The banner story of a Mindanao regional newspaper yesterday, July 1, 2009, may have been surprising for many (shocking even) but for a Mindanao journalist like me who has been working around politicians for quite a while, it was really nothing new. The same thing, although probably not as “worse,” has been happening not only in the local city councils but also even down to barangay councils and even in the Senate and Congress.
According to Mindanao Gold Star Daily, Cagayan de Oro City Vice Mayor Vicente Emano has reportedly incurred 99 absences out of 100 council sessions. That means Emano has presided only ONCE since assuming office. Emano reportedly only attended the inauguration of the present Cagayan de Oro City council and that was it.
And as if to really add “more color” to an already controversial issue, Emano’s arch-rival at the council, Councilor Zaldy Ocon, a former radio broadcaster, tore to shreds Emano’s “excuse letter” addressed to the council, which reportedly claimed that the vice mayor was on official business…which then led to Councilor Alfonso Goking calling on his fellow legislators to “punish” Ocon for tearing up a copy of Emano’s letter which is considered an official document.
As expected, Ocon stood firm. He even challenged his fellow councilors to sanction him if they think what he did was wrong. The former broadcaster, known for his tirades against Emano and usually hit by critics for “grandstanding,” said that the council was free to exercise disciplinary actions against him if he really was at fault. Fortunately for Ocon, he found a “kakampi” in Councilor Teodulfo Lao, who thought that the shredding of the excuse letter was a mere “freedom of expression” and that it was based on “the essence of democracy.”
IMO, Ocon has the right to get mad. After all, the tax-paying public does expect that the “public servants” they entrusted their votes with should do their jobs, yes? And that includes regularly attending sessions, meetings etc. Ocon knows that Emano’s absences can be a good reason to stir up controversy, to show to the public that he has been right all along in criticizing Emano and his brand of politics. Ocon knows that Emano’s absences can be a good controversy to bank on — he can raise valid points during council sessions, question Emano’s so-called “on official business” excuses and can even get away calling the city vice mayor as “mangingilad” (deceiver) during the session proper.
Unfortunately for Ocon, he also knows very well that he’s virtually alone in his quest – with most of his fellow legislators on Emano’s side. And because of political alignments and politicians defending partymates, the root problem has yet to be addressed.
It’s a David versus Goliath war, really. And the only ones at the losing end is the public.