STATE OF DISUNITY: 8 councilors assert quorum, declare state of calamity sans 7 SP colleagues

‘WE NEED WATER.’ To emphasize the problem on the dwindling water supply, members of the cause-oriented group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Iloilo City bring empty pails during a picket at Plaza Libertad on April 26, 2019. They press for a declaration of a state of calamity so that the city government could adequately address this concern due to the El Niño phenomenon. Politics should not get in the way of public service, they stress. IAN PAUL CORDERO/PN

ILOILO City – A deeply divided Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) placed this city under a state of calamity due to the El Niño phenomenon. The absence of six councilors and Vice Mayor Jeffrey Ganzon as presiding officer failed to prevent eight other councilors yesterday from making such declaration.

The eight asserted they had a quorum to proceed with the special session that Mayor Jose Espinosa III requested and place the city under a state of calamity as recommended by the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC).

With the declaration, the city government could now use its calamity fund, something that the six other councilors and Ganzon – allies of mayoral candidate Cong. Jerry Treñas – admitted they did not want to happen.  They were suspicious that Espinosa would use the calamity fund for his campaign.

Treñas is running against Espinosa this May 13 midterm elections.


Before the calamity declaration yesterday, City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO) head Donna Magno told the SP that the city was able to meet three out of five conditions outlined in the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s (NDRRMC) Memorandum No. 86-2018 which set the guidelines for such declaration to happen. These three were:

* at least 20 percent of the population are affected and in need of emergency assistance or whose dwelling units have been destroyed

* widespread destruction of fishponds, crops, poultry and livestock, and other agricultural products

* disruption of lifelines such as electricity, potable water system, transport system, communications systems and other related systems which cannot be restored within one week, except for highly-urbanized areas where restoration of the of the above lifelines cannot be made within 24 hours

According to Magno, these were determined during the CDRRMC meeting on April 22. Her office was one of the council members.

“A declaration of a state of calamity would automatically allow the city government to use part of its calamity fund as quick response fund,” said Magno, especially to address water scarcity in the villages.

The city has a P115-million calamity fund. Thirty percent of this – or P34.7 million – constitutes the quick response fund.


The eight councilors present yesterday were R Leone Gerochi who presided the special session, Lyndon Acap, Joshua Alim, Mandrie Malabor, Plaridel Nava, Eduardo Peñaredondo, Leizl Zulueta-Salazar, and Candice Magdalane Tupas.

“We were eight, we had a quorum. Also, during the deliberation no one challenged the quorum,” said Nava.

All eight of them voted to declare a state of calamity. The presiding officer, Gerochi, cast his vote.

“When the presiding officer is merely temporary, he may cast his vote,” said Nava. “That is found not only in our internal rules but stated in the Local Legislators Toolbox of the Philippine Councilors’ League.”

Peñaredondo agreed with Nava. He also cited the book “Sanggunian Rules of Procedure” prescribed by the government for all local legislative councils which stated that the temporary presiding officer may vote on any motion or question as regular member, but may not take part in floor deliberations while presiding.

Not present yesterday were Vice Mayor Ganzon and councilors Lady Julie Grace Baronda, Ely Estante, Leila Luntao, Irene Ong, Armand Parcon, and Jay Treñas.

On Thursday, Ganzon insisted the SP won’t be able to hold a special session because there would be no quorum, citing the Local Government Code. He said the 15-member SP (including him as presiding officer) needed nine members present to constitute a quorum.


Ganzon is Treñas’ running mate this midterm polls while Baronda, Estante, Parcon, and Jay Treñas are seeking reelection under their tandem.

On the other hand, Gerochi is Espinosa’s running mate for vice mayor and Acap, Malabor, Peñaredondo, Salazar, and Tupas are SP reelectionists under their team.

Nava is running for vice mayor in tandem with Alim for congressman against both the Espinosa and Treñas groups but they decided to vote in favor of a declaration of a state of calamity anyway; they stressed that politics should not get in the way of public service and that the people needed the city government’s help to address the adverse effects of the El Niño.


Meanwhile, Baronda, chairperson of the SP committee on social welfare and disaster preparedness, believed that the current situation did not meet the conditions to declare a state of calamity.

Citing the NDRRMC guidelines, Baronda said the city has yet to meet the following conditions:

* 20 percent of the local population are affected

* 40 percent of the means of livelihood have been damaged

* major roads and bridges have been damaged or impassable

* widespread destruction

* disruption of lifelines like power, water and communications

In fact, said Baronda, only four out of 180 barangay councils – Bo. Obrero, Mansaya, Cochero, and San Juan – passed resolutions asking assistance from the city government due to water scarcity.

She also said the concerns of these four villages could be amply addressed by the city government’s trust fund of P57 million.

Baronda also pointed to the report of City Agriculturist Romulo Pangantihon that out of 379 hectares of agricultural land in the city, only 18.5 hectares in barangays Lanit and Tacas were affected by water scarcity.

On top of this, the lady city councilor also said the Metro Iloilo Water District had not confirmed there’s a water crisis./PN


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