Zamboanga City, ...Incorporated!
by: Felino Santos, Contributing Editor
Zamboanga City Monday, January 6, 2003
"The People of Zamboanga, as an entity or collective body, is not the City Government, and vice-versa. The City Government is not the people of Zamboanga! The City Government is a corporate entity, and does not necessarily mean that it is the people of Zamboanga!" ...City Councilor Juan "Kim" Elago.
This correlation between the City Government and the people of Zamboanga City was explained the other day in a radio interview held by Station Manager Ronie Lledo, with City Councilor Juan "Kim" Elago.
Kim claims that he has to defend the interest of his mayor and that of the Sangguniang Panglungsod, over any other interests in this city.
At the time of the interview, he was defending the decision of the city council and the city government to purchase seven Strada, all-terrain sports utility vehicles (SUV), totalling P7 million, for the newly elected city councilors in Zamboanga City. He was also in favor of the proposed construction of a P45 million building to house the City Council along R.T. Lim Boulevard, beside the Zamboanga City Sports Complex.
"I have to defend the mayor, because we belong to the same party," Elago told Lledo in the interview.
This revelation about the "Corporate status" of the city government may be shocking to the people for several reasons.
People in general tend to believe that the local government unit is as Abraham Lincoln said, "a government of the people, by the people, and for the people." Not so, as the city councilor succinctly explained. "Hende ese amo," Elago said.
In effect, the over 700,000 people of Zamboanga City is not the city government. In the same manner, the some 1,700 city government employees and officials can be considered apart from the people, as they are the governing body, separate and distinct from the general populace.
"The elected officials and employees are part of the corporate body called the city government of Zamboanga City, constituted by virtue of a charter, just like any corporation," Elago reasoned.
With this definition then in mind, we can begin to understand the actions of the city government, or the city council, in current affairs.
In fact, city government officials do not spend a single centavo (from their pockets) to provide free housing, water, electricity, or any other amenity to the people. These expenditures must be shouldered by every private family in Zamboanga City.
On the other hand, the city government, through its city treasurer, spends thousands and millions of pesos to house government employees, provide them with office, with water, electricity, and the like.
The city government also spends millions to equip an armed group called the police. This armed group, as experience shows, is only interested in protecting the interests of the city government, implement repressive laws, and protect themselves.
"We cannot be everywhere all the time" is the favorite alibi of police officials when people get killed by bombs and the like.
Come to think of it, Councilor Elago could be correct. He said it is not what the people think about how the city government is being run that counts. "It is what we do as elected officials, or who in effect, are officers of the corporation called city government, that matters."
It is not everyday that we get nuggets of wisdom from elected officials like Elago, or from city hall minions.
Months ago, City Hall Spokesman Jose Mari Bue, wrote in his column "For the Record" at the Zamboanga Times:
"...Mayor Maria Clara Lobregat has posed no objection to the purchase of five STRADA pickups for other members of the city council. Well, procurement of vehicles is not anymore a luxury, but a necessity. There’s nothing wrong if the new city councilors will have their vehicles. "El otro gane tiene, pues dale tamen con aquellos nohay! Para todo alegre." ( They are now called: Sports Necessity Vehicles - SNVs! Do you es envy? )
What we are a little worried about is his statement that: "Procurement of vehicles is not anymore a luxury, but a necessity." This assumption releases a floodgate of justification for purchases made by the city government.
For one, there is this P5 million Street Sweeper that was purchased some two years ago. After being used for a few days, something went wrong with the vehicle. It was then kept in storage at the City Sports Complex to gather rust.
A reporter then went to check the condition of the P5-million mechanized street sweeper, but could not find the vehicle at the complex anymore. When the reporter finally managed to reach General Services Officer Alfredo Fuertes, what she got was: "Nuway mas kamo cosa istoria para escribi."
The multi-million peso street vacuum cleaner was later traced to a repair shop in barangay Tetuan. A photographer who tried to take photos was dissuaded by the shop owner for fear of Fuertes. From all indications, the repair was done without any public bidding.
Unfortunately, for the unfortunates in Zamboanga City, the axiom that those in government must be open to suggestion and criticism has gone to loot. Any criticism is answered immediately, irrationally, or not, by spokesman who only try to justify.
We have seen his happen in the criticisms raised or questions asked, over the approved plan to construct a P45 million building for the city council. The same is true over the purchase of vehicles that can accommodate only a few people, and - may those who ride behind be covered with dust and mud.
"Kame el ta dicidi, hende maga gente!," said Kim Elago.
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