Redefining public service and governance


Eugenio S. Ynion, Jr. never dreamed about politics. But he saw that the only way to bring about change in governance is to get into the inside track. An outsider which he was until the middle of 2013 had no avenue to make that happen. And so it was that Jun Ynion, successful businessman, threw his hat into the political ring. Against advice from friends, he decided to challenge the incumbent in Barangay San Antonio in the newly-created City of San Pedro, Laguna.

“It reached a point when I told myself, ‘enough is enough’,” he said. “I asked the barangay government to remove the batching plant across the road from the La Marea Subdivision (where he lives), but my pleas simply fell on deaf ears. I asked the barangay officials to clear the roadsides of ugly structures and junk to no avail. I decided I needed to occupy the position of Punong Barangay to get things done.”

As a neophyte in politics, Ynion knew he faced an uphill battle. The incumbent was supported by the incumbent City Mayor, Lourdes Cataquiz. But he campaigned hard on issues. For the first time in his life, he experienced personal attacks. His opponent spared no energy flinging black propaganda missiles at him. Ynion often felt stung by the attacks. However, he wasn’t discouraged.

After the ballots were counted, Ynion became the new Punong Barangay of San Antonio, which is the second biggest barangay in the city. He had sold the idea of change and reform. To his pleasant surprise, he won without having to buy votes. “Apparently people were ready for change,” he said.

Ynion didn’t wait for his term to officially start to get things moving. He wanted to hit the ground running. At once, he convened the sangguniang barangay to make plans. He listened to his constituents on what they expected from him. He patiently drew up a catalogue of their needs. He understood that he needed the full support and cooperation of his constituency to achieve his lofty goals for them.

 

Kap Jun Ynion talks about his brand of governance with boundless energy and enthusiasm.

At noon of Nov. 30, 2013, just after he took his oath of office, Kap Jun rolled out his package of public services. Hardly a second was wasted as he mobilized his council to spearhead initiatives in almost every aspect of barangay affairs. They cleaned roads. Garbage dumps on the roadsides were cleared. 20140520_090635The barangay health center was stocked with free medicines. Solar-powered street lights were put up in South Side, a poor neighborhood in the upper portion of the barangay. A doctor regularly conducted medical check-ups.

Kap Jun had long been irritated by long lines of cargo trucks that parked on both sides of the road near the SLEX toll plaza. Now that he had jurisdiction over the area, Kap Jun asked the council to enact an ordinance prohibiting roadside parking along the main street. The ordinance was quickly enforced as soon as it became effective. Today, not a single truck can be seen parked on that road. It didn’t take long for truck drivers to know the Punong Barangay means business.

“We need to show our people that ordinances and laws are meant to be followed, not ignored,” Kap Jun said. “We politely, but firmly, tell violators to drive off to avoid being fined. At first there were a few recalcitrants. We showed them we enforced the ordinance without exception.”

Without skipping a beat, Kap Jun turned to the disorder and congestion at the South Side neighborhood. Houses literally squeezed the roadway on both sides, their doors opening out right on the pavement. Kap Jun imposed an easement requirement and directed home owners to move their frontage back two meters. This caused resentment among residents. What happened next changed their attitudes. Kap Jun, using his own money, put up solar-power street lights along the newly-created buffer zone. This changed the neighborhood’s character. An area that used to be blanketed in darkness after sunset — with the attending criminality and climate of fear — suddenly turned bright. It became more hospitable to its own residents.

“I showed to the people the easement was for their own good,” Kap Jun said. The new open space provided room for children to play after school and even at sundown. People felt a new sense of security and safety. Their resentment made an about face to admiration and appreciation for the barangay captain.

Kap Jun had started to help the poor when he was still a private citizen. As Punong Barangay, he now had an annual budget of P37 million to deliver vital services to his constituents. In the past, this budget was never sufficient to meet the needs of the people. But Kap Jun looked at the situation differently.

“P37 million is a lot of money if used efficiently, honestly,” he said.

From the outset of his term, he promised constituents the barangay government will spend every peso wisely and efficiently. He made sure procurement transactions are above-board. No SOP, the term used for kickbacks in government transactions, would be tolerated. The positive effect of this policy became apparent after the barangay bought P300,000 worth of medicines to be given out for free to indigent constituents.

“When the boxes of medicine arrived, our people were surprised there were so many,” Kap Jun said with a smile. “I used my negotiating skills to squeeze the biggest possible bargain for the prices.”

Aside from haggling for the lowest prices directly from the manufacturers, Kap Jun appealed to these companies to add an element of corporate social responsibility in the transaction. This enabled him to bring down the costs even more. As a result, the volume of medicines is equivalent to P1 million in value if purchased from drugstores.

“We are the only barangay which gives out free medicines at the barangay health center,” he said. “After five months, our supply is far from gone. There are enough medicines to last several months.”

About a month ago, a big fire razed a wide area in sitio Maharlika, leaving dozens of families homeless. Kap Jun was bitterly frustrated because the city had only one dilapidated firetruck, and it had taken long to respond to the fire. Not wanting to experience the helplessness that he felt during that fire, Kap Jun went to a supplier and buy a fire truck with his own money.

A few days later, the fire truck arrived at the barangay, much to the envy of Cataquiz supporters who suddenly felt threatened by the display of great public service from Kap Jun.

Kap Jun also purchased three brand-new Nissan pick up trucks for the use of the barangay police. In addition, San Antonio barangay tanods conduct patrols aboard 10 brand-new motorcycles. The barangay has its own ambulance, too.

“I am a firm believer in peace and order as a magnet for investors,” he said.

True enough, the Rairaken restaurant chain took notice of these changes in the peace and order climate. It is now building a two-story building for a big restaurant on the main road from the SLEX toll plaza. Kap Jun has also asked other businesses to apply fresh paint on their walls, gates and building exteriors to project a pleasant look.

To enable him to look after the needs of his constituents better, Kap Jun built the SABAK building, a three-story spacious and air-conditioned structure, to serve as his base of operations for barangay affairs. The SABAK building stands beside the new YNGEN Building, corporate headquarters for his group of companies that includes ship cargo handling and export-import trading. The Ynion group of companies used to hold office on the 8th floor of a Makati office building. The move to the new location in Sitio Guadalupe in Barangay San Antonio will make it easy for him to switch places from chief executive officer to punong barangay and vice versa.

The great hall in the Sabak building.

The great hall in the Sabak building.

A visit to the SABAK building will surprise anybody who knows its purpose. The building’s ground floor provides wide spaces for big meetings in air-conditioned comfort. The rest rooms are first class, almost like those in big hotels in the national capital. On the second floor are meeting rooms where San Antonio constituents can meet with barangay officials in luxurious accommodations. Kap Jun holds office on the third floor. To describe the furnishings and ambiance as first-class doesn’t even start to approximate the ambiance of the place.

All these demonstrate that Kap Jun Ynion is bringing public service to a new level. He is redefining the concept of governance. He is setting an example for public officials on how they could stretch scarce resources and improve public service for the people. As shown by what he did in the purchase of medicines, he multiplied the value of the procurement 300 percent not only with his honesty and transparency, but reaching out to the private sector to contribute to the well-being of the people.

As the nation is rocked by the unending scandal of the Napoles pork scam, where billions of pesos in public funds have been stolen, Kap Jun Ynion is charting a new direction for public officials to follow. It is a path where terms like “SOP” and “commissions” are taboo. It is a road map that brings plenty of hope to a nation frustrated and depressed by the heavy toll that corruption exacts on the people.

 

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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