The city government headed by Mayor Evelio Leonardia assured residents here on Wednesday that expenses related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) are its top funding priority.
The assurance was given after some netizens questioned the supposed spending of PHP9.45 million for the rehabilitation and improvement of the Bacolod Rizal Park when the amount could have been allocated for Covid-19 response instead.
“Rest assured, your city officials are not ignoring the urgent needs of the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, Covid-related expenses are the top funding priority these days. These needs are provided for in other budget allocations of the Bacolod local government unit (LGU) and the national government,” the city government said in a project backgrounder released on Wednesday.
Reports on Leonardia unveiling the architectural design for the park project on the occasion of the 159th birth anniversary of national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal on June 19 were met by criticisms on social media.
A number of netizens assailed the city government over misplaced priorities.
During the ceremony, the mayor himself already explained the funding came from the national government through the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
It was part of an appropriation item of close to PHP2.5 billion approved by Congress for the 2019 national budget as financial assistance to all cities nationwide to fund the construction, rehabilitation, repair, or improvement of public open spaces or the Local Government Support Fund-Assistance to Cities (LGSF-AC).
As a requirement, city-LGUs with project proposals evaluated and approved by the DBM were given until Dec. 31, 2020 to fully utilize their 2019 LGSF-AC project funds.
Otherwise, whatever will be left unused will be forfeited and must be remitted back to the national government.
The city government submitted the project proposal on Dec. 27, 2019 and the DBM approved it on April 14, 2020. The project funds were received by the LGU here on May 11, 2020.
“The Bacolod LGU cannot re-align the P9,454,107.33 to other purposes… Should the city, however, take the initiative of making this realignment, all local officials who will participate in this act will be liable for the crime of technical malversation,” it added.
The city government further explained that “(s)ince the funds are part of the 2019 national budget, any re-alignment of appropriated items in that budget can only be done by Congress. The local Sangguniang Panlungsod cannot overturn or amend a national budget law passed by Congress.” (PNA)