Governor Arthur Yap has kept mum on the provincial government’s controversial purchase of 14 vehicles for members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) and its presiding officer Vice Governor Rene Relampagos.
“We should give the Sangguniang Panlalawigan a chance to respond to these questions,” Yap, during his weekly press briefing on Friday, said when asked for his thoughts on calls for “delicadeza” in the planned purchase of pickup trucks for the offices of the government officials amid the persisting pandemic.
According to Yap, he would rather let the SP led by Relamapagos comment on the issue considering that the decision to carry out the purchase was made by the legislative body and not the “provincial government.”
“This is the decision of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan tungod kay this is not a procurement of the provincial government, mao gi respeto nako ang decision sa Sanggunian,” Yap said.
Both the SP and the Office of the Governor are part of the provincial government comprising the co-equal legislative and executive branches, respectively.
Relampagos had also earlier noted that the allotment for the purchase of the vehicles will be sourced through the 2021 annual budget.
The budget was approved by the SP and signed by the governor.
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) also addressed and sent its Department Authority to Yap earlier this month, authorizing the provincial government to push through with the vehicle’s purchase.
“This refers to your request for a Department Authority to purchase 14 units pick-up type vehicle, for the official use of the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, that province,” the DILG said in the authorization addressed to the governor and dated March 9, 2021.
Procurement of the vehicles for the lawmakers and Relampagos was supposed to be carried out in 2020 but was deferred due to the pandemic.
The SP is now set to push through with the procurement after allocation for the purchase was made through the 2021 budget and after Yap received the DILG authorization.
Meanwhile, Yap, in the same briefing, instead laid out allocations for Bohol’s COVID-19 response, noting that the province has earmarked P1.2 billion for battling the pandemic.
“If we did not spend our money properly, I don’t think we will produce this type of results,” Yap said.
However, part of the highlighted allocations already included P654 million for the Capitol’s hospital modernization program, which was conceptualized even before the pandemic broke out and was part of the flagship programs presented by Yap when he took over as governor in 2019.
According to Peter Retutal of the Provincial Budget Office, the province spent last year P66 million for PPEs and reagents, P154.6 million for food assistance, P6.9 million for medicines, P149,296 for transportation expenses, P774,575 for accommodation for medical personnel, P29.2 million financial assistance for stranded Boholanos, P28.8 million for medical equipment, P18.7 million for testing facilities and P25.7 million for “other necessary COVID-19 expenses.”
He said that P30 million from the realigned budget for the supposed purchase of vehicles and other expenses of the SP last year was also used to augment the province’s COVID-19 funds.
For 2021, the province earmarked P231.4 million for COVID-19 response.
Budget for operational expenses for hospitals under the province’s administration also ballooned from P453 million in 2020 to P710 million in 2021.
“You can recognize the spike in the budget given to hospitals just to beef up the capacities of hospitals to respond to our COVID-19 pandemic,” Retutal said.
Delicadeza amid pandemic
The planned purchase of vehicles for the offices of the lawmakers and the vice governor has drawn heavy flak from the public due to the timing of the procurement amid the pandemic which has led to an economic slump and loss of livelihood.
Three previous news articles posted by the Chronicle on the issue have drawn over a thousand comments with netizens united in denouncing the move for its insensitivity to the plight of those affected by the pandemic.
“This is clearly a fact that most in politics uses it’s power to shovel the money of the people and dig us more to poverty. So sad that we have them in our province,” said Maricar Juezan.
“24 million pesos pra sa ilang sakyanan samtang ang mga bolanon gakamalisod ky wa nay ipalit pagkaon ky perting mahala nawad an pag mga trabaho tungod sa pandemic,” Rain Felicity said.
“Sad, they already have the privileges, allowances and incentives (free amd sagot sa govt) that they can use if mobilization lamg gani hisgutan. I don’t think apil sakyanan na worth millions then tagsa pajud. Especially pandemic, nga gi bawal ang too much movements sa mga tawo ug mostly zoom meetings na ang mode of communication apil sa govt. Ginagmay nalang ang face to face na mudung jd sila id the there’s a need gyud. So para asa pa man ang sakyanan,” said Charmaine Tac-an.
“PUBLIC SERVICE – Ang public mao mupalit sa ilang service. Yahaya,” added Dex Bolit. (RT)