City Councilor Annabeth Cuizon made this clarification Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, after the ordinance that would allow the City Government to enter into a memorandum of agreement with funeral service providers drew mixed reactions from residents.
Cuizon noted several instances when beneficiaries or relatives of the deceased indigent residents who could not afford to buy a coffin, went to their preferred funeral homes which allowed them to pay for the coffin upon the release of their P10,000 burial assistance from the City.
She said funeral parlors or funeral homes allowed them to do so if the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO), which processes the payment, knew about it.
“The problem is that when they receive the P10,000, they no longer go to the funeral parlor to pay,” said Cuizon in Cebuano.
“That’s why the City will just be the one to directly pay the funeral parlor because it is the City that the funeral parlor collects payment from if the deceased’s relatives don’t pay,” she stressed.
The ordinance states that “the City of Lapu-Lapu may enter into Memorandum of Agreement with burial service providers in Lapu-Lapu City, specifically funeral homes/funeral parlors, for the implementation of the Burial Assistance Program.”
“Under such scheme, a beneficiary may tap the services of an accredited burial service provider and the City Government, upon verification that the beneficiary is qualified to avail of the program, shall issue a Letter of Authority to the burial service provider authorizing the latter to charge a maximum amount of P10,000 to the City for burial services provided to the beneficiary,” the ordinance reads.
Eric Aguilar, a 47-year-old resident of Barangay Mactan, told SunStar Cebu Monday, that such amendment would bring less hassle to the beneficiaries or relatives of the deceased indigent residents since they would only need to tap the services of an accredited burial service provider in the city.
Aguilar said beneficiaries would no longer have to process a lot of documents to avail of the funeral services.
“Okay ra man pod gihapon na siya para sa mga kabus kay di na ma-hassle og process,” he said.
Lack of trust
But Ernesto Peregrino, 75-year-old resident of Barangay Pajo, said the P10,000 burial assistance should go through the relatives and not to the funeral service providers directly.
“Kon ang P10,000 i-dretso og hatag sa funeral service providers, dili moagi sa amoa, Mura ma’g wala’y salig sa tagtungod,” said Peregrino.
(If the P10,000 is given directly to the funeral service providers, it will no longer pass through us. It’s as if they don’t trust the family of the deceased.)
Without changing the system of burial assistance, Peregrino said, beneficiaries would be able to do the budgeting for the funeral since they are the ones who know what they need.
The senior citizen also raised his concern on the services that accredited funeral parlors would provide, stressing that such system is prone to corrupt practices.
“Ang akong duda, kon mokuha tag service sa funeral homes unya P8,000 ra na, unya P10,000 ang gihatag sa ila sa government, so naa sila’y sobra nga P2,000. Alang-alang man ila patong ihatag namo. Dili na. Ilaha nato,” said Peregrino.
(I suspect if we get the service of funeral homes and it costs only P8,000, but the government gives them P10,000, it’s not likely they will give the extra P2,000 to us. No, will keep it for themselves.)
In response, Cuizon urged the beneficiaries to ask for the cost of the coffin.
Apart from that, Peregrino said he is worried that funeral parlors will ask them for payment if the funeral parlors have not yet received the payment from the City Government.
As for Allan Delantar from Barangay Calawisan, he believes it would be best for the burial assistance to go directly to the funeral homes/parlors.
“I agree to that, so that the family will add only a little more for the cost of the coffin because that is always the first problem of the family,” said Delantar in Cebuano.
Cuizon is the chairperson of the committee on social services, senior citizens and persons with disability and the author of Ordinance 16-073-2023, or the “Ordinance Amending Section 5 and Incorporating Additional Provision to the City Ordinance 16-031-2022 or An Ordinance Institutionalizing the Burial Assistance Program for the Indigents of the City of Lapu-Lapu and Providing Funds Thereof.”
The city councilor earlier said they are already working on the provisions on the bidding process since this is treated as a procurement of services.
She said the bids and awards committee (BAC) pointed out the need to follow the procurement process when a draft of the MOA was referred to the City Attorney’s Office for comment last January. The City’s BAC is also chaired by the city attorney.
“I am amenable to the suggestion of the BAC and therefore will amend the ordinance,” she said, adding that the ordinance will be in order if they push for the bidding.
Lawyer Bobit Hiyas, a former city councilor, had pointed out that the ordinance violated the procurement law amid the absence of provisions on public bidding.
Without any public bidding, Hiyas said, there is a chance that City Hall will favor only the funeral homes owned by supporters of the administration.
For his part, lawyer Michael Dignos said he feared that the new system may result in graft and corruption.