Friday, November 23, 2007

City officials at odds over bid to buy luxury vehicles

By DEXTER A. SEE - Manila Bulletin

BAGUIO CITY – Officials of this mountain resort city are blaming each other for the allegedly railroaded appropriation of P19.6 million for the purchase of luxury cars which would serve as their service vehicles.

The members of the city council are now the subject of public criticism over their allegedly self-serving action.

Earlier, Mayor Reinaldo A. Bautista Jr. denied that he has knowledge of the council’s appropriation of funds for the purchase of vehicles for their official use.

Councilor Galo Weygan admitted having authored the ordinance appropriating the amount for the purchase of the vehicles, but he said it was with the knowledge and consent of the city mayor and the other members of the city council.

It was learned that the plan to buy service vehicles for all elected city officials was discussed during an out-of-town executive-legislative planning workshop held in Subic recently.

Subsequently, the matter was again deliberated at several meetings in the city and even in the mayor’s office, it was learned.

Under the controversial car plan, the city mayor’s office was allotted P4.6 million for the purchase of a brand-new service vehicle, while the members of the city council, including the vice mayor, were allotted P1 million each.

Earlier, various sectors in the city vehemently denounced the use of public funds for the purchase of luxury service vehicles for the city officials, calling the act "immoral and improper," and accusing the officials of abuse of authority.

The P19.6 million earmarked to buy the service vehicles of city officials was taken from the P25.2-million internal revenue allotment (IRA) surplus of the city government.

It was noted that only P5.6 million was appropriated by the city council for the implementation of infrastructure projects of some barangays.

Councilor Erdolfo Balajadja said that the city government no longer needs additional dump trucks to improve garbage collection.

The concerned sectors proposed that instead of buying luxury vehicles for local officials, the city government utilizes the fund for the purchase of five dump trucks to improve the collection of garbage in the city’s 128 barangays.

Bautista said that he was surprised to know that his office was allotted P4.6 million for the purchase of a new service vehicle, adding he does not know the intention of the council in including his office as a beneficiary of the controversial appropriation measure.

Certain City Hall quarters said some city officials are now trying to look for scapegoats to save themsevles from criticisms by the residents.

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