I spent most of the day yesterday monitoring a picture in Facebook posted by an old school friend from Silliman University. It was a relief good being given to the earthquake victims in Negros Oriental bearing the name of Roel Degamo, the Governor.
I have spent some of the best years of my childhood as a student of Silliman University. I spent my four years of high school there and some college before going to the Academy. I have always said that if not for the Academy I would have graduated College from Silliman also. Fate had different plans for me and moved me away from the campus beside the sea but not before the school has taught me values that would place me where I am right now. It was in Silliman that I learned the value of service to others, the very value that propels me to do my job right now as a soldier.Now, in the long thread that was created because of the outpour of reactions to that Facebook picture aroused issues that I wish to put into context and perhaps be able to illustrate my perspective in the kind of governance our people need.
I am presently deployed in one of the Barangays of Davao Oriental. Although a poor barangay but far better than those that I have been to before. In this community are several elementary schools and a young high school who will have their second set of graduates this coming March. In this place I am lucky that the Barangay Hall is pink. Lucky because the pink color on the wall of the Barangay Hall is a manifestation that the incumbent Barangay Officials are “berks” with the Governor of the province (pink is the provincial color). In one barangay that I have been to, somewhere in Davao del Sur, an unfinished covered court is the landmark of their Barrio center. It is unfinished because the Barangay Captain of that community is a “berks” of the losing gubernatorial candidate last elections. Work on his covered court was halted after the defeat of his candidate for Governor who was formerly the Representative of that Congressional District. Unlike this Barangay that I am presently deployed on, that community was unlucky. In that same municipality, only four out of the 16 barangays are electrified and their concrete road is limited to a few hundred meters stretch in front of the public market, the rest are all rough roads (as in literally rough). The Municipal Mayor of that town is again from the party of the losing gubernatorial bet. Perhaps with the COMELEC recently ordering a recount on the gubernatorial elections for the province of Davao Del Sur, a tinge of hope is present for those poor localities who are victims of bad politics. No violation is obvious as resources of the province are limited and projects are done on a priority basis. The determining of that priority lies entirely on those in control.
In Sultan Kudarat, it is a different story. Some Barangays do not have a Barangay Hall AT ALL. It’s not about whose party they were affiliated to during the last elections, it’s just that their officials would rather use the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of their turf to other “expenses” rather than where it is supposed to. How come the Commission on Audit (COA) has not discovered these anomalies? The answer lies on a technique that works perfectly well for these areas. When an audit is forthcoming, rumours of war will begin to spread. As the Auditors are fetched by the Host Officials that they will audit, they will then begin to tell stories of skirmishes between the rebel groups and the government that happened very recently. This will be supported by stories of deaths of innocent civilians that were caught in the crossfire. At the end of these stories, the Local Official will advise the Auditors to be careful. Needless to say, the Auditor will simply advise the Official to bring all his documents to the nearest safe community so that they can audit it there instead of going to their “dangerous” Barangay. Well, one would ask, how come nobody dared bring this up to the Ombudsman? Well, the people there do not even know how to say the word Ombudsman much more report these incidents to them. Also, the tradition of violence in these places is so rampant that one would rather keep their mouth shut than put their own lives or of their families at stake.
These observations form the foundation on why I find the “Degamo incident” in Negros Oriental very disconcerting. You see Negros Oriental is home to Dumaguete City, home to my alma mater whose tradition of Academic Excellence is world renowned. To put it simply, people in this province are educated plus they do not have the conditions that are present in the examples that I presented. I have very much accepted that a lot of work is to be done in those provinces whose bad politics are already deeply rooted and have been compounded by other problems. In Negros Oriental though, doing that is simply insulting the intelligence of the people. While Maguindanao was almost able to get away with zero votes to the late Fernando Poe Jr. in the 2004 elections, surely Negros Oriental is of a different lot; definitely of a different lot and a far better lot.
Today, the banner story of the Philippine Star states Secretary Robredo’s advise to the good governor regarding the incident. I’m hoping he might just do that for I am sure that the good people of Negros Oriental will not cease to create a noise until their politicians will know their place in our democracy. It is bad enough that they took advantage of the situation to gain political mileage, but to think that your citizens are stupid is just out of this world. Our people need good and credible governance. One that is founded on service above self and not for vested personal interests. This kind of governance is still a distant dream to many places especially here in Mindanao. While much work still has to be done in our part of the country, vigilance should be exercised by citizens of localities like that of Negros Oriental so as not to add to our already problematic political situation.