BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – By Wilson Gamboa Jr.’s estimate, City Hall here had used at least P400 million in COVID-related expenses in only four months since quarantine measures took effect mid March this year.
Gamboa told DNX he wants to know how and where the money was spent for purchases during the crisis period that started since the Enhanced Community Quarantine in March until now when a modified general quarantine is still in effect.
Gamboa pointed out he had been requesting officials under the City Mayor’s Office to furnish the council breakdowns of the expenses they have incurred but he has not received any document so far.
He added he had made the same request to the city council in many of their sessions, a request that was just “duly noted.”
Gamboa is the lone opposition councilor who ran and won under the Alyansa Para Sa Buasdamlag sang Bacolodnon-Maghiliusa Kita sa Kauswagan (ABB-MKK or Alliance for the City’s Future) that fielded a full slate – from councilors to congressmen – led by former solon Monico Puentevella.
All, except Gamboa, lost.
Grupo Progreso, the dominant local party, has an overwhelming majority – the vice mayor who is presiding officer and the 11 councilors.
The youth and village federation representatives are perceived by some quarters as sympathetic to the ruling party.
Gamboa said the calamity fund of the city has also dwindled to only around P50 million even if it is only just a bit past midyear.
This means it is probable the city would run out of money if more calamities or disasters happen before the year ends, such as strong typhoons that usually enter the country during the last quarter of the year, he added.
Jose Maria Vargas, the City Hall executive who oversees the operations of the local disaster and risk reduction office, said Gamboa need not worry.
“The city still has enough money to spend for calamities,” Vargas told DNX.
But Gamboa warned officials who will not explain how the money was spent could face charges for violation of anti-graft laws.
“They could also be subject to the harsh judgment of the bar of oubkuc opinion,” he said
Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran, who also heads the local inter-agency task force, has not yet returned calls from DNX.