‘SET ASIDE POLITICS’: Defensor urges Prov’l Board to approve 2019 budget

GOVERNOR’S APPEAL. “If we want to be remembered as committed public servants, let us be ready to give up some of our personal interests, including political ones,” says Iloilo’s Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr. at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan session hall of the provincial capitol on Dec. 11, 2018 State of the Province Address was his final; he is retiring from politics. Vice Gov. Christine Garin, the Provincial Board presiding officer, is taking down notes. IAN PAUL CORDERO/PN

ILOILO – Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr. urged the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) to “set politics aside” and approve the P3.7-billion proposed provincial budget for 2019. The proposal has been stuck at the committee on appropriations for a month now following the Nov. 13 reorganization of committees in the Provincial Board.

“Think not of our individual welfares or the welfares of our political patrons but consider first and foremost the welfare of our people,” Defensor appealed to SP members during his State of the Province Address (SOPA) yesterday afternoon at the Provincial Board session hall of the capitol.

According to the governor, he was retiring from politics for good and did not want to leave the provincial capitol “with enmity and animosity with some of you because you have been very supportive of my plans and programs.”

Yesterday’s SOPA, which ran for almost an hour, was Defensor’s last. As governor for 18 years (1992-2001 and 2010-2019), he said he served the province “with honor and dignity” but warned that the non-approval of the 2019 budget could hamper the provincial government’s pro-people and pro-development programs.

The proposed budget included a P43-million funding for the provincial government’s absorption of the San Joaquin Mother and Child Hospital and its conversion into a 25-bed district hospital as requested by Mayor Ninfa Garin of San Joaquin.

If the SP fails to approve the proposed 2019 budget, the provincial government would be forced to operate on a reenacted 2018 budget.

However, said Defensor, this could paralyze the operation of 12 district hospitals because 1,011 contract of service hospital staff (doctors, nurses and medical technologists) and 649 job hires would not be reappointed.

With a lack of personnel, Defensor further said, the district hospitals would not be able to “comply with the License-to-Operate requirements of the Department of Health (DOH).”

There would be “very adverse effects on our hospitals which, over the years, we have equipped with modern facilities and equipment. Mahuya kita sa madamo nga nagabulig sa aton mga hospitals, ilabi na gid sa DOH, sa (Korean International Cooperation Agency) kag sa (Korean nongovernment organization) Medipeace,” added Defensor.

Also, capitol’s permanent, co-terminus and casual employees may not be able to receive the fourth tranche of their salary increase if the 2019 budget is not approved, the governor said.

On top of these, said Defensor, Iloilo province may no longer qualify in the Department of Interior and Local Government’s annual Seal of Good Local Governance – a mechanism which tracks the performance of local government units in the areas of good financial keeping, disaster preparedness, social protection, business friendliness and competitiveness, environment management, and peace and order.

“If we want to be remembered as committed public servants, be ready to give up some of our personal interests, including political ones, even if this will lead to the displeasure of those who think that blocking the 2019 budget may benefit their political plans and agenda,” Defensor told SP members.

He reminded them that as public officials, they were “being offered a rare chance to make a difference in people’s lives and contribute to the upliftment of our province.”

“Let us not squander this chance. Let us all always remember that public service is about serving all the people, including our political adversaries,” said Defensor.

The chairperson of the SP committee on appropriations is Board member Dorothy Paes. She welcomed Defensor’s appeal but insisted, “Kinahanglan i-scrutinize ang budget. This is people’s money.”

Paes, the provincial federation president of the Liga ng mga Barangay, is identified with the camp of Cong. Ferjenel Biron (4th District) who is running for governor against Defensor’s son, Cong. Arthur Defensor Jr. (3rd District) in the May 13, 2019 midterm elections.

It was SP member Manny Gallar, a political ally of Biron, who called for the reorganization of the SP committees last month.

Gallar is running for congressman of the 3rd District against Defensor’s son, SP member Lorenz Defensor.

Gallar, however, denied there were persons behind his reorganization call./PN


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