By Jhon Aldrin Casinas
Eight members of the city council chose not to attend the special session that San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora called last week, revealing what appears to be the brewing tension between opposition councilors and the new city mayor.
Councilors Jana Ejercito, Mary Joy Ibuna-Leoy, Cris Mathay, Raissa Laurel-Subijano, Chesco Velasco, Arthur Aquino, Vincent Rainier Pacheco and Vic Reyes said in a joint statement that they have left the session hall before the session began because they “could not stomach” the alleged meddling of Zamora in the city council.
Calling themselves as the #Strong8, the opposition councilors said the primary agenda of the special session was to ratify the resolution that would give Zamora the authority to sign the checks allotted for the job order personnel of the city government.
“This was the obligation that was already fixed by former Mayor Guia Gomez and Vice Mayor Janella Ejercito-Estrada,” the councilors said.
However, they said they were surprised that Zamora wanted the appointment of committee chairmanships to also be tackled.
According to the councilors, they have asked Zamora to suspend, for now, the appointment of committee chairmanships, and reschedule it instead for Monday’s regular session.
“Hindi ito pinakinggan ni Mayor Francis Zamora (This was ignored by Mayor Francis Zamora),” they said in a statement.
The councilors said they agreed to the special session in order to fast-track the release for the stalled salaries.
“Nakakalungkot na ang garantiya ng saligang batas na paghihiwalay ng lehislatura at ehekutibo sa lokal na pamahalaan ay hindi ginalang ni Mayor Zamora bagkus nagmistulang diktaturya ang naging kaganapan (It is sad that the guarantee of the Constitution that separates the legislative and the executive branches of the local government was not respected by Mayor Zamora, instead the affair became dictatorial),” the councilors said.
The eight opposition councilors all ran under the ticket of Estrada, who lost her mayoral bid to Zamora.
Councilor Jana Ejercito told the Manila Bulletin that the camp of Zamora had “threatened” the other city councilors so that they would not vote for her as chairperson of the appropriations committee.
“Binabaliktad nila sa social media ngayon na ayaw namin pirmahan ‘yung checks,” Ejercito said.
Meanwhile, Zamora said in a Facebook post that he had called the session to discuss important matters, which apparently included the signing of checks and the appointment of committee chairs.
But since the session did not push through, he was not given the authority to sign the checks.
“Because of this, there will be a delay with the salaries of all City Hall and San Juan Medical Center employees who did not yet receive their salaries since June,” Zamora said.
“And by Monday, if I am still not given the authority to sign the checks, the salaries for July 15 will also be delayed,” the mayor added.
Zamora hopes that the city council would take action on the matter by Monday.
Ejercito, on the other hand, said the opposition councilors had offered to unite with the other councilors that were allied to Zamora.
“We offered them unity. Sabi namin: ‘Let’s all be one,’ I told Vice Mayor [Warren Villa] when we had a meeting prior to the special session,” Ejercito said.
“Sabi namin ‘this is our deal na lang. We are not a destructive majority and we want to work for the people of the city,’” she added.
The only thing they asked, Ejercito furthered, was to give them the committees they also wanted since they were the majority.