28 August 2006

Situation tightens, but business as usual

TODAY, the Naga City Government, as any self-respecting local authority should, took the necessary steps to defend itself in anticipation of the expiration tomorrow of the five-day notice to vacate issued by Jorge Lopez, sheriff of the Regional Trial Court. All entries into the main compound were barricaded, except for the main road beside the Raul Roco Library. Public Safety Office (PSO) personnel were assigned to guard all offices cited in the eviction notice, including the Youth Center and the City Engineer's Office at the Civic Center three blocks away. A night-long vigil is well underway.

It was business as usual at City Hall, the tightening situation notwithstanding. Our planning workshop this afternoon with the Infrastructure and Utilities group was well attended, and the rest will proceed as scheduled later this week. It generated quality inputs from professional organizations like the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers and the United Architects of the Philippines, private developers like the Almeda Group, Avida Communities and Enjoy Realty (the latter represented by its big boss and Metro Naga Chamber president Emiterio Aman himself), and the district and regional offices of the DPWH. Towards the end, the lady architect of the Almeda Group told me she is impressed with how we structured and managed the entire proceedings (ahem!), and looked forward to attending similar events.

But some services did suffer. Early in the morning, DWNX-FM reported traffic woes at the Penafrancia-Colgante area owing to the absence of PSO traffic enforcers.

In the flag rites, Mayor Jesse Robredo explained the situation to city hall employees, assured them that steps are being taken to protect the city government and the public's interest, and emphasized that the Court of Appeals decision, although not favorable, precisely seeks to prevent the disruption of local government services. Vice Mayor Gabriel Bordado quoted Edmund Burke: "For evil to triumph, it is enough for good men to do nothing." Earlier, former Naga city mayors Ramon Felipe, Jr., Carlos del Castillo and Sulpicio Roco, Jr. spoke in support of the admininistration's stand on the matter in separate radio interviews.

But I think the reported degradation in traffic enforcement this morning is more indicative of the shape of things to come. The Court of Appeals is gravely mistaken when it thought government services will not be affected by exempting City Hall, NBI and the Hall of Justice, which the Mariano heirs promised as plaintiffs. (By the way, the RTC issuances, including Judge Felimon Montenegro's order, took note of these exceptions, contrary to what I posted earlier. But the "big picture" issue remains.)

The updated map of the City Government Center shows the extent of local offices and national agencies that will be affected. The City Health Office, for instance, is now homed at the ground floor of the City Hall Annex, which it shares with the General Services Office (in charge of streetlights and procurement) and Lingkod Barangay (in charge of basic barangay services). Both CHO and Lingkod Barangay were specifically cited in the eviction notice. The same goes for the Bicol Science and Technology Centrum, the Roco library and Metro PESO (at the DOLE building, where my School Board project also holds fort, together with the Naga City Visitors Center). Ditto with LTO, the Post Office, Radyo ng Bayan and TESDA, DOLE and NLRC, which are neighbors at the DOLE building.

What fate then awaits the government of my fair city? Abangan ang susunod na kabanata!