Paradigm shift

After spending two months in San Pedro City, Laguna as guest of Kap Jun Ynion, I saw concrete proof that “zero corruption” does translate into better public services and greater efficiency in governance.

Like so many others, I threw my full support into the “matuwid na daan” slogan of President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III when he assumed office on June 30, 2010. It didn’t take long before the enthusiasm wilted and was replaced by disillusionment. Corruption remained rampant despite the filing of graft cases against three senators. Worse, the Aquino administration cloaked its allies, who were as voracious in plundering the national treasury, under a mantle of protection.

God knows how hard I fought to expose massive corruption in Iloilo City, filing cases against the Senate President and the City Mayor. I also inundated the Commission on Audit with requests for vital documents. In the four years I mounted that battle, I was met only with frustration. Tthe Office of the Ombudsman under its new head, Tanodbayan Conchita Carpio-Morales, does not seem eager to indict the respondents, not for lack of evidence, but simply because they were pro-Aquino.

It reached a point when I was ready to throw in the white towel. There is no way we can lick corruption. Our nation will drown in it, I told myself.

But watching how Jun Ynion translated the “zero corruption” advocacy into a working model in Barangay San Antonio opened my eyes to a new possibility for my own mission.

Instead of fighting corruption and be beaten by the system, here’s an opportunity to push “zero corruption” and persuade the people to embrace it.

This requires less energy because the emphasis is on the positive. Because of his position as the local chief executive of the barangay, Kap Jun didn’t take long in dismantling the remnants of corruption from the previous administration. It wasn’t an easy ride; he encountered heavy turbulence in the first six to 12 months. Kap Jun wields strong political will, and he was able to remove the infrastructure, including people, that bred the corruption.

Now Kap Jun is focused on proving his point: that with zero corruption, every peso in the public treasury can be used to maximum effect. All goods and infrastructure are procured at the lowest cost. Overpricing is taboo, and not a few employees of the barangay had to learn this the hard way — the lost their jobs.

Barangay San Antonio was the second biggest barangay in San Pedro City, next only to Barangay San Vicente, when Kap Jun came to office in November 2013. It has an annual budget of P35 million to serve 70,000 constituents. The amount may seem big for a barangay, but then Barangay San Antonio has a population equivalent to a mid-sized municipality.

I’ll skip the details of what Kap Jun has done for Barangay San Antonio. But it dawned upon me that the battle against corruption can be pursued — I believe with greater potency — by demonstrating that it promotes the welfare of the people and enable government to do more for less.

Indeed, history teaches that the greatest causes were won not with hostile activities, but more on the foundation of love and understanding. It’s about winning the hearts and minds of the people. This was how Christ taught his disiciples, who in turn spread His word. So, too, did Mohammad. Mahatmi Gandhi didn’t bring the British to its knees by leading a violent revolution; he advocated non-violent resistance.

Hence, as a journalist, I made up my mind to change my approach to the problem of corruption. I’ve seen that hurting our officials with exposes on their corruption didn’t change the way they went about their business. It is effective in attracting readership. However, the readers are not moved to action by the scandals they read. It’s as if nothing happened after they put down their newspapers or shut down their computers.

From now on, I will channel my energies to writing about success stories on corruption-free governance. Not all politicians are bad. We need to reinforce the core values of the good politicians by making them feel their brand of leadership is appreciated. Hopefully, the idea will spread, and more politicians will seek more of the public approval than gain the scorn of the people.

This doesn’t mean I will abandon my cause against corruption. I will continue to carry on as a watchdog. But it will be more on a positive tone. In Toastmasters, I learned that criticism can be made more palatable by couching it in pleasant language. Once you tell a person, more so a public official, that he did a something wrong, it’s likely he will put up a defensive posture and thwart the message. I’ll “suggest” to them how the law might apply to specific anomalous transactions and gently nudge them to rectify their actions.

In essence, I’ll shed off the image of a fault-finder, always ready to pounce with a dagger. This will be replaced with the image of a coach, understanding that mistakes can be made and giving our officials the benefit of the doubt as to their motive. After all, nobody is perfect. There is always room for improvement.

I feel encouraged with this paradigm shift. There is already one instance when Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog canceled a contract which I pointed out was legally infirm. Next time, I’ll remove the hostility in my commentary to lessen the resistance to the message. Perhaps we will be able to see less transgressions of the law, particularly the procurement law.

On the Iloilo Convention Center, I’ve done enough. I have delivered the message about the anomalies that transpired. The case, upon a motion for reconsideration, is pending with the Office of the Ombudsman. It was a Quixotic crusade. Now that the ICC is being rushed toward completion, I will keep quiet about it. I don’t want to put more pressure on our DPWH. The career officials are always the ones caught in the middle. I’ll give them room to finish the project.

I’ve made my point, and I will let the judicial processes take its course.

Meanwhile, there’s plenty of work as I embrace this paradigm shift with Kap Jun Ynion. He has embarked on a courageous journey to change politics in San Pedro City. As a loyal friend, I will help him in every way I can to succeed in his mission. After all, we share a passion for good governance and scorn for corruption.

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.

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.