Thursday, 19 December 2013

Editorial: Christmas is what it's all about

WITH a series of crisis that befell the nation – from deadly temblors and floods, a super typhoon, media murders, the separatists’ armed hooliganism in Mindanao, rice shortages - to the soaring commodity prices, and of course, the damming pork barrel alongside the massive corruption that clings to it, the coming of Christmas is the only bright, cheerful light that every Filipino could see right now.

In fact, there’s no end to our woes, which are being worsened by the shameful squabbling among the nation’s leaders.

And when we speak of such, the name of the President would immediately pop out, followed by those who are ready to taint their names in his defense, and the rest of high-ranking officials, who could only cloud the issues instead of making them clear to be appreciated.

Focusing our sight on Mambulao, many of our citizens are still of the wildest belief that the advent of Christmas would, as usual, bring the good tidings that we came to know of since we were children.

But we, the adults, would like to go on believing this. It is the only way for our children to fortify their faith in the coming of Baby Jesus into their lives and in the bright prospects that go with it.

While many parents, in one way or the other, would dread this season for the untold expenses that could burn their pockets, the children, on the other hand, are in great anticipation of the multitudes of material wealth that would drop onto their laps.

After all, this is what Christmas is all about – the children’s special day with Baby Jesus in foreground.

For if we start saying that this coming Christmas would not be as merry as it was in the past year, then we are just doing a great disservice to the emotional and psychological needs of our children and to ourselves.

We could say that the past twelve months had been relatively good to us Mambulaoans, with some positive development across the municipality that are hoped to spawn progress later.

For instance, the local government was able to stretch its meager funding to bring the tip of the cemented Larap road to Spurline, about two kilometers from the heart of this desolate community, which is Larap.

And finally, the bridge that connects baranggay Parang to the poblacion – one that has caused needless animosity between and among the residents and natives overseas – was finally completed, letting with ease the people to get back to their normal lives.

The ancient bridge at the entrance to baranggay Pag-asa is nearing completion, - at least in two months’ time - and it is hoped that travel from this spot inwards the forested sleepy community would soon be smoother.

And there’s this housing relocation site project that is now being developed along Spurline in Larap for about 300 squatter households that crowd along the beach of Parang, who were once accused of spoiling the sand stretch with their rubbish.

While this and a lot more are taking place across our municipality, there’s something worrisome that many among our kababayan are not aware of.

This has something to do with the junked pork barrel – the money that had been flowing in the veins of community development – Mambulao’s development for that matter -- until it was revealed lately as being the proverbial milking cow of the corrupt members of the Senate and House of Representative and a lot more down the line.

The Supreme Court subsequently declared it illegal.

Pork had funded a big potion of the local government’s infrastructure projects, particularly during the first term of Mayor Ricarte “Dong” Padilla that began in July of 2010.

By the way, he is now six months into his second term.

During the first 38 months of his governance, with the last two months ushering in his second term as mayor, Padilla received modest funding from lawmakers, who included senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Chiz Escudero and Teofisto “TG” Guingona and congressmen from CamNorte.

This money, which was sourced from the lawmakers’ pork barrel allocations, mostly went into the concreting of the municipality’s baranggay roads.

Other substantial amount, although not in millions, went to socio-economic projects such as deep well pumps, baranggay halls, health care centers, classrooms, so on and so forth.

Very recent of such projects to get pork was the 2km San Pedro-Baranggay Silang Dos (Labo town) concrete road that would connect Mambulao to the Maharlika Highway, one that would serve as a diversion road in future.

The funding came from Enrile and estimated between P15 million and P20 million.

Of course, Mambulao also received a windfall of pork that also funded various projects in its 27 baranggays from the office of the Provincial Governor Edgardo “Egay” Tallado.

The provincial capitol said the governor poured into Mambulao a total of P159.5 million in so called development initiatives.

Most of the provincial government development funding for Mambulao during the years 2011 to the present came from the pork barrel allocations of the Office of the President, specifically the Office of the Presidential Affairs on Peace Process (OPAPP), Enrile and other lawmakers, and money from the General Appropriations Act, through the Agrarian reform Community Projects (ARC), National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and Department of Health.

Right now, Padilla must be banging his head, trying to figure out how he could fulfill the continuous flow of development, and later progress, that he promised to his 75,000 constituents in 27 baranggays.

This could also be one reason why the supposed funding of P500,000 for two Senior Citizens’ social hall building projects – in Larap and in Luklukan Norte – never went into their construction and was instead diverted to another LGU project in baranggay Sta Rosa.

Vice-President Jejomar Binay, who looks after the welfare of the Senior Citizens, had expressly told Padilla through his trusted aide that the half-million peso-funding was to be used solely on the two Senior halls’ building projects and not elsewhere.

Feeling the funding crunch, and with more community projects that the LGU has to deal with that are more urgent than a Seniors’ club house, Padilla was forced to scrap the Larap project.

The question that is now bugging the municipal government: Where would it source funding for the other road and bridge projects that the LGU has lined up?

And even if the government decides to free the pork barrel money for use in community projects across the country, how soon would such funding reach Mambulao?

Would the Larap road ever be completed once and for all even if funds have already been allocated by the Department of Tourism under its own development funding program?

What about other community projects that would only rely on the generosity of the province’s congressmen and senators who, unfortunately, have been cleansed of the grease?

Would Padilla scale down his programmed projects owing to the acute lack of money – something he won’t be willing to source from the LGU’s funds generated from its own revenue-making machine?

Christmas always brings to the people the good tidings.

Let’s continue to make-believe that it will, for it is the only way to cushion us from the impact of stagnation that Mambulao would surely face in the months to come.

Anyway, Merry Christmas to one and all!

--- Alfredo P Hernandez

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