Members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) led by its presiding officer Vice Governor Rene Relampagos have agreed to push through with the acquisition of 14 vehicles for their offices amid strong opposition from the public which arose due to the timing of the purchase during the persisting COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Relampagos, all members of the SP voted in favor of the purchase of brand new pickup trucks except for Provincial Board (PB) Members Victor Balite, Frans Garcia and Jade Bautista who were not present during an executive session set by the vice governor on Tuesday.
The SP, which is dominated by allies of Relampagos and Governor Arthur Yap, has 13 members.
“Sa tanan na hing tambong, atong gitagsa-tagsa sila og pangutana unsay ilang opinion mahitungod aning issueha karon ug unsay ilang baruganan mahitungod niini, ug nagkahiusa sila,” Relampagos told media on Tuesday.
Garcia and Bautista who were out on official business had previously expressed support for the planned purchase.
Meanwhile, Balite who was was in quarantine reportedly due to his recent contact with his COVID-19-stricken staff member, vowed to oppose the impending purchase while the province continues to grapple with the global health crisis that has crippled the local economy.
“Mo supak gyud ko ani. Ako g’yud ning panghingusgan na dili gyud pwede,” Balite said in an interview over station dyRD’s “Inyong Alagad” on Wednesday.
“Kung akoy pabut-on, kung mahimo di sa lang ta mamalit galisod gani og hatag og pagkaon sa katawhan,” he added.
Relampagos has downplayed criticisms against the purchase saying that those opposing the move are only using the controversy to push their political agenda.
“Automatic man g’yud ang atong mga kaatbang sa pikas, mangita man g’yud og kahigayunan na ilang magamit to put us in a bad light,” he said.
Relampagos, in a earlier interview, also noted that maintaining the current service vehicles of the SP is costing more to maintain than to purchase new ones.
He said that the procurement was previously approved by the SP after service vehicles of “around six” members of the legislative body were noted to be in need of major repairs prompting the legislators to use their personal vehicles for official trips.
The current government-owned vehicles used by the PB members, which Relampagos estimated to be around a decade old, already have “questionable road worthiness” which may compromise their passengers’ safety.
“There is a difference between wanting and needing something, but in this case, this is a need,” he added.
Meanwhile, opposition against the purchase is not only limited to political rivals of the administration as hundreds of netizens flooded the comment sections of the Chronicle’s news articles on the purchase of the vehicles.
In over 800 comments, almost all of the statements were against the SP’s planned purchase of the vehicles amid the pandemic.
“If those are vehicles for public use like ambulance, or barangay vehicle to transport people to hospitals or at least transport LSIs and HCW, no citizen will condemn such purchase. BUT for officials who are being paid by taxpayers and who can afford to buy their own vehicles and can even afford to give out money during election, please say that to the marines. Don’t fool us,” said Shiela Maratas.
“Palit nalang ta mo ug vios or mirage or Hyundai para maka save, ayaw lang pud nang 4×4 nga SUV. Duyog pud mos kalisud sa mga bol anon uy. Among mga borders, mostly mga sales clerks, naa mga anak, halos di na mangaon kay way trabaho, way sweldo. Pati renta sa bay, tablado, unja kamo magsakay sakay ug SUV nga bag o taliwa sa pandemic? Medyo baga baga ra jud injung mga dagway,” another netizen said.
“Makapanghatag man gani kon election para botaran. Looya sa mga ordinaryong bol anon oi. Great reminder for this coming may2022 Salamat BM. Honorable mo kaayo,” Jaa Anejo said.
“Very insensitive move of this administration during this hardest time of pandemic. I urge Board Member Lagunay and Board Member Balite to refuse accepting this vehicles. You are the two whom I still believe you have good hearts,” added Jose Suello. (RT)