Council maiden session opened with a ‘Big Bang’ PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 21 July 2016 14:43

Table Talk

BY Mike S Apostol

Listening yesterday morning to a live radio coverage on the 2016 on the city council’s maiden session, like Table Talk and other concerned listeners may have mixed feelings and reactions on the historic affair. During the inauguration, some of the speeches of newly elected city councilors were just “breaking the ice” to the humor of the audience and not so much of what they intend to legislate for the betterment of the city. Although it is understandable as neophyte legislators, but what really the public wants to hear in 3 minutes, the time allotted for each elected councilor, is what legislation will they enact to help solve the city’s pressing problems. Table Talk as a voter from District 1 is expressing an honest observation and not to malign the city councilors who are mostly acquaintances.

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The “big bang” happened during their maiden session for Fiscal Year 2016. A “bombshell” was unleashed by veteran Councilor Atty. Cesar “Sang” Jimenez, when he questioned the presence of Councilor Charlie Mariano, who allegedly is facing  a legal problem that is allegedly “executory” which is a violation of the City Council House Rules, not to mention the Civil Service Law.  Councilor Mariano defended himself from Jimenez’ allegation through a privilege “Point of Order” and opined that his presence can only be stopped with an order from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) tasked by law to rule on any election controversy, where a legally elected official is a subject of complaint, and no other government agencies shall be involved. In the opinion of legal luminaries that “when the subject of complaint is not an election related matter, the courts of the land and not the Comelec should decide”. The matter is now in the hands of the Presiding Officer of the City Council to use his utmost tact to decide on a complex matter and seek for a “win-win” solution to diffuse the political division at the City Council, which has already hampered the development of Zamboanga City.

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To stop the heated discussion and further widen the wedge between the two city council factions of “Red” and “Yellow” teams, the presiding officer Vice Mayor Iturralde immediately called for a close door executive session, a legislators “healing tool”. When it is a “close door” executive session, nobody is allowed entry, except the concerned legislators. What happened at the executive session, only the city legislators know, because legislators can always decree for secrecy and news blackout. But one thing is sure, the agenda for the maiden council session was not discussed and should not be taken for discussion during the executive session, because the agenda for the maiden session does not involve the security of the city and therefore should be treated as publicrecord. The City of Zamboanga lost another legislation day during the maiden session.

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What really triggered the “hot discussion” during the maiden session? Many political pundits in the city believe that “voting number” is the real cause. Between the “Red” and “Yellow” team city councilors, their voting strength is even and nothing will be approved at the city council when nobody breaks the tie or have a unanimous vote of approval. The only remedy at this early when no city councilor will bolt from his team is, eliminate one member from any team to make the voting strength of one team as “in advantage” or create a situation of a “tie voting” so the presiding officer can “break the tie”. And whatever team the presiding officer is allied to is in the advantage. But, it seems the “voting fight” at the city council is a hotly contested issue and involves the serious participation of some powerful and influential local benefactors and political handlers.

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One political remedy is: Invoke the authority given by the Local Government Code of additional sectoral representation at the local Legislative Body, as provided by a provision of our Philippine Constitution of “people’s consultation, representation and empowerment”. But again a congressional act is neeed to implement this provision and authority, and it maybe very, very expensive for the City.  Government of Zamboanga. The danger is no one can be sure of a loyal alliance. We might be adding the voting strength of our political rival.

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Scoop: The political rivalry at the City Council is far from over and many believe that this will not end this early and this is a political preparation for the next mid-term election three years from now. Whatever it is, brace yourselves for more exciting development at the City Council. The “Red” and  “Yellow” political teams will continue their show unless President “Digong” Duterte’s “Green” team will soon emerge as the “new political force” or “dark horse”. Agree or disagree.