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The Law of the Playground June 11, 2007

Posted by Janjan in All, Armchair Politics.
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I think the Philippines and its leaders would be better off if we all just remembered one unalterable rule from kindergarten:  Play nice, dear.

  In particular, I am referring to the latest fiasco involving Mayor Tomas Osmeña, Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and Lahug Barangay Captain Mary Ann de los Santos.  When I look at those three squabbling I see three little children fighting over an ice cream cone, arguing that one child took a bigger lick than what was fair and agreed upon, while the other would say, “Nuh-uh!  YOU took a bigger lick, not me!”  And so on and so forth, until the three start pelting stones at themselves, not noticing that the ice cream cone is melting and not a single one of them got to fully enjoy the frozen treat.

 Basically,  the latest cause of misery is the Barangay Lahug Elementary School.  The story is this:

 Mary Ann  de los Santos is the barangay captain of Lahug, and was a staunch supporter of former mayor Alvin Garcia, who is the incumbent mayor Tomas Osmeña’s bitter rival.  Thus, during the term of Osmeña, de los Santos whined that she never got any project because of the incumbent mayor’s petty vendetta against anybody who dares oppose him.  So, during the last elections, rather than let Osmeña run unopposed, de los Santos decided, together with Garcia’s son Raymond, to run for office as Mayor, with Raymond Garcia as her Vice-mayor.

De los Santos was doomed to fail, of course.  Osmeña is just too crafty and too popular to be beaten at the polls.  So, de los Santos lost fair and square and went back to her barangay to lick her wounds.  Unfortunately, like a bitter woman scorned and rebuffed, de los Santos had to pass around a letter that both thanked the constituents of Lahug for their staunch devotion and support during the last 2007 elections, and complain that Tomas Osmeña never gave any projects in favor of Barangay Lahug.

This last statement particularly irked our onion-skinned Mayor because it wasn’t true.  He did have funds allocated for Barangay Lahug, but the thing was that he did not have these funds pass through the scrutiny and control of de los Santos and her baranggay council, such was his vendetta against any Garcia supporter.  In particular, Osmeña, through the City Council, was bankrolling the construction of a new building in Barangay Lahug Elementary School.  However, because of Mary Anne’s latest statement, Osmeña decided to have the construction halted and refused to disburse a single centavo on the project until Mary Ann de los Santos retracted her statement and apologized to the Mayor, which is, of course, a woman with de los Santos’ pride would never do.  She would rather start a “Piso para sa Barangay Lahug Elementary School” fund drive rather than bow before the mayor, and start one she did.

In comes Gov. Gwendolyn  Garcia prancing like a white knight on a big white horse (almost like a White Castle Whiskey advertisement, except that the governor is wearing a suit of armor, not a skimpy red bikini), holding a Five Million Peso piece of salvation in her beatific arms, making a bold statement against the Mayor’s arrogance and power-gaming moves and having her wonderful hurrah for saving a poor wounded Cebu City barangay from the clutches of the evil mayor.

 Take note that I  emboldened the words “Cebu City barangay”, which is to say that it is NOT a part of Cebu Province, for the fact that Cebu City is a highly urbanized and independent city which, by law, does not have any claim to the budgetary allocation of Cebu Province.  In other words, Gov. Garcia arbitrarily chose to take funds from the Province’s treasury chest and poured it on a barangay which was NOT under her jurisdictional responsibility, to the prejudice of other poorer constituents of Cebu Province who are starving for the funding of equally important and deserving projects in their municipalities.  Funding, which, Gov. Garcia instead spent without a forethought to spite her nemesis, Mayor Tomas Osmeña, and paint a pretty picture of herself as a conquering hero, and the latter as a boorish bully.

So can you see the absurdity of it all?  Can you see how these three little children squabbling over their poor wounded egos are determining the course of public funds and government property for the use of a power-game against each other?  Who stands to lose from their pettiness?  It’s not them, it’s you and me, the constituents of both Cebu City and Cebu Province.

When Mayor Osmeña decided NOT to release the funds of Barangay Lahug Elementary School, who was the real victim?  It wasn’t Mary Ann de los Santos and her damn pride, it was the school children of Barangay Lahug and their poor and improverished parents, who became the victims of yet another Osmeña vendetta against any voices of dissent who dare challenge his authority as mayor.

When Governor Garcia chose to divert provincial funds into city property, who stood to lose from the move?  Mayor Osmeña can, sooner or later, get over any affronts to his ego, but should it be at the cost of spending money on a city that has more than enough funds to take care of itself over a lot more other constituent cities and municipalities of Cebu Province with barely a dime to spend on improving their roads or educating their children?

When Brgy. Capt. de los Santos sent that inflammatory letter and when she refuses to lower her pride and admit that she was wrong, did she even stop to think about the consequences of her needless uprising against Tomas?  Knowing that the Mayor was onion-skinned and vindictive, does she have to keep rubbing her rebellion and  her “look at me, I’m the underdog” attitude before the media?  Would it take so much just to say “I’m sorry, can we start all over and try to fix this situation?” When the constituents of Brgy. Lahug are suffering in this mess, she has an equal blame on the fiasco as with the Mayor.

Playground rules, ladies and gentlemen, that’s all it takes to solve this mess.  Play nice.  You’ll get your turn on the swings.  Don’t go too fast on the see-saw, you might hurt the child on the other end.  Don’t steal your classmate’s sandwich.  I know you’re right, but can you say “I’m sorry” anyway?

These are very basic and very simple laws of engagement.  If they can work for little children, I’m sure they’d be equally effective on government officials who act like little children.

But where’s my kindergarten teacher, Ms. Winnie Gante, and her big wooden ruler when  you really need her?

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