The Bohol and Quezon Tragedies

THE BOHOL AND QUEZON TRAGEDIES

In this world there are two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. The last is much the worst – OSCAR WILDE

They could have been averted if not their effects diminished had the local government units been more vigilant in the performance of their duties.

Local autonomy was given to local governments precisely to avoid those disasters that befell Bohol, Quezon, and Aurora.

WHY QUEZON?

Quezon is a good example of a local government gone bad. First, there was that Padre Burgos train accident that killed 6 persons owing to train tracks stealing. With the price of steel skyrocketing, the railways are fairgame to thieves. How can the national government monitor these thieveries without the watchful eyes of the barangay, municipality and the province? Secondly, the mudslides in Real, Infanta and General Nakar triggered by successive typhoons that killed thousands of residents and practically levelled these towns. Thirdly, the proliferation of drugs, illegal gambling, and insurgency. Fourthly, Quezon is in the pits being one of the poorest LGUs in the country. You name it, this province has it.

The sitting governor, when accused of abetting illegal logging, was quick to the draw saying it was never his fault. He claims he has no power of checking illegal loggers, pointing a critical finger to the vanishing breed of forest rangers of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Thanks to the expose of Senator Miriam Santiago, at last the nation was able to see for itself the current facial attributes of the sitting governor of Quezon vainly defending his innocence.

“Gano’n pala ang hitsura ni Governor, malayo doon sa mga billboard na nagkalat sa Quezon”, one Maubanin was heard saying when he saw the face of the local official mercilessly flashed on the TV screen being interviewed by a TV reporter after the Miriam expose. “Sa totoo lang, mula ng maging gobernador yan hindi ko nakita ng personal,” he added. “Pati ba naman sa billboard lolokohin pa ang mga taga Quezon? Hindi naman pala yaon ang hitsura niya. Nagpapapogi feeling spice boy!”

The same Maubanin volunteered the suggestion that the sitting governor should undergo lifestyle check for unexplained wealth.

He said that he once visited the house of President Ramos in Ayala Alabang. He was pleasantly surprised to discover that the sitting governor is a proximate neighbour of FVR whose house is just about a few meters with the ailing governor. “Doon sa kalyeng yon, si Gob ang pinakamaraming nakaparadang SUVs! Si Ramos naging presidente, understandable na maraming kotse, pero si Gob, bakit napakayaman na yata.”

The Maubanin was thinking aloud that the magnitude of the sitting governor’s wealth is simply mind-boggling and could never be justified by the estate his father left behind. The school as everybody knows is now a foundation. How can that be a source of income, except salaries and honorariums? In fact its estate tax, according to a shortchanged sibling has not been paid. The lands adjoining the school could not fetch handsome amounts owing to the submerged real estate since 1997 when we were hit by the Asian meltdown that first battered Thailand. In all appearances, his luck began in 1998. The Maubanin rued, “kailan kaya matatapos and Tayabas-Mauban-Sampaloc Road?” Tears glazed his eyes. They are busy dismantling abandoned steel structures in Sariaya and selling them to scrap buyers courtesy of Melo Uri.

In fine, nagkabistuhan na. These local officials are busy feathering their nests. Let us brace ourselves for more tragedies to come.

HEARTBREAK IN BOHOL

Again, the national government is now up to its neck in micromanagement. The Department of Health wants all caramelized balinghoy examined for hints of poison or insecticide. From last account the sales of our very own BUDIN (cassava cake) dived attributable to the balinghoy scare. The DepEd says our favourite subject, recess, should be regulated. Everybody sheds tears for the death of 28 school children. What a waste! Quoting Dr. Rizal, “?Donde esta juventud del pais?” After 100 years, we now know the answer. They are killed by balinghoy, exploited, and their future stolen by the likes of the sitting official. A made the rounds: kung kakain ka ng kamote, kamote na lang; kung kahoy ang kakainin, kahoy na lang. Huwag subukang kumain ng kamotengkahoy, dahil malalason ka!

The latest survey on education tells us that only 40% of those enrolled in public elementary school are able to graduate in that level. The rest belongs to the sorry statistics. Nalason pa!

But have you heard of devolution? The most part of health services is devolved already to the local government. That is the reason why when devolution of health services was being implemented there were lots of complaints about where to source the wherewithal of health workers pay. The doctors pay must approximate a passable level commensurate to their previous compensation avoiding what the experts call pay distortion. Eventually, we hurdled this birth pain thanks to the Internal Revenue Allotment.

Thus, the municipality has the municipal health officer, the sanitary inspector (sanidad), and the barangay health workers. While the province on the other hand has the provincial health officer and health inspectors backstopped by a resident national complement of health staff under the payroll of the DOH.

Simultaneous with the issuance of the annual mayor’s license, any restaurant, carinderia, or ambulant food vendor for that matter, must secure first, a sanitary permit or must pass thru a health inspection ensuring health hazard-free facilities. This is not the business of Secretary Manolet Dayrit. This is the business of 1,500 mayors and 83 governors! Under Sec. 16 of the Local Government Code:

General Welfare. – Every local government unit shall exercise the powers expressly granted, those necessarily implied therefrom, as well as powers necessary, appropriate, or incidental for its efficient and effective governance, and those which are essential to the promotion of the general welfare. Within their respective territorial jurisdictions, local government units shall ensure and support, among other things, the preservation and enrichment of culture, promote health and safety, enhance  the right of the people to a balanced ecology, encourage and support the development of appropriate and self-reliant scientific and technological  capabilities, improve public morals, enhance economic prosperity and social justice, promote full employment among their residents, maintain peace and order, and preserve the comfort and convenience of their inhabitants (emphasis ours)

The general welfare clause is the shotgun power of the local chief executive. He is the virtual datu of his territory. Unfortunately, this power is wielded in everything it was never meant to be.

Don’t these mayors, governors, and LGU doctors realize that our school children are exposed to foods that may be contaminated? They should know. That is the reason why we have division of labor. Let the experts bang their heads on the wall because that is their job.

WHAT HAPPENED TO INTELLIGENCE FUNDS?

In his paid TV interview refuting Sen. Santiago’s accusation, the sitting governor was heard ululating that blame should not be placed on him. He said that he has no power to monitor 24 hours illegal logging activities in his territory. He threw the blame on the nephew of the senator, Secretary Mike Defensor. The governor claims he simply has no fund monitoring these unauthorized tree cutting.

In Quezon experience, the sitting governor has enjoyed unliquidated Intelligence Fund since 1998. P25M and counting! How about the share of the province from the Mauban Power plant?

(Calling the Sangguninang Panglalawigan: Please prove us wrong. This is the time to grill the sitting duck for investigation since he won’t be eligible for re-election. Show some balls boys and girls, unless you are part of the payroll which everybody suspects).

While the fund has been disbursed, no report was ever submitted as to where it went after all these years. Quezon is still a repository of vast yet fast dwindling forest. Northern Quezon is one place plagued by illegal loggers. At one time in 2000 DENR discovered an estimated one million board feet logs floating along Agos River in the town of General Nakar. Magandang Gabi Bayan even made a documentary of the incident.

When the President and the DENR Secretary visited Quezon soon after and asked the sitting governor for some explanations, the latter resented the inquiry and drifted to the opposition.

Finally, some figures leaked from the office of the provincial chief that the logs are in the vicinity of 300,000 board feet and not one million. Eventually the timbers disappeared. The logs were seen spirited away carted off by province-owned dump trucks in the dead of night.

After the “Wennie” & “Yoyong” rampage recently, logs were seen drifting along the coasts of Infanta and Real estimated at 3 million board feet. If indeed the LGU particularly the province is after environment protection, the timber felling would have been reduced. And the brunt of the typhoons minimized.

In Quezon, anything that has the term “intelligence” on it is pocketed by the sitting provincial official. Intelligence Fund and the Intelegencia from jueteng, such that even the Intelligence in the IQ of school children is being coveted by the wheel-chair bound official.

Don’t thank the lowly balinghoy for that.

Sonny Pulgar

www.sonnypulgar.com

katataspulong.blogspot.com

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