Time to call the bluff

By Ermin Garcia Jr.


OVER the last few days, I’ve been monitoring discussions on social media about the seemingly contentious issues about the planned transfer of Dagupan City Hall to a new location, particularly to the donated lot along the De Venecia Highway in Barangay Pantal.

It seems only Vice Mayor Brian Lim and Councilor Red Erfe-Mejia are still adamant about the alleged corruption issue surrounding the transfer. I failed to read any statement that shared the duo’s political sentiment. On that note, it’s apparent that Dagupeños do not believe that the transfer of the city hall is tainted with corruption.

The more common concerns revolve around uncertainties and about the wisdom of relocating to another lot.

Here are a few:

  1. The proposed location is no longer in the heart of the city.
  2.  It will cost more for a tricycle/jeepney ride to the De Venecia Highway.
  3. Why not save the city and just renovate the existing city hall.
  4. Why not relocate the city hall to where CSI Square by the Malimgas Market?

Here is my take on these concerns.

  1. The existing city hall was built in 1925, not in 1970s. The city hall in 1925 was not in the heart of the city, neither was it built because of its location being accessible to all barrios. It was built there because there was a land donation for both the city hall and the plaza. If the donation were in Bonuan Gueset, that barrio could have been the business district today. In fact, residents of Bonuan, Tambac, Tapuac, Carangalaan Mayombo., Lasip and Pogo Chico districts in the 1950s did not find the city hall easily accessible then because there were few calesas to go by and most roads were not asphalted.

But today, residents in these areas now find the city hall in the heart of it all, not because of its location                 but because time and progress made it that way.

Take the case of Dagupeña Restaurant. Most everyone thought the decision to move the restaurant away              from its original location (beside Vicar Hotel) to Calasiao would spell doomsday for it. Today, the                          restaurant is faring much better because it’s more accessible and has more parking space to accommodate          its loyal customers

2. When pedicabs started the invasion in the city, people initially resisted because the fares were more                       expensive than the calesas but people soon accepted the new change. Then when the tricycles took over the         streets, the same resistance was felt but again people eventually embraced the change. And when jeepneys           began taking franchises, fares relaxed and more routes were eventually opened.

There will always be jeepneys that will take on new routes whose fares will be based on government-                      regulated formula. Today, one can take a jeepney ride from downtown to Bonuan with no difference in                fares if one takes a ride from downtown to Caranglaan.

3. No matter how hard one tries, a family of three that grew into a family of five can no longer be comfortable          in a two-bedroom apartment. Such is the case with the Dagupan City Hall that was built to serve 30,000              people in 1925.

It’s the same reason why the District Jail in Dagupan meant for 300 inmates has to be relocated to a bigger        facility that can accommodate 1,000 inmates.

If the city hall is not located in not bigger facility, residents will soon have to transact business with the city        government in at least 10 different locations, a situation that will make “one-stop-shop” service to residents        impossible.

This is the same rationale adopted by the Urdaneta City and Sta. Barbara town for their constituents when          they moved out of their poblacion areas.

4. The suggestion is a no-brainer for it’s clearly merely to chide Mayor Belen who owns the business. First of           all, the building cannot be donated by the mayor because it’s the city that owns it. Secondly, its location               defies the very rationale behind the need for a new location. One might as well suggest that the Malimgas             Market be converted into offices and still suffer the same limitations that the existing city hall has.

So what gives? The need for a new location is undeniable.  And the urgency is there.

Frankly, I don’t’ see the wisdom of the resolution and decision extending the deadline for more donors to come forward  to another three weeks . The way I see it, if there were no other donors last month, there still won’t be any in the next 20 years unless one believes the “Korapsyon 101” duo Lim and Erfe-Mejia have it in them to donate anything to the city.

The city is losing precious time and resources by playing up to the duo who really couldn’t care less how the city will fare in its plan.

What the Fernandez administration ought to do is to finally call the bluff of Messrs. Brian Lim and Red Erfe-Mejia in their faces: You donate a land that’s better than what’s being offered and the city will stop the process. Failing that, shut up and begin to return to your private business taking off from that MC Adore Hotel deal!!

If COA and many legal minds already share the consensus that there’s nothing illegal about the donation and the city accepting it, nothing else should hold the city government back from pursuing its plan.

In this regard, I view the resolution filed by Councilor Joey Tamayo extending the search for more donors for another three weeks as defeatish and a lack of political will on the part of the city hall.

It’s time the Fernandez administration adopts the “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” mindset in this particular issue.

*                *                *                *                *

PRACTICAL LESSONS ON CORRUPTION 101. What is the measure of good governance in a local government?

Unlike the lecture prepared by the duo Lim and Erfe-Mejia, the best way to respond to this is to give examples of indictments by Ombudsman and decisions rendered by courts. Here are a few:

The ex-mayor, municipal agriculturist and market supervisor of Tigbauan, Iloilo were indicted for falsely certifying the delivery of brand new tractors when there were found to be second hand units with defects.

A barangay captain of Barangay 780, Zone 85, District V, Manila was found guilty for demanding P40,000.00 as 30% commission for the supply of materials for barangay projects.

A former Misamis Oriental governor and members of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC)were indicted “for the lease of heavy equipment without conducting any public bidding.” 

The ex-mayor of Mabini, Bohol was indicted for allowing four illegal tupadas in 2013 and 2014.

The mayor of Babatngon, Leyte, was indicted for allowing quarrying in the Salug Dongon River. Also included in the charge sheet was the quarry operator.

A former National Commission on Muslim Filipinos regional director was indicted misrepresentations in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) for the year 2010.  He failed to declare a 2008 Honda Civic car, two residential lots at a subdivision and agricultural lands.

More practical lessons on real Corruption 101 in future issues. 

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