Accountability, transparency take root in a Laguna barangay

My good friend, Eugenio “Jun” Ynion, Jr. has encountered rough sailing during his first 10 months as barangay captain of San Antonio, San Pedro City, Laguna. But the turbulence isn’t about to slow him down. Kap Jun is firmly erecting the pillars for a genuine, working model of a “zero-corruption”-based governance. In this age when even the helmsman of the “matuwid na daan” is beset by scandals involving corruption, Barangay San Antonio is demonstrating “zero-corruption” is not a Quixotic-venture. It is happening.

Kap Jun began his term of office at noon of Nov. 30, 2013. He hit the ground running, and has never called for time-out ever since. He quickly set his sights on peace and order, health and livelihood. Progress can never be achieved in his barangay unless he tackled the “fundamentals”, what he labelled as the “Three Ks” which stand for “Kapaligaran, Kalusugan at Kaunlaran”. With his compass set, Kap Jun worked tirelessly to make the lives of his constituents better. And in doing that, he always kept the “zero-corruption” advocacy as his center of gravity.10721308_10204276474767012_799003570_n

A YouTube video highlights the achievements of Kap Jun during his first 10 months. Along the way, he has had to endure black propaganda from an insecure City Mayor who felt threatened by his upsurge in popularity. Barangay San Antonio has the second largest number of voters in San Pedro City. It can easily place Kap Jun within striking distance of the mayorship if he sets his eyes on it.

What is significant about Kap Jun’s first leg of the journey is the no-nonsense adherence to the principles for accountability, transparency and honesty. From Day One, he scorned traditional politics. He made it known that he will not tolerate lazy and dishonest individuals in the barangay LGU, whether elected or appoint. “There will be no sacred cows,” he told his people, time and again. Unfortunately, there have been quite a number who didn’t take him seriously; quickly, they were shown the exit door.

Kap Jun runs the barangay the way he does his businesses. He rewards performance but shows little tolerance for slackers. Everybody is on their feet. To make sure there are no excuses for not being able to carry out their mission, Kap Jun procured the best possible equipment for the barangay. He wants to be ready for any eventuality, particularly in disaster risk management. Barangay San Antonio is perhaps the only one in the country with an amphibious vehicle to undertake rescue work during floods.

Early in his term, Kap Jun watched in frustration when a big fire devoured hundreds of houses in his barangay. The city’s sole firetruck was so decrepit and slow it arrived last. Maharlika fireWhen it reached the scene, it could not even start to help put out the fire. It was largely because of firetrucks from adjoining LGUs that the fire was prevented from causing more destruction.

Because of that experience, Kap Jun spent his own money to advance the payment for the barangay’s own firetruck. “Never again will I let that scenario happen,” he said. Aside from a firetruck, Barangay San Antonio has its own ambulance that provides constituents requiring transport to a hospital free services.

Education has become the centerpiece program of his administration. It is the only avenue that he can lay down for the poor so that they could liberate themselves from poverty, he said. His barangay has set aside huge amounts of money for scholarships in high school and college. Later in the month, lady volunteers led by his wife, Carissa Gonzales-Ynion, will embark on a “food-for-school” feeding program for indigent pupils. He understands that hungry pupils will find it hard to absorb their lessons.

What has triggered a wave of excitement in the barangay is the establishment of a micro-financing program Kap Jun has set up with a bank. For the first time, small entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs can gain access to low-interest loans to fund their businesses. This micro-lending scheme will liberate micro-entrepreneurs from the usurious lenders that constantly keep them choked. Training programs are also being carried out to teach constituents simple skills they can turn into livelihood opportunities.

For Kap Jun, progress can never flourish in an environment where peace and order is not stable. This is the reason he invested heavily in improving the peace and order capability of his barangay. To improve mobility, he procured two Nissan pick up patrol cars and 10 motorcycles. Swift communications is ensured by 50 radio handsets for the barangay tanods and police in his jurisdiction.Barangay patrol motorcycles In less than two minutes, any call for help will be bring barangay tanods to the scene, he said.

Like any barangay, San Antonio has its share of the illegal drugs problem. But Kap Jun didn’t resign to the problem. He took the offensive tack. He offered cash incentives to the police and tanods for the arrest and capture of drug dealers in his barangay. To make sure these drug villains stay in jail long, he offered additional rewards for law enforcers who catch them with non-bailable offenses. So far, his program has netted 18 drug pushers, definitely a record in such a short time.

The environment is also top priority for Kap Jun. Among the first things he did upon assuming office was clean the streets. He adopted a strict rule on uncollected garbage. To promote responsible solid waste practices, he put up huge garbage bins in strategic locations where people can dump their “basura”.  He has made tree planting a regular activity in the barangay. His goal is plant 20,000 trees to make San Antonio a green community.

Kap Jun showed that when he pushed for environmental protection, everybody in the barangay will have to take it seriously. Early this year, a tire rubber recycling company continue to spew dirty and putrid smoke into the air in violation of environmental laws. Without delay, Kap Jun went knocking on the gates of the company with a simple message: clean up or shut down.

His sterling performance is not going unnoticed. One incumbent city councilor of San Pedro City remarked that Kap Jun’s brand of leadership is not only for his barangay, but for the entire city. No wonder Mayor Lourdes Cataquiz is perturbed. For an administration rocked by corruption scandals and poor services, it’s not hard for Kap Jun to gain the admiration and support of many people who want him to bring his leadership to a higher plane.

Indeed, Kap Jun has proven that the way to good governance is accountability and transparency. It is an effective approach to building confidence in the community. Now more and more of his constituents are excited about more and improved services. Many are also enthusiastic about sharing their good fortune from Kap Jun’s exemplary leadership with the rest of San Pedro City.

A mustard seed

The success of Eugenio S. Ynion Jr. in business illustrates how each of us can be like a mustard seed which is quite small and yet grows into the biggest of shrubs, an Ilonggo priest, Fr. Delbert Jardinaso, OSJ, said on Monday, July 28.

In his homily during the blessing and inauguration of the Yngen Group building in Barangay San Antonio, San Pedro Cty, Fr. Jardinaso said that “like the mustard seed, we can grow and become so magnificent by making use of possibilities.”

Fr. Jardinaso is now the parish priest of San Jose, Batangas. He spoke on the significance of the Parable of the Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-35) in our lives.

Businessman-philanthropist Julio D. Sy Jr. (right), assisted by Mrs. Carissa Gonzales-Ynion and Barangay Captain Eugenio S. Ynion Jr., cuts the ceremonial ribbon to formally inaugurate the Yngen Group headquarters building in sitio Guadalupe, Barangay San Antonio, San Pedro City on July 28, 2014.

Businessman-philanthropist Julio D. Sy Jr. (right), assisted by Mrs. Carissa Gonzales-Ynion and Barangay Captain Eugenio S. Ynion Jr., cuts the ceremonial ribbon to formally inaugurate the Yngen Group headquarters building in sitio Guadalupe, Barangay San Antonio, San Pedro City on July 28, 2014.

“He was nothing like a mustard seed, but in the midst of nothingness and insignificance, Jun Ynion, showed us that we can reach great heights,” Fr. Jardinaso said.

However, this success can only be meaningful if it is shared with others, he said.

Fr. Jardinaso urged Ynion to help the community through genuine public service. “It is when we remove selfishness from our lives, when we share our gifts with other people, that our success becomes meaningful,” he said.

Jun Ynion is the chief executive officer of the Yngen Group which relocated its corporate headquarters to Barangay San Antonio from the urban congestion of Makati City. He is also the barangay captain of Barangay San Antonio.

The transfer of the Yngen Group corporate headquarters to Barangay San Antonio also puzzled Ynion’s business partner, Julio D. Sy Jr., or better known as “Jun Sy”.

“At first, I played the role of devil’s advocate to Jun,” Sy said. “But I realized I can’t question his determination to pursue his mission.”

Sy described Ynion as “passionate” and ultimately supported the move because he saw “how much he loved the community.”

“More good is bound to happen,” Sy said, although he realized that it is difficult to balance two roles.

Sy said that he can compare what Ynion is doing to the entrepreneurial work that NBA legend Magic Johnson had done for blighted communities in the United States, the Harlem in New York City in particular.

Magic Johnson, he said, became greater after basketball because of his work to uplift decaying American communities through entrepreneurship.

“What he has done is inspire the resurgence of the Harlem,” he said.

Sy found a parallel to what Ynion is doing for barangay San Antonio to the work of Magic Johnson.

He noted, for instance, that the property on which the Yngen Group building stood, as well as the Sabak Bldg, in sitio Guadalupe used to be a place of sin and crimes.

The construction of these two buildings will trigger a resurgence in the community, he said.

 

 

 

Distorted sense of priorities

car keysThe Cataquiz administration in San Pedro City, Laguna showed it has a distorted sense of values, and priorities, when it gifted barangay captains except one with brand-new cars. The only barangay captain who didn’t get a car was Kap Eugenio “Jun” Ynion Jr. of Barangay San Antonio. That’s because the Cataquiz administration — a modern day conjugal affair at the city hall — found Kap Jun “unsupportive” of the Association of Barangay Captains. In short, Kap Jun isn’t one who licked their behinds.

For an LGU which could not even buy a new firetruck and ambulance to serve the needs of its constituents, the purchase of the vehicles was a criminal waste of public funds. It catered to a wrong set of needs — luxury and prestige — rather than the needs of the community. In a story ran by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, ousted city mayor Calixto R. Cataquiz said the move was impelled by the need to give the barangay captains “prestige”. His wife could not stand seeing barangay captains arrive in meetings “wearing barongs and get down from old cars,” he said.

San Pedro City information officer Sonny Ordonez also downplayed the brewing political rivalry between Cataquiz and Ynion as the reason why he was left out of the list of recipients.

Kap Jun doesn’t really mind having been omitted from the list. He has more cars to his name than he and his family needs. He is appalled that the LGU wasted scarce public funds for a clearly luxury item that has little impact on public service. “What does prestige have to do with the effectiveness of a barangay captain?” he asked.

Upon assuming office as barangay captain, Kap Jun has embarked on a “zero corruption” platform of government that seeks to maximize the utilization of the barangay’s P35 million annual budget. Among other things, he bought basic medicines at ultra-low prices at levels enough to last a whole year. The medicines are given out free to indigents; those who are employed pay super low prices for them. He surprised his own constituents when he purchased a firetruck using personal funds. His barangay has its own ambulance and three brand-new Nissan pick-ups for its barangay tanods.

This brand of public service apparently doesn’t sit well with the Cataquizes. “They don’t like somebody undressing them as corrupt and incompetent,” one resident told me two weeks ago when I visited San Pedro City. By simply doing what he does, Kap Jun has shown the people the vast difference between corrupt governance and “zero corruption” governance. In less than a year as barangay captain, Kap Jun is now being talked about as the next city mayor of San Pedro City, a prospect that frightens the incumbents.

With the national publicity given to the “cargate” issue, public attention will likely deepen into the comparative performance of Cataquiz and Ynion. The Cataquizes want to pamper the barangay captains with “toys for the big boys”; Kap Jun is seeking new and innovative ways to deliver more services to his people.

I learned that native-born people in San Pedro are called “taal”, as in “taal San Pedro”. Kap Jun is not “taal”, but based on feedback I have gathered, people in the community are gravitating towards him because he shows he cares for them more than the “taal”. One strong indication for them is the sense of values between the Cataquizes and Kap Jun. They aren’t falling for a distorted sense of values.

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.