Politically risky decision-A A +A
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
TWO weeks ago, Mayor Michael Rama’s men sent to occupants of the Cebu City side of the Mahiga creek a notice to vacate the premises within fifteen days. As usual, the informal settlers reacted angrily and vowed to resist any attempt to evict them from their homes.
Watching their reaction on video, TV5 Aksyon Bisaya co-anchor Georgia Herrera Klepp deadpanned, “maybe, they want the creek relocated instead.”
The 15-day grace period expires this week, if my arithmetic is correct. I wish the mayor’s men luck in their effort to protect the lives of the people by the creek. It’s not going to be easy to convince them, especially so when politics creeps into the picture. The timing is particularly worrisome; in four weeks we will be holding the barangay elections.
I do not know why but cases like this always end up being portrayed as a fight between the rich and the poor and the powerful versus the weak.
It is not only about enforcing the law, it is also about mitigating the risk of massive loss of lives (remember Cagayan de Oro?) from floods but instead of being hailed as Samaritan, the one trying to do a good turn is regarded as oppressor, heartless and unmindful of the needs of the less fortunate.
“Less fortunate” is an aberration. The city is not going to throw them out into the streets; they’re being offered relocation. Maybe, the accommodations will not completely meet their expectations but at least they have a roof over their heads. And more than that, they will be safer than where they are at present--by the bank of a creek that could turn violent anytime and wash them all away.
We have oftentimes complained that our elected officials do not have the will to make politically-risky decisions. Rama has shown that he is not afraid to lose the goodwill of the Mahiga creek occupants – if he has not lost them yet – in order to maintain the rule of law.
We appeal to his political opponents to leave the mayor alone, if they can’t be one with him, on this one. Most of all, we appeal to residents to stop being informal settlers by moving to the homes that the city is offering and which they can eventually call their own.
At the risk of being facetious, let me add that it is difficult to relocate the creek.
More than five thousand people joined the rally against the pork barrel last Sunday. It was the third such mass action by the Cebuanos, if you include the one in Fuente Osmeña that was able to gather only about 50 people.
The first one at Plaza Independencia attracted a good crowd in spite of the efforts of certain quarters to sabotage it. Last Sunday’s rally was better coordinated and I salute the organizers for it.
I am for the abolition of the pork barrel but not because it is necessarily evil. The pork is good. The people who serve it are not.
The Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) has sent poor but deserving children to school, enabled indigents to receive medical care, built roads, school buildings and bridges and otherwise served the purposes for which it was conceived.
Unfortunately, not all those who were entrusted with the power of designating the project or purpose for which the pork barrel is to be used were honest.
But not all of those who received their pork barrel were dishonest either. There were and are senators and congressmen who availed of their pork barrel allocations and used them strictly for public purposes. How to identify them, that is the question. Right now, the public perception is that everybody is suspect.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 01, 2013.