances.

The CoA provincial office also issued an audit observation memorandum regarding the financial assistance.

CoA also held Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr., Vice Gov. Rolex T. Suplico, the Iloilo provincial board and other Capitol officials liable for releasing the allowances to the VHWs sans legal basis.

A total of 11,659 barangay service point officers, barangay nutrition scholars and barangay health workers received P2,000 each from the Capitol for their allowances.

Gov. Tupas has refused to refund the P23.2 million fund claiming it was released to VHWs in good faith.

Meanwhile, the P23.8-million financial assistance to VHWs for 2009 is still pending with the committee on appropriations of the provincial board.

Tupas had accused his nephew, Vice Gov. Suplico of deliberately delaying the approval of the P180-million Supplemental Budget No. 1 where the assistance is included.

But Suplico debunked his uncle’s claim as he is neither the chairman nor a member of the appropriations committee anymore.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

“CASES filed against me are invigorating.”

 

This was the reaction of Governor Niel Tupas Sr. to the administrative complaint filed by his nephew, Vice Governor Rolex Suplico with the Office of the President.

 

Suplico sued his uncle before the Office of the President for abuse of authority, grave misconduct, culpable violation of the Constitution, dereliction of duty and other charges for reenacting the 2008 annual and supplemental budget despite the passage of the 2009 budget.

 

“I welcome the case. We all know what his motives are. He wants to stir my administration. Anyway, I get stronger when there are controversies. It is his right to file cases but I know that my actions are right,” Tupas said.

 

Tupas said the 2009 budget is illegal and inimical to public welfare after the SP slashed appropriations necessary for capitol operations.

 

He also questioned the P55-million fund for the hazard pay of public health workers which was not reflected in the governor’s proposed executive budget.

 

Tupas reenacted the 2008 budget and the 20% Internal Revenue Allotment development fund via Executive Order 1-2009.

 

Thus Suplico accused the governor of usurping the powers of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to enact annual and supplementary budgets.

 

The vice governor said Tupas became the “dictator of Iloilo” by ignoring the 2009 budget embodied in Appropriations Ordinance No. 2008-5 and imposing the EO sans a valid court order or directive from the Department of Budget and Management.

 

Suplico lodged his case Tuesday with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) regional office which in turn will send it to the office of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

 

Ermita will first determine if there is probable cause to investigate the case before assigning it to appropriate agencies like the DILG or the Office of the Ombudsman.

 

HEALTH CONDITION

 

In a separate interview with Bombo Radyo-Iloilo, Tupas belied reports that his health is declining reason why he frequents his doctor.

 

The governor said his meetings with his physician are part of his regular executive checkup.

 

“At the age of 76, I can still play (lawn) tennis for two hours. The checkups are part of my routine to protect my health which I believe is the greatest wealth we can have,” he added.

 

Tupas said he is also preparing for the 2010 elections. The governor is reportedly running against 4th district Rep. Ferjenel Biron next year.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

IT’S like being trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea.

 

Constrained by a standing order from Governor Niel Tupas Sr. not to appear before the hearing on the 2009 executive budget, several department heads have secretly communicated with Vice Governor Rolex Suplico in a bid to justify their allocations next year.

 

Suplico, committee of appropriations chair, said seven heads of various capitol departments have secretly reached out to him since last week to explain their respective proposed budgets.

 

Suplico said the department heads, whom he did not name lest they earn Tupas’ ire, contacted him via phone before and after the budget hearings.

 

But since they justified their budgets outside of the hearing proper, Suplico said their testimonies will not be considered in the approval of the budget.

 

“There could be a chance that we will have to slash certain portions of the 2009 budget because of the failure of the capitol department heads to appear during the formal hearings. We cannot conduct voodoo or secret hearings because we are talking about people’s money here,” the vice governor said.

 

Tupas had issued an order that only the members of the Local Finance Committee (LFC) shall defend the executive budget before the SP.

 

The LFC is composed of provincial budget officer Elena Lim Budget, provincial planning and development officer Mario Nillos and provincial treasurer Corazon Beloria.

 

Representatives from the Provincial Legal Office were also allowed to attend the hearings to help in discussions on legalities.

 

Provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada said they will not allow department heads to appear before the budget hearings “because they end up being scolded, insulted and embarrassed” by the appropriations committee.

 

The Daily Guardian tried to reach several department heads to comment on their situation but they declined.

 

Yesterday, two department heads attempted to attend and defend their budgets before the appropriations committee but they later went out of the session hall.

 

Suplico said the committee only wants the department heads to explain in detail their proposed projects and expenses next year.

 

The vice governor in particular wants to know the specifics of the capital outlay, which is used to buy furniture, fixture and other equipment, for various departments.

 

“We only want the department heads to explain and itemize their expenses. This is taxpayers’ money and everything must be deliberated in the full glare of the public. The committee cannot engage in guess work when it comes to the budget,” Suplico said.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE second round of the “budget war” between the executive and legislative branches of the Iloilo provincial government has begun.

 

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan began deliberating Thursday last week the 2009 executive budget submitted by Governor Niel Tupas Sr.

 

Vice Governor Rolex Suplico, committee on appropriations chair, summoned the various department heads in the executive branch to rationalize and defend their budget proposals for next year.

 

But not one of the department heads showed up in the hearing.

 

Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada said only the Local Finance Committee will appear before the provincial board during the budget deliberations, not the department heads.

 

Mejorada said it would be useless to send the department heads to the SP “because they will end up being humiliated, scolded and embarrassed” by the opposition-dominated board.

 

“No matter how the department heads will explain their budget proposals, Vice Governor Suplico will insist on what he wants,” Mejorada said.

 

Suplico sarcastically said over Bombo Radyo-Iloilo that he will just “ask the trees” regarding the 2009 proposed budget after the department heads did not show up.

 

The vice governor also denied insulting or embarrassing capitol executives during budget hearings.

 

“We are just doing our job and we formally invited the department heads,” he added.

 

The 2008 budget has been declared inoperative in its entirety because of the conflict between the SP and Tupas.

 

The provincial government is now operating under the re-enacted 2007 budget. 

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE marathon hearing on the administrative complaint filed by provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada against Iloilo vice governor Rolex T. Suplico is open to the media.

 

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) legal officer Ferdinand Panes said they will allow the media to cover the hearing November 11-14 at the DILG regional office.

 

Panes said an investigator from the DILG national office will conduct the probe while the regional office will serve as venue and facilitator.

 

Mejorada rapped Suplico for alleged oppression and harassment when the latter instigated the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to delete the allocation for the provincial administrator’s office in the 2008 annual budget. 

 

G. J. Emeterio S. Moreno, Jr., director III of the DILG legal office, informed the parties about the formal investigation which will put to test the disciplining power of the President over local officials under Administrative Order No. 23, series of 1992.

 

Moreno asked the parties to be present during the hearings to present their witnesses and evidences, stressing that no postponement will be allowed.

 

As complainant, Mejorada expressed confidence that the case will prosper despite the long wait. The case was filed last February 7 this year.

 

“It is clear that there is merit in the case,” Mejorada said. “Otherwise, the DILG would have dismissed the case outright.”

 

Mejorada described as “empty bravura” the reaction of Suplico in describing the case as “baseless”.

 

“Even the most hardened of criminals would usually dismiss the cases against them as ‘baseless’,” he said.

 

In his complaint, Mejorada charged Suplico with oppression, misconduct in office and abuse of authority in pushing for the deletion of the budgetary appropriation for his position as provincial administrator in Appropriation Ordinance No. 2008-01-a.

 

Mejorada said this action made by Suplico was an apparent act of political vendetta against the most trusted lieutenant of Governor Niel D. Tupas, Sr.

 

“These are acts of oppression, misconduct and abuse of authority,” Mejorada said.

 

The “glaring hostility” displayed by Suplico against him was evident when the vice governor gave media interviews stating that he would make the provincial administrator go through a “needle’s hole” when his appointment goes before the Sanggunian, Mejorada said.

 

He also cited the privilege speech delivered by Suplico on September 4, 2007 in which the latter described him as an “impostor” and a “swindler” for continuing to occupy the position as provincial administrator.

 

In that speech, Suplico had vowed to push for the deletion of Mejorada’s salary appropriation in the 2008 annual budget. Suplico made good on his promise when he pushed for the enactment of Appropriation Ordinance No. 2008-01-a, he pointed out.

 

Mejorada said he will submit affidavits executed by no less than Suplico himself in which he admitted pushing for the removal of the budget appropriation for the salary of provincial administrator.

 

The President can suspend Suplico for six months if the complaint is warranted by the facts and evidence, according to legal experts.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

CAPITOL employees will have to wait for sometime before they can enjoy the 10 percent increase in their salaries.

Governor Niel Tupas Sr. said he will not veto Appropriations Ordinance No. 2-2008 passed by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Tuesday.

But the governor said he will not sign the measure and will wait for the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to rule on the legality of the ordinance.

AO No. 2 authorizes the governor to use some P37 million for the salary increase of Capitol workers.

Even if the governor does not act on the appropriations ordinance, it will take effect a5 days after Tupas received a copy of the measure.

Tupas said he cannot put his imprimatur on the ordinance “because it is illegal.”

“I cannot implement this ordinance because what I submitted was a supplemental budget,” the governor said.

Vice Governor Rolex Suplico said the Sanggunian did not approve Supplemental Budget No. 1 because the Local Government Code prohibits such measures under a reenacted budget.

Suplico said they passed AO No. 2 in keeping with Executive Order 719 which ordered the 10 percent salary increase for government workers.

Board Member Rodolfo Cabado, who abstained from voting on AO No. 2, said he supports any moves to increase the salary of capitol workers “but this ordinance has legal infirmities.”

Cabado brokered the executive meeting between the Tupas, Suplico, the board members and DBM assistant regional director Alfonso Bedonia in an effort to thresh out the budget impassé.

A ranking official of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG-6) said only the governor can propose budgets which will be deliberated and approved by the Sanggunian.

As regards the case of the Capitol, the DILG executive said Tupas should have submitted an annual budget instead of a supplemental budget.

Capitol employees said they will wait for the results of the DBM review on AO No. 2 even as they hope to receive their salary differential beginning July 1.

“At least the Sanggunian approved the ordinance and the governor did not veto it. We can still wait some more until the DBM reviews the ordinance,” an employee said.

The budget impassé was triggered by the decision of the DBM to declare the 2008 budget as inoperative. The DBM ruling forced the provincial government to operate using the reenacted 2007 budget which is not enough to cover the 10 percent salary increase.

Vice Governor Rolex Suplico ushers his uncle Governor Niel Tupas Sr. inside the session hall before the executive meeting on the supplemental budget. (FAA)

Vice Governor Rolex Suplico ushers his uncle Governor Niel Tupas Sr. inside the session hall before the executive meeting on the supplemental budget. (FAA)

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE much-hyped meeting between Governor Niel Tupas Sr. and Vice Governor Rolex Suplico Wednesday did not break the budget standoff between the executive and legislative departments.

But the meeting somehow gave the top officials probable options to prevent the provincial government from running out of funds for the salaries and wages of employees.

The closed-door executive conference was held at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan session hall past 3pm with Alfonso Bedonia, Department of Budget and Management (DBM) assistant regional director, as the main resource person.

Capitol department heads who accompanied Tupas in the meeting were provincial legal officer Salvador Cabaluna III, provincial treasurer Corazon Beloria, provincial budget officer Elena Lim and provincial planning and development officer Mario Nillos.

Also present were board members Jeneda Salcedo, Jett Rojas, Macario Napulan, June Mondejar, Richard Garin, Rodolfo Cabado and Shalene Hidalgo.

The main topic of the meeting was the augmentation and supplemental budget Tupas submitted to the SP to replenish funds for Capitol operations.

A budget impasse is gripping the provincial government after the DBM declared as inoperative the 2008 budget approved by the SP.

Thus, the Capitol is now operating on the reenacted 2007 budget which is limited only to appropriations for salaries and wages of existing positions; statutory and contractual obligations; and essential operating expenses authorized in the annual and supplemental budgets for the preceding year.

Suplico said the Local Government Code prohibits approval of augmentation or supplemental budgets under a reenacted budget.

But Bedonia said the DBM might agree with a supplemental budget for the salaries increase of capitol employees since it is part of the mandatory expenses allowed under a reenacted budget.

The national government recently approved a 10-percent salary increase for all national and local public employees.

Bedonia said DBM Secretary Rolando Andaya will review the supplemental budget once it is approved by the SP.

Suplico said they have two options to make to solve the problem – pass the entire supplemental budget or approve the appropriations for the salaries and wages of workers.

The vice governor said they will carefully study the issue so that they will not be charged with illegal disbursement of funds.

The Iloilo provincial capitol at night (Photo by Tara Yap)

The Iloilo provincial capitol at night (Photo by Tara Yap)

 

 

Capitol workers ask guv, SP

to give pay raise, benefits

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

WILL the executive and legislative branches of the Iloilo provincial government set aside their differences and work together for the welfare of the ordinary Capitol workers? 

This question is being posed to top Capitol officials as provincial rank and file employees appealed to Governor Niel Tupas Sr. and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to grant compensation adjustments due them.

In an open letter addressed to the governor and the provincial board, some 200 Capitol workers asked the executive and legislative departments “to kindly seek solutions once and for all to remedy the conflicting situation that put the employees as well as the whole people of the province of Iloilo in deep sufferings and burdens brought about by the 2008 budget controversy.”

Among the benefits being asked by the Capitol workers from the provincial government which remain pending because of the budget lockout are:

         compensation adjustment for local government workers as mandated by Executive Order No. 719;

         mandatory step increments of some employees;

         mandatory loyalty pay of employees working for the provincial government for 10 years;

         anniversary bonus.

The workers said the benefits they are asking will ease their burdens in the aftermath of Typhoon Frank, spiraling prices of oil increases in tuition fees and school materials.     

The signatories said they are “neutral as far as political affiliations are concerned.”

“We take impartiality in dealing with both the executive and legislative bodies. We don’t want to hurt anybody while pleasing anybody. We just want to claim what is due us,” they said.

SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET

Provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada said they are now preparing the request for a P95-million supplemental budget for the salary and wages of Capitol employees.

The supplemental budget will include P17 million for the salaries, P267,000 for wages, P2 million-benefits, P1.9 million-GSIS payments, P78,000-Philhealth premiums, and P15 million-other benefits (monetization of leave credits).

Other items in the supplemental budget are P4.46 million for the food of Iloilo Rehabilitation Center inmates, P2.5 million for fuel and lubricants of the provincial truck team, P26.2 million for barangay workers and volunteers, P19 million for the development fund and P4.77 million for the calamity fund.

Mejorada said he agrees with the contentions of the workers in the open letter even as he expressed support for their please.

“We will do everything for the workers by giving them what is due them despite this budget conflict,” Mejorada said.

The provincial government is operating under the 2007 reenacted budget after the Department of Budget and Management declared as inoperative the 2008 budget approved by the SP.

The budget impasse is seen to result in a budget shortfall which is likely to affect the salaries, wages and benefits of Capitol workers.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ILOILO vice governor Rolex T. Suplico simply cannot wash his hands over the current provincial budget impasse and put the blame on Governor Niel D. Tupas Sr., provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada said yesterday.

“The ball is now in the hands of Vice Governor Suplico, and he needs to make clear what his next move would be,” Mejorada said as he lamented what he described as the vice governor’s “intransigence” over the issue of the budget ordinance.

Mejorada said the rulings made by Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) that the twin ordinances enacted by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan are “inoperative in its entirety” put the matter back into Suplico’s hands.

The DBM’s rulings upheld the position adopted by Tupas on pertinent portions of appropriations ordinances nos. 2008-01-a and 2008-01-b when he vetoed both measures as being illegal and prejudicial to the public welfare, he said.

“Now that the DBM has ruled against these ordinances, it is incumbent upon Suplico and his allies in the Sanggunian to accept responsibility for their actions,” he said.

The provincial government needs some P20 million for the salaries, wages and other benefits of Capitol workers following the 10 percent salary increase for national and local employees.

Another P2 million is needed for the monetization of leave credits for provincial government workers who were affected by typhoon Frank.

Mejorada chastised Suplico for his “moral cowardice” in blaming the Tupas administration for the looming prospect that the existing appropriations for salaries and benefits of provincial officials and employees will not be enough to cover mandated increases this year.

He said he found it “funny” that Suplico would toss the blame on the governor when he said that this impasse could not have happened if only his uncle did not veto the two appropriations ordinances.

“What he is saying is that the governor should have swallowed his defective and invalid ordinances just so the employees can get their mandated salary increases,” he pointed out.

That is not the cure to the budgetary problems of the province, he said.

Mejorada said the vice governor and provincial board should now “lay down their cards” before Tupas so the latter will know if it is still practicable to resubmit the Executive Budget and bring back a sense of normalcy at the capitol.

“The next move is his,” he said.

Suplico said they noticed that the executive juggled funds for employee benefits by embedding appropriations in unfilled positions only to be realigned for cash gifts and other bonuses.

Suplico said they corrected the practice in appropriation ordinance 2008-1-a by deleting the budget for unfilled positions and allocating the funds for cash gifts.

The vice governor said the SP will only act on what the governor will submit to their attention to solve the looming fiscal crisis for the salaries and wages of Capitol workers.

(Visit www.thedailyguardian.com for more news)

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