I read and re-read the statement of City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog trying to justify his actions on the proposed P294-million revision and furnishing plan to make the New City Hall ready for occupancy on Aug. 25, 2011. Pardon me, but instead of being enlightened, I only succeeded in getting more confused. That’s because Mabilog fails to explain satisfactorily why he intends to spend lavishly — P294 million is grossly lavish — to finish the New City Hall. The amount shocks the sensibilities of many people.

There is only issue that Mabilog should confront: why is it that he wants to spend nearly four times the estimated budget for the completion of the City Hall? The Trenas administration had approved a bill of estimates to provide all the items necessary to make the City Hall functional and comfortable, and it only reached P56 million. Included in this bill of estimates is the P5.66 million for a cafeteria, for which Mabilog now wants to raise to a mind-boggling P15.6 million! I’m sorry to say, there can be no justification for this kind of spending.

Most of the items that Mabilog listed are already contained in the Trenas bill of estimates. However, he simply added the term “upgraded” to each item and increased the proposed expenditures by no less than 100 percent for each. He wants four elevators instead of two. He wants to spend P9 million for solar panels that will energize his office. And the most shocking of all, he wants to spend P55 million for office furnitures. With six floors of working space (only six because he wants to turn the ground floor into rental space), that would translate to almost P9.16 million for each floor. On top of that, he is asking for P10 million to furnish the executive offices!

I have no quarrel with the Mayor’s contention that the City Hall must be made functional and comfortable. But I have to remind him this is not Makati Shangrila that he is building. I’ve talked to architects and they all tell me a budget of P1 million PER floor for office furniture is more than enough. I am certain it will not make a difference in the performance of officials and employees if they worked on P3,500 office tables or P25,000 office tables. Mabilog makes the mistake of equating grandiose furnishings with work performance.

Finally, Mabilog attempts to deceive his constituents into believing that the City Hall will be “self-liquidating” in the sense that it will derive rental income from its ground floor. He should be reminded that the seat of government will cost a total of P720 million under his proposed spending plan. Does he have an idea how much rental income the city government can expect from the ground floor? P1 million a year? P2 million a year? If it’s the latter, then he will need more than 300 years to fully recover the investment.

That idea of offering the ground floor as rental space is ill-advised. It is not a mall; it is a public service building. Convenience to the general public is a prime consideration, and the ground floor must be reserved for the public services that caters to the most number of people. The City Treasurer’s Office tax collection booths deserve to be there. So, too, is the office for health and senior citizens. Unfortunately, Mabilog kicked them upstairs to make way for banks and other tenants.

Let me just state that this is unsolicited advice. It’s up to him to give my thoughts consideration or simply ignore them. But the biggest mistake he could make is attribute these criticisms to a lack of understanding on the part of the general public, or even insinuate that politics is the motivation. Mabilog can’t afford to forever shroud himself with the idea that he can make no mistakes.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

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