MANILA– Everything was so quiet in the island when I left two weeks ago for a much-needed rest and my yearly medical check-up in Manila. Almost gone were the residues of the smoldering currencies showdowns that marked the final week of the May elections in each of the 315 barangays in the province. Every voter was satisfied presumably: the goodies came at the right time, in the right amount. May 9 will go down in our unrecorded political history as the costliest election ever, something that can only be validated from whispers and murmurs within a political constituency with a narrow, if not convoluted, understanding of democratic rights especially the right of suffrage. From all indications, the cycle won’t end. It will only take a turn toward the worst. Vote buying has now a life and dynamics of its own in the island. It has seeped deep into our modern culture. Because we can no longer distinguish the criminal or immoral aspects of the practice, despite our deep reverence to Christian values which are almost at par with the democratic precepts, we might as well permanently set aside in our hearts and minds a space for warped election habits and misbehavior.
At any rate, let us expect a smooth transition of the reins of Capitol from outgoing Governor Cely Wong to the come-backing Boboy Cua. There were no election protests to speak of that will encumber the election winners and therefore we will have more time watching and listening to new programs as we move forward. I know that Boboy Cua will usher in new improvements in governance. I monitored many of his campaign promises. Yet if he failed to deliver, he runs the risk of being subjected anew to the usual unsavory allegations on what really are the real motives of businessmen dabbling into politics and spending fortunes in it.
The fact that the election windfalls came personally from the pockets of provincial-level candidates and virtually nothing from the national candidates, should not be the reason why we ought to confine our interest only to Capitol affairs or our LGUs. We have a new president of the republic who is about to embark on massive and dramatic campaign against drugs, criminality, insurgency and corruption, among others. Incoming President Rody Duterte, even before official induction into office had already demonstrated his intentions. And surprisingly, the law enforcers were agitated, running against drug lords without being told or ordered by Digong Duterte. That should be the frame of mind of our recently–elected LGU leaders even if no one among them has come forward to claim as Digong’s frontrunner in the province.
Catanduanes has its own drug problems, petty crimes and more openly, corruption in public office. Every week the Tribune has been running stories about drug busts and arrests. In the government sector, we have big numbers of LGU officials cornering public works projects using licensed contractors from the mainland to whom they pay only measly royalties. We have many LGU officials and government engineers moonlighting as contractors. They have no qualms displaying or maintaining their own construction equipment in their backyards - for what? Even the case of a ranking DPWH district engineer in the province, who can be a subject of an appointment challenge, cannot escape notice. He was among the 42 DPWH officials facing a plunder complaint before the Ombudsman over a case of massive cannibalization and sale of DPWH vehicle parts. (A group of Bicolano whistleblowers has tipped me about the case.) Because many of the administration-funded election projects were unfortunately not accomplished in time to help President PNoy’s candidates, the newly elected officials are to inherit numerous infrastructure projects that were already listed in the national budget. I can almost see a scramble for projects among the victorious LGU officials using proxy contractors.
The fourth-place finish of Duterte in Catandunes should not be an excuse for us to be cold on his administration. For lack of resources, he may have failed to meet our voters’ last-minute expectations, but the 26,000 souls who voted for him minus the cash were actually on their own, guided only by their intense wish for change and reforms being conveyed in forceful tones by Duterte. Thus, not a few Catandunganons, albeit the nasty reputation as voters, have this time also had displayed shining moments when they chose Duterte even without seeing him.
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