A citizen’s demand

I demand an explanation from the Office of the President on the circumstances behind the attempt of DILG Usec Rico Puno to break into the offices and condominium of the late Jesse Robredo and search for sensitive documents pertaining to an investigation being conducted on anomalous transactions.

The Robredo Legacy

The death of DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo suddenly thrust to the fore the good deeds he has done in the name of public service. Indeed, it is sad that a good man like Secretary Robredo would leave this world early, with the reforms in local governance he set in motion barely having gained solid foothold.
But in death, it would seem that Secretary Robredo achieved what he had struggled to push forward in his lifetime. Even though he was denied confirmation as Cabinet Secretary, Jesse raised the nation’s awareness that a public official can do good while avoiding the temptations of corruption. He showed us a public official can live a simple life, without the trappings of power, and deliver on his oath of office.

Simplicity. Dedication to public service. Integrity. These are just a few traits that Secretary Robredo became known for. While alive, he found that these ideals did not really fall into a warm embrace under an administration that vowed a “matuwid na daan”. His reform agenda encountered stiff resistance.
Sad, because not even President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III was sold out to him and only reluctantly appointed him to the DILG portfolio. Robredo had to suffer in silence and humiliation when President Aquino carved the DILG portfolio and gave the law enforcement and public safety aspects to his shooting buddy, Undersecretary Rico Puno.
In grief, the Filipino nation can resolve to achieve what Secretary Robredo started out to do. The standards of a transparent and effective governance that he set during the 18 years that he served as City Mayor of Naga City should be carved in the nation’s conscience as the new measuring stick. We should put our elected officials accountable to that level of performance.

Political will

Jed Patrick Mabilog has been in office has been in office as City Mayor for only seven months, but we are already seeing manifestations of a dynamic leadership that wields political will.

Among the early campaigns that Mabilog has embarked upon is the enforcement of the anti-jaywalking ordinance and the anti-smoking ordinance.

Recently, he has turned his sights on violators of environmental laws, and from what I heard over radio, he’s even set to close down a riverside restaurant that blatantly dumped soil on the river with a view to obstructing the waterway.

This is a welcome development for City Hall. In the past, placidity was the hallmark of the city government, and many problems festered because of the slow response to issues. Mabilog is showing that political will is a potent weapon that can attract votes, and not the other way around.

Indeed, Iloilo City needs a strong leader who is not afraid to displease certain sectors just so that the law can be equally enforced. We’ve seen how illegal sidewalk vendors were untouchable because our leaders feared the whiplash of their anger at the polling place. Ordinances were broken right before enforcers. Respect for the law declined.

I’d say Mabilog is doing the right thing. He needs to demonstrate to his constituents nobody is above the law. Economic status will not make a difference when an individual breaks the rules. If he or she crosses the street outside of the pedestrian lanes, then it will not help if the offender wears a Rolex.

It’s not surprising that Mabilog is drawing more praises from the people for what he has done so far. In other cities, the display of political will has proven to be an effective strategy.

Acting DILG secretary Jesse Robredo showed that political will can transform a city like Naga into one of the most outstanding LGUs in the country in terms of efficiency, cleanliness and dynamism. Even relatives are fined when they violate ordinances in Naga City.

Davao City is known as the local version of Singapore because residents are so disciplined one can’t find a cigarette butt on the streets. Now vice mayor Rudy Duterte has imposed a strict no-smoking rule in public places when he was mayor, and now it has become the culture for the people of Davao.

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to talk for two hours with Cotabato City mayor Japal Guiani Jr. during the Janiuay town fiesta and he also shared his own success in bringing change with political will.

Not too long ago, Cotabato City was notorious as a city of violence and kidnappings. Located right in the middle of Maguindanao province, Guiani said he had to tackle herculean tests when he assumed the office as local chief executive.

The first thing he did was clear the sidewalks of illegal vendors. A lot of people warned him it can’t be done. But Guiani went ahead with his plan and demolished those stalls that occupied the sidewalks after a deadline he imposed.

Then he asked the police and military to stop giving out mission orders (M.O.) to civilians to allow them to carry firearms outside their residences. At first, he sensed the military officials didn’t like the idea. He discovered it was a money-making venture for them. Guiani threatened to expose the practice of issuing M.O.’s for a fee. So it stopped.

Guiani next turned his attention to criminality. He got a list of individuals with pending warrants of arrest from the police. The only way to neutralize them, he knew, was put them behind bars. When he dispatched policemen to run after these guys, he was told some of these criminals were “assets” of the military, hence, untouchable. Again, he took a hardline stance, and the military relented. The criminals were placed behind bars.

After just six months, Guiani said Cotabato City has emerged from the dark shadow of its negative image of the past and rapidly taking its position as one of the fastest growing cities in Mindanao. All it took was political will, uncompromising political will.

I know Mayor Mabilog is encountering problems trying to enforce the ordinances on jaywalking and smoking. He should not give up. He should push harder and show the people he means business. I’m sure he will earn more political capital from doing this and emerge as a very strong leader who will be hard to beat in the next elections.

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.