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What? Only one Iloilo City barangay captain in PDEA/DILG narcolist?

The disclosure made by the DILG and PDEA of the 207 barangay officials involved in illegal drugs left many Ilonggos shaking their heads in disbelief. That’s because the three most prominent barangay captains linked to the illegal drugs trade are not on the list. Only one — Barangay Captain Gemma Calzado of Kasing-kasing, Molo — was included in the list. All in all, the DILG and PDEA listed only 90 barangay captains from all over the country as being involved in illegal drugs, either as protectors or in the illicit trade itself.

What happened to Remia Prevendido-Gregori of Bakhaw, Dabing Espinosa of Monica-Blumentritt and Noemi Hablo of Desamparados? To this date, Barangay Bakhaw continues to be the hotbed of the illegal drugs trade in Iloilo City. Gregori is the sister of the slain drug group leader Richard Prevendido. Her son, Bonifacio, is in jail for being a drug dealer.

Dabing Espinosa is the wife of Jing Jing Espinosa, reputed to be the right-hand man of Melvin “Boyet” Odicta who was gunned down with his wife, Miriam, at the Caticlan port in Malay, Aklan on August 29, 2016. His house was raided by the police in October 2016; drugs and firearms were found in his house. Surprisingly, no charges were filed against Dabing despite the fact that the house is conjugal, and she was the incumbent barangay captain. Jing Jing surrendered to the court the next month to start serving an 8-year prison sentence for a crime he had committed several years ago.

Noemi Hablo had even admitted having undergone drug rehabilitation. Her late husband, Rusty, was a known illegal drugs dealer in Iloilo City.

Has the narcolist been sanitized? The DILG and PDEA could lose their credibility with this white-washed narcolist. It will put the drug war of President Rodrigo Duterte under a cloud of doubt. It raises the possibility that the President is being sabotaged by his own people.

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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.

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.

 

If Mar Roxas wants to be President, he must rebuild his bailiwick

If Mar Roxas wants to be President, he must rebuild his bailiwick

Supporters of DILG Secretary Mar Roxas are excited, and nervous, about his prospects in the 2016 presidential derby. But as the most recent Pulse Asia poll survey showed, he trails front-runner VP Jojo Binay by a mile, and the race is going into the final bend. He is running out of time. If he is serious, and questions are being raised about it in the first place, he must take a second look at his own bailiwick: the Western Visayas region.

Aura Landar’s vindication

It may have come too late to resolve the issue, but Memorandum Circular No. 2010-82 issued by DILG secretary Jesse Robredo dated August 31, 2010 settles the question about whether Passi City councilor Aura Landar-Layese had the right to assume office as ex-oficio member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan effective at noon of June 30, 2010 when she succeeded to the presidency of the Philippine Councilors League.

This two-page policy statement made it clear that a PCL president who won in the last local elections does not lose his right to represent the league until it could hold an election and his successor shall have assumed office. There can be no gap in the representation of the PCL at any time, and whoever holds the office of President at a particular time is automatically a member of the Provincial Board. This rule doesn’t distinguish whether a President was elected as such, or succeeded to the Position. In the case of Councilor Landar-Layese, she became President effective noon of June 30, 2010, as the last elected president, Cecilia Colada of Janiuay, and the executive vice president, Bing Gonzaga of Pavia, were defeated in the May 10 polls. Landar-Layese was next in the line of succession as secretary general.

This policy statement exposes the ignorance of the current Sangguniang Panlalawigan leadership in the province of Iloilo, which did everything to block Landar-Layese’s efforts to assume the ex-oficio seat. It is a leadership that is afraid of its own shadow, as it cannot contemplate a situation where it might not get the numbers to force the approval of certain legislative measures in the provincial board.