Injustice at City Hall

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By Tibs Palasan, Jr

Spark of Law

Monday, January 27, 2014


GOVERNMENT administrations, past and present, and surely even in the future, have their avowed goals negated by their subordinates.

The pro-poor and anti-corruption mantra, of a mayor, of a governor, or a president will see its failure as government powers are exercised not by the leaders themselves but by their agents.

Often the seat of power is surrounded by a cordon of trusted lieutenants who act as prism through which the leader analyze the situation on the ground and through which directives are implemented.

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These lieutenants report to the leader and advice the latter the course of action. Acting on the reports, the leader formulates his decisions and orders the lieutenants to execute.

At the end of the day, the leader appears to be acting independently but overall it is still the lieutenants that run the show.

The success of the leader depends largely on his choice of lieutenants. The success or failure of an administration depends on the quality of the lieutenants.

The plight of Purificacion Yañez is a case in point.

She is tenant in the estate of Pedro Roa at Lumbia, this city, for so long a time. The city government bought the land tilled by Yanez for the purpose of construction of houses of the “Sendong” victims. The city council passed the resolution approving the budget for the compensation to Purificacion Yañez. Mayor Oscar Moreno approved the budget.

The directive of the city council and city mayor is clear and unmistakable: Pay Purifacion Yañez.

But this directive is frustrated by the subalterns.

Since last year, Purifacion Yañez has been knocking at the doors of city hall so the funds will be released to her. She needs the money for the demolition of her house and for the relocation and eventual construction of a new one. The need is most compelling because the heavy equipment is now levelling the ground, destroying the crops and other improvements, and threatening to bulldoze her house.

To her shock and horror, she is having the most degrading situation of having to wait at the doorsteps of offices at the city hall waiting for the department heads to act on her claim. At the fragile age of 80 years old, she has no more energy to wait eight hours a day and five days a week since November of last year until of press time.

To be sure, many could relate on how government civil servants treat the public. She was referred to the legal, budget, accounting, engineering departments, and even to the office of the mayor. Like a card, she was being shuffled to these offices for three months now.

Lately, after many bouts with hypertensions and upset stomachs due to the harrowing experience, P100,000 is said to be released out of the P500,000 she was entitled to. Of the P100,000, land taxes will have to be deducted which obviously should not be done because the landowner, the estate of Pedro Roa, and not the mere tenant, should pay the tax.

The city government only released the partial amount, and the balance will be paid after Purificacion Yanez shall have left the land.

There was never a condition of partial payment when she agreed to demolish her house. Why only now? Even if she has the funds to demolish her house with the partial payment, how could she construct a new one? These city hall lieutenants would want her to demolish the house, stay in the main while at the city streets, and wait for the release of the balance so she could finally construct a new house.

Idiocy when coupled with the intent to scoop money from the poor and the aging is a dangerous brew.

The public, familiar with the modus operandi of corrupt civil servants, know pretty well the scheme. These lieutenants are trying to sap the energy of the aging and sickly Purificacion Yañez until finally she would succumb and offer bribe money. Good thing though that she will never submit to the clear overtures of extortion.

The scheme has been played out so many times in government offices that we shall now christen them not civil servants but civil “suckers,” that is, if they still deserve the modifier “civil” before the word “suckers.”

Mayor Moreno should have a periodic review of the performance of the lieutenants that cordon him. Command responsibility applies. The buck stops at him. Or else, acquiescence may as well be active participation in a conspiracy of silence.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on January 27, 2014.

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