NOTE: THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE BOHOL CHRONICLE’S SUNDAY PRINT EDITION.
The Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP), unfazed by mounting public outcry and with stubborn insistence will pursue its “need” to purchase a new fleet of vehicles for its fourteen members amid a rising number of covid-19 cases in the province.
Vice Governor and SP Presiding Officer Rene Relampagos gave weight to politics as the prevalent reason for the public hostility to the purchase of fourteen SUVs worth an estimated PhP24 million.
The public uproar over the “untimely purchase” of new vehicles by the SP exploded on the heels of the sudden surge of Covid-19 cases reaching up to 398 cases as of 7:00 AM, April 17, 2021, with 327 classified as local transmission.
Although Relampagos said that he “respects the opinion of the public,” he couldn’t set aside “views that are politically motivated considering that elections are approaching.”
Relampagos did not elaborate on how he perceives adverse public views as “politically motivated.” but harped on past criticisms over vehicle purchases in previous administrations.
“It is always a knee-jerk reaction of our political rivals with their sinister intention to put us in a bad light,” said Relampagos.
The Vice Governor also revealed that the SP was one in approving the vehicle purchase except for Senior Board Member (BM) Dionisio Victor Balite, who was under quarantine due to his close contact with his covid positive staff member, but expressed his strong opposition while 2nd District BM Frans Gelaine Garcia and 3rd District BM Jone Jade Bautista, both on official business manifested their agreement of the vehicle purchase.
However, 1st District Representative Lucille Lagunay released a statement clarifying her stand on the purchase of new vehicles for the SP members denying that she was in “favor of purchasing them now.”
Recognizing the urgent need of her colleagues for new vehicles, Lagunay stressed that “if the majority decides to purchase the vehicles now, I will direct that the new unit assigned to my office shall be used by the Office of the Provincial Social Welfare and Development (OPSWD) to augment the government’s effort in the delivery of social services.”
Lagunay chairs the SP committee on social services, zoning urban and rural development.
3rd District BM Balite committed to defying the planned purchase of the new vehicles even as the province is bracing against a threatening upswing of locally transmitted covid cases and the lack of vaccines.
1st District BM Ricky Masamayor said that half of the board members have no service vehicles even as the rest are enduring rides on under-maintained vehicles putting their lives on the line.
On May 12, 2020, 1st District BM Aldner Damalerio sponsored a resolution to defer the purchase of 14 vehicles worth PhP24 million and re-aligned the budget to cover the pandemic expenses of the province.
A day after the resolution was passed Bohol recorded its 2nd confirmed covid case from an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) after the first recorded covid case in Central Visayas and the third in the country was recorded by a woman from Wuhan, China admitted at a private hospital in Tagbilaran City.
At that time, Bohol was under a general community quarantine after a harrowing 49 days of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) starting March 16, 2020, that was lifted on May 4, 2020.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) granted the SP the authority to purchase the 14 vehicles signed by Undersecretary for Local Government Mario Iringan.
Under DILG Memorandum Circular No. 2021-004 dated January 18, 2021, purchase of vehicles shall be limited to engine displacement not exceeding 15000cc for gasoline-fed or 2500cc for diesel-fed.
All LGU’s are prohibited from acquiring or using luxury vehicles for their operations. (Chito M. Visarra)