July 16, 2024

■  Hanna C. Lacsamana

“I said my piece, he said his piece. Let us be in peace.”

But despite obvious efforts to keep cool heads, tempers at the city council flared up again as members discussed a committee report regarding the committee chairmanships relating to the continued refusal of concerned councilors to accept their assigned committees.

The council was dispensing with the report of the committee on laws, human rights, and justice chaired by Councilor Jose Molintas during its June 3 session on the unsigned Resolution 220, s. 2024 requesting councilors Benny Bomogao; Leandro Yangot, Jr.; and Mylen Yaranon to explain in writing why they continue to reject their respective committee chairmanships in violation of the internal rules of the council.

In the committee report, Molintas recommended advising Bomogao, Yangot, and Yaranon to comply within five days with Resolution 200, which reorganized committees and assigned new chairpersons.

It also noted the committees assigned to the three councilors are being handled simultaneously by its former chairpersons, and, to cope with the workload, the services of administrative aides assigned to the three councilors who are not handling any committee are needed.

The report’s recommendation was carried, however Bomogao clarified if it meant they have the discretion not to comply with the “advice”.

Olowan said they have to comply.

Molintas said it is up to them as the committee was adopting diplomacy in advising them to comply.

“We are assigning you a committee and you refuse (because) it’s not what you like. It’s what we have agreed upon that there should be this number of committees. Each should have one, unless you want to change the internal rules of the council,” Molintas said.

Yangot and Bomogao said they already manifested their reasons for not complying meantime, and it is because of the pending court cases and Department of the Interior and Local Government opinion and they would rather wait for its resolution, adding their staff are available to do their job.

“To my mind, if we submit, that will render moot and academic what we have referred (to the court and the DILG) but as Councilor Molintas just explained, we can always allow our staff to assist,” Yangot said.

The tension started building up when Yaranon asked that Bomogao be allowed to finish talking when Molintas was explaining his reply to the former’s question.

Bomogao said, “I said my piece, he said his piece. Let us be in peace.”

Yaranon then reiterated the matter is already in the court and DILG, and referring to it all the time is already harassment and their rights are violated, to which Olowan replied vehemently it is not harassment and it is not true their rights are violated.

“That’s how I feel,” Yaranon said, and Olowan said, “No, scrap that on the record.”

Yaranon in turn asked to also remove on record that they are not doing anything, because she has been concentrating on improving ordinances along with her staff.

Olowan replied, “We did not raise that issue. What the problem here is that for what reason that you don’t accept your committee? If it is a very important for the committee on public works, then we will return it to you. Honorable Yangot, we will return the committee on lands to you. And if it’s very important to you Honarable Bomogao we will return that committee to you.”

Yaranon said if that is the case then she will accept because it is her expertise and has been doing well in the previous committee.

Olowan stressed she and the other councilors were already outvoted in “this democracy game”.

“And yet what’s happening? What is very important there that you do not want to vacate? It’s democracy in action. What we are telling here is that you are given a committee then you must have to accept it, just like others.”

Bomogao and Yangot reiterated the matter has been referred to the appropriate bodies and to wait for its resolution.

Olowan said is their prerogative as councilors. “But you know the effect on us. Sometimes you go to a party you can’t even talk to us, you go to a meeting you could not even see eye to eye. Ano bang klaseng miyembro ng council ‘yan?”

“What we are trying to (say) here is that if there is a way that we could reconcile we could work together. But seemingly they do not want to work with us. That’s the problem with the three because they want their committee to be returned to them.

Bomogao said it is not the case, but it is an issue in the court. “Let us wait for the decision. That is the only thing. And please, let us put this to rest. Do not always bring it out because it is dividing us. That would reflect on your…I don’t want to speak anymore,” he said.

To the comment of Molintas that the councilors are forum shopping, Yangot said they are not, because the case in court and the opinion being awaited from DILG are separate issues.

Molintas and Councilor Fred Bagbagen opined since the petition of the seven councilors has not been granted, the decision of the body must prevail, in that the principle of presumption of regularity of functions should apply, which is the ruling of the vice mayor regarding the vote and everyone should follow the rule.

Olowan later apologized for the outburst, but he said it seemed some of the council members are doing what we say they are doing for their own sake.

“Majority have spoken and yet they do not comply. We tried our best to talk to them and yet they don’t comply. Is this for purposes of the next election? I think so,” Olowan said.

The conflict stemmed from an earlier move to reorganize the council committees, the manner of reaching such decision was questioned by seven councilors who voted against the reorganization after Olowan as presiding officer overturned his ruling that the motion to reorganize was lost, and instead ruled that the majority won after rechecking with the vote numbers.

The reorganization, among other changes, led to Bomogao being assigned to chair the committee on peace and order (from being chair of committee on public utilities); Yangot to committee on ethics; and Yaranon to committee on cooperatives, removing from her the committee on public works, which they rejected and continue to reject to accept up to the present.

The seven councilors questioned the presiding officer’s move in court but their petition for injunction was denied and is awaiting the court’s resolution on what constitutes a majority vote.

They have also sought for the opinion of the DILG on whether or not committee chairmanships may be forced upon a member of the council and the same is also being awaited.