Father and son

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Friday, June 6, 2014


OF COURSE it reeks of conflicts of interest. The father is the city executive, and the son, the finance committee chair.

Councilor Claudio Puentevella assumed the role of the Sangguniang Panlungsod’s finance committee chair, a situation that Councilor Bobby Rojas warned as “dangerous.” Rojas argued that the younger Puentevella’s position can enable him to approve and disapprove, support or reject, funding for the city’s projects and activities and other financial matters.

That seems to be a stretch. Last I heard, the SP is still a collegial body and that the committee chairs still practice the principle of primus inter pares (first among equals).

Moreover, Rojas questioned why the chairship of the committee was given to the younger Puentevella, who, aside from being a neophyte councilor, is also a son of the mayor.

On that, Vice Mayor Greg Gasataya shot back that there’s no written rule that the chair of the SP committee on finance, budget and appropriations should be a senior member.

Gasataya does not belong to the Puentevella bloc. He’s supposedly tied-up with former mayor now Bacolod lone district Congressman Evelio Leonardia. Has he changed his citizenship?

The acting mayor added that the decision is still dependent on the majority decision and they cannot dictate the wisdom of the majority.

“The election on committee chairmanship is a matter to be decided by numbers,” he said, in obvious reference to the MKK Party of the Puentevellas, the new majority in the SP.

In fact, even the younger Puentevella agreed with the Vice Mayor: “I am but a recipient of the collective desire of the council,” he said, adding that the Sanggunian is a separate and distinct body from the executive.

One need not be a political partisan. In principle, there is a separation of power among the three branches of the government. Just check the Constitution.

On the other hand, I can also agree with Rojas’s point. The father-son tandem in our local governance is what ails our body politic. There are no permanent allies or enemies in politics, just permanent interests. The erstwhile pro-Leonardia bloc has swung its votes to the current executive.

But then, why just blame the Puentevellas but not Rojas’s fellow councilors who selected Claudio P. to chair the finance committee?
Perhaps the bigger and deeper issue should be on the question of political dynasties. It might be the Puentevellas today, tomorrow it might be a different set of political families.

Philippine politics is relative. Most politicos will field their relatives to run for various posts. In the 14th Congress of the Philippines (from July 23, 2007 to June 4, 2010), more than 75 percent of the lawmakers are members of the old political families. Why should Bacolod’s local legislature be an exception?

In the last election, Congressman Leonardia fielded his brother Andy, and later, his other brother architect Prospero “Pros” to run for councilor.

Unless our Congress enacts an enabling law on the Constitutional provision that “the State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law,” we can expect more relatives in local and national governments, and more conflicts of interests.

Can Bacolod Representative Evelio Leonardia muster the political will and rise to the challenge of batting for the passage of the anti-dynasty bill to make sure there will be no father-and-son tandems in our local governance?

Frankly, I’m not holding my breath on the answer to my own question. It goes without saying.

***

(bqsanc@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on June 06, 2014.

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