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Board members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Council) of South Cotabato have criticized Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. for apparently giving more priority to procuring P70 million worth of vehicles for the provincial government than providing budgetary assistance to response programs against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

Vice Gov. Vicente de Jesus said Tamayo earlier asked for approval of a supplemental budget of P71 million for the purchase of 60 brand-new vehicles that will be given to barangay (village) officials, judges and local police.

He added that the governor had also requested the realignment of 2019 development funds intended for construction of roads and bridges to effect the purchase of the vehicles.

The vice governor said he and several board members had opposed the procurement of the vehicles because it contradicts the government’s austerity program during the Covid-19 pandemic.

De Jesus cited a memorandum issued by Department of Budget and Management (DBM) that prohibits disbursement of public funds for the purchase of vehicles, except for ambulances and police and military vehicles as part of the government’s austerity measures during the pandemic.

Though the DBM memorandum covered national government agencies and offices, de Jesus said the provincial government should have taken some discretion to observe cost-cutting and show some sensitivity during the health and economic crisis sparked by Covid-19.

He noted that the local finance committee under the governor’s office had failed to provide the Sangguniang Panlalawigan some documents on the vehicle procurement, including a list of recipients of the vehicles.

Tamayo, however, explained that the cars would be bought by the provincial government for barangay officials in the campaign against the coronavirus in their localities.

Board Members Ellen Grace Albios and Jinky Avance had withdrawn their requests for new official vehicles and instead told the governor to use the funds for the purpose for Covid-19 response initiatives of the provincial government.

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