Good governance, not break-up, is key for biggest barangay in San Pedro, Laguna

My good friend, Eugenio S. Ynion Jr., has been barangay captain of Barangay San Antonio in San Pedro City, Laguna for only seven months, and he’s already creating enough big waves with reform-based governance that the incumbent City Mayor, Lourdes Cataquiz, is worried sick.

That’s because with his early demonstration of genuine public service, Kap Jun has given the people of Barangay San Antonio a brand of governance that they thought was only a lofty dream, that exists only in textbooks of public administration. In just a short period, Kap Jun proved that basic services can be abundantly provided. With his advocacy for zero-corruption, Kap Jun showed that every peso in public funds can go a long way.

Feeling threatened, the Cataquiz administration is now trying to deprive Kap Jun of a huge political bailiwick in San Pedro’s biggest barangay, San Vicente. With a population of about 90,000 people, this barangay has always gone against the Cataquizes. Now that a strong contender for the city mayorship has emerged, the Cataquiz administration wants to break up the barangay into eight smaller units.

The move is purportedly being initiated to improve the delivery of basic services to the people. But the people of San Pedro City know that public service isn’t exactly the forte of the Cataquiz administration. Calixto R. Cataquiz, husband of the incumbent, was removed from his post as city mayor just a few days before the May 13, 2013 elections because the Supreme Court has affirmed his final conviction for graft and corruption. Scandal after scandal involving corruption have rocked the Cataquiz administration from the husband to the wife.

There is reason for Mayor Cataquiz to fear the vote-delivery capability of Barangay San Vicente against her and her family. The incumbent barangay chairman, Kitten Campos, is a cousin of Kap Jun’s wife, Carissa. She is also the sister of the incumbent Vice Mayor of San Pedro City, Raffy Campos. The vice mayor is now aligning with Kap Jun. Indeed, Cataquiz has reason to be afraid.

But will this initiative truly improve the delivery of basic services?

Presently, Barangay San Vicente has an annual budget of P54 million. Should a break-up into smaller units succeed, the new seven barangays will just get a start-up annual budget of P2 million. Of course, the parent barangay will lose more than three-fourths of its IRA share, which is the primary source of income for the barangay.

This means each new barangay will get to have its own barangay chairman and eight Sanggunian members. Add to that a barangay secretary and a barangay treasurer. That translates to 11 officials who will get regular allowances which will eat up 55% of the barangay budget.

Simple logic and arithmetic should tell us we will have 77 more people on the regular payroll, or about 8 million pesos taken away from the MOOE of the new barangays. Each new barangay will have less than a million pesos for its projects and programs. What kind of projects can be implemented with such a measly sum of money?

From the political point of view, however, this will be favorable to the agenda of the Cataquiz couple. They will spend money to get their own ward leaders elected as barangay chairman and kagawads. That will give them total control over the new barangays. It will defang the present Barangay San Vicente which had never liked what they are doing in City Hall.

It’s not only that their own ward leaders will control the new barangays. With small budgets that won’t allow them to pursue meaningful projects, the seven barangays will become dependent on the largess of City Hall for funds to undertake projects. This will force the barangay captains to toe the line, so to speak, with the Cataquizes. Obey the Cataquizes blindly, and they can be assured of funds for projects. Disobey, and the umbilical chord will be cut. It’s as simple as that. The ugly head of patronage politics will loom over this huge portion of San Pedro City.

This will also allow the Cataquizes to hit two birds with one stone. At present, they have to maintain their leaders as job hires, doing political duties at the expense of the taxpayers of San Pedro City. If they become barangay chairmen and kagawads and secretaries and treasurers, their slots as job hires will be left open to allow the Cataquizes to fill them up with more political lieutenants and sergeants and corporals. San Pedro City will fry in its own lard.

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) should chop this monster in the head before it can stand on its feet. It knows that this is not the way to improve basic services. Good governance is the answer. Kap Jun is demonstrating it in Barangay San Antonio. And Kap Kitten Campos is doing her share in Barangay San Vicente. In fact, there are plans for them to undertake projects and programs together as twin barangays.

The idea of Barangays San Antonio and San Vicente pooling the resources for common projects and programs is a nightmare for the Cataquizes. That’s why it is now moving heaven and earth to get this initiative to break up the big barangay into smaller parts. Kap Jun is gaining ground so rapidly that the Cataquizes want to put the separation initiative on the bullet train.

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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