Besides these, there are the reported overpriced construction of the city’s boxing ring under the auspices of the newly organized Association of Bacolod Amateur Boxers; arbitrary disbursement of millions in Pagcor (Philippines Amusements and Gaming Corporation) funds by the executive office; and the suspected inflow of dirty money from STL (small-town lottery) and other big time gambling operators into the city coffers.
Some of Leonardia’s officials are also facing individual administrative and criminal suits for cases of irregularities, unprofessionalism, unethical practices and cheating.
All the alleged scams wracking the Leonardia have deep roots in the culture of patronage, nepotism and clientele-ism practiced by past city administrations, and the semi-colonial and semi-feudal character of Philippine economic and political structures.
Indeed, power breeds corruption, and corruption anesthesizes.
Political or bureaucratic power enables them to ransack public funds and inflate the ill-gotten private wealth that they already possess. Corruption helps increase the power of Leonardia and his officials, and renders the poor Bacolodnons more marginalized economically, socially, and politically.
The poor governance and scams that plague the Leonardia administration exacerbated by the paralysis of internal and external institutional mechanisms against graft and corruption are what make it rotten to the core.
Toward a Democratic Governance
At the rate by which the present administration is losing its credibility, one begins to ask whether a reshuffling, or re-districting of the city, or even a shift in the form of government from unitary to federal, is enough to cure the cancer that afflicts the infrastructures of the Leonardia governance.
The way the Leonardia administration stands now, does not augur well for the general public. It even projects a weak, fractious, anti-people and anti-development administration.
Bereft of visions and programs that address the people’s welfare and democratic interests, they subvert the elections through manipulation, disinformation and the spreading of more myths; and run the bureaucracy like the extension of the private businesses of the Leonardia family and patrons.
The Leonardia administration however does not seem to understand that the people are smarter than they are made to appear – they are always able to sort out the grain from the chaff.
A local political leader recently said, “Let them (the city politicians and their apologists) wallow into believing that Bacolodnons will always go for the thieves in the city government.”
Movements for political and economic reforms are growing in various corners of the city and the province – involving the marginalized folks, business, professionals, state employees, the church, NGOs, and other groups and individuals that believe in a different kind of governance.
It is now becoming clearer in various circles that governance is about who wields political power. Political power should be in the hands of the people.
A truly democratic governance is far from the present realities but it is already taking shape amid the present contradictions.
The city government has still some well-meaning officials and people who are willing to give it another try especially with more push from political figures, sectors and groups who value their stake in the on-going reconfiguration of power.
In due time, democratic governance will emerge with the people bound by one vision, one mission, common goals and strategies, working as one despite divergence in ideas, adoptive to changing conditions, and with a political leadership that is able to unite divergent political forces in a common march towards real and lasting development and peace.
How this can be translated into a common and doable agenda is something that has to be defined and worked out by the major stakeholders and facilitators of change.
A change in city administration in 2010 may cause some improvements. But how significant and beneficial to the people this change will be remains to be seen. ((Bulatlat.com))
1_COA 2005, 2006 and 2007 annual audit reports, www.coa.gov.ph
2_ Good Governance: The Political Solution to Socio-economic malaise, ESCAP, December 2008
3_ Korten and Siy; Transforming a Bureaucracy: The Experience of National Irrigation
4_ Larkin; Sugar and the Origins of Modern Philippine Society; Introduction; Epilogue; 2001
5_ Jeremy Seabrook: Victims of Development; 1993; pp 7-19, 21-26
6_ Bacolod City Comprehensive Land Use Development Plan; 2000-2010
7_ State of the City Address of Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia; 2007
8_ Selected Interviews; 2007-2008
9_ News Clippings; Visayan Daily Star; Sun Star Bacolod; Negros Daily Bulletin; Negros Times;
10_ Eduardo, et al., Victor ; Ombudsman Cases against Bacolod City Officials on Government
Center; 2007; 2008
11_ Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG); Selected Articles; 2007-2008