FRONTPAGE
SP clips VM power


The function of the city vice mayor of Dumaguete has been clipped by the new majority of the City Council in that the Vice Mayor should focus on his role as an impartial presiding officer. He can no longer relinquish his chair to participate in council deliberations unless authorized by the majority vote.

After a passionate and sometimes pointed 6- hour debate to finalize its internal rules of procedure, the City Council of Dumaguete passed a set of rules that will govern the proper and transparent conduct of the legislative body and its members, especially the vice mayor.

The absence of Vice- Mayor Franklin Esmena, enabled the majority to limit the vice mayor’s role and powers during deliberations almost unchallenged.

Amid serious reservations of his allies Councilors Agustin Perdices and Jose Victor Imbo, the majority decided to amend the rules to the effect that the Vice-Mayor could no longer unilaterally relinquish his post and appoint a temporary Presiding Officer, author an ordinance and participate in the debates and deliberations and vote on pending measures and questions unless approved by the majority.

JUSTIFIED

Councilors Karissa Tolentino, Alan Cordova and Joe Kenneth Arbas justify the new rules as being consistent with section 49 of the Local Government Code of 1991 which provides that the Vice-mayor shall preside the session and vote only to break a tie, and if he/she is incapable the Sanggunian elects a Temporary Presiding Officer in his absence.

Imbo and Perdices pointed out that the same law does not ban him from appointing a Temporary Presiding Officer so he could join the deliberations as a member of the Sanggunian.

Arbas countered that the main role of the Vicemayor is to preside the session in a non-partisan manner which requires objectivity, but he risks losing it if he joins the debates.

PRIVILEGE HOUR

Ultimately the majority decided that “except to avail himself of the privilege hour or to rise on a question of privilege, upon approval of the majority of the members present, the vice-mayor may relinquish the Chair to any member of the Sanggunian who shall act as Temporary Presiding Officer in order to take part of the deliberations and to cast vote in such capacity.”

Councilors Cordova, Tolentino, Estanislao Alviola, Michael Bandal, Arbas, Lani Ramon voted in favor of the amendments to the rules.

Councilors Agustin Perdices Jr. and Manuel Sagarbarria Jr. opposed while Councilors Imbo and Manuel Arbon abstained.

The internal rules also requires the Vice-mayor only to make “brief remarks, comments and clarificatory questions on any measure pending deliberation by te body, provided that in the course of thereof, he shall not express himself either for or against the said measure or question.”

ABSENCES

One of the ticklish issues lengthily debated pertained to the proposed amendment of Tolentino to require members who cast an abstention to explain otherwise such vote will be converted in favor of the pending proposal.

Councilors Perdices, Arbon, Arbas and Imbo bristled at the thought that abstentions if not explained shall be treated as affirmative votes as a form of sanction or penalty. They also raised their objections on another proposal that any member who abstains shall be subjected to inquiry for his reasons or lack thereof.

ABSTENTIONS

Cordova and Alviola said that there are likely four reasons why a member of the Sanggunian would abstain and these could be due to: personal, legal, conflict of interest or as a political strategy. There were also instances when some councilors actively join the debates only to abstain during voting which seemingly trivializes the whole process of lawmaking.

The abstentions issue was so sensitive that the Sanggunian had to vote on it three times before finally passing the more acceptable provision that simply states “any member who is present and who abstains may state his or her reason for abstaining,” a victory of sorts for the fence-sitters quipped a visibly irritated councilor.


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