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Defying Digong

By Cong Corrales

FOR once, I fully agree with the President’s order to clear all public roads of illegal structures. It is, after all, for the good of the many. The President issued the directive during his State of the Nation this year.

Subsequently, the interior department issued Memorandum Circular 2019-121 in consonance to the President’s order. Based on this circular, local chief executives, from the barangay to the provincial levels, are enjoined to “exercise their powers essential to reclaim public roads which are being used for private ends and in the process, rid them of illegal structures and constructions.”

I do get that. It is not the usual verbal orders of the President that we have heard in the past three years. Now, we have an actual order put on black and white. What I don’t get is capitol’s contention.

It is public knowledge to motorists avoid the capitol compound during rush hours. Why? It is because of the food stalls and the pay parking spaces that take up at least one lane of the roads surrounding the compound. It has become a virtual traffic bottleneck right smack dab in the middle of the city.

How did these to and fro between the city and capitol begin? Let’s dissect.

It started when Antonio Resma, spokesman of the city’s composite team tasked to carry out the department circular, said, “Pareho man kami [local government] nga gimando-an sa Presidente to reclaim the roads. So, ang ako lang unta niini nga sila na lang unta sa kapitolyo ang mo-demolish kon duna may mga illegal structure sa mga dalan o sidewalk diha sa provincial capitol.”

I understood this statement to be an extension of courtesy to the capitol. It’s like, please clean up your backyard so that we don’t have to. The statement acknowledges the fact that the governor is the foremost entity to carry out the President’s order.

However, the capitol, for some inexplicable reason, took this pronouncement as a threat. Through its information officer Florito Dugaduga, the capitol declared that it will protect its properties and facilities.

“Hugot ang baruganan ni Gobernador Bambi Emano nga iyang panalipdan ang mga kabtangan ug propedad nga gipanag ya sa mga katawhan sa lalawigan sa Misamis Oriental. Kini taliwala sa hulga sa mga opisyal sa syudad… nga ilang sudlon ang capitol compound aron gub-on ang mga ilegal nga struktura nga nakababag sa trapiko ug ipatuman ang Presidential Proclamation – Memorandum Circular 121-2019,” this paper quoted a capitol statement released by Dugaduga.

Right off the bat, the capitol responded to what it understood as a threat from city hall. Maybe the capitol spokesman was not listening to Resma properly. Resma did not categorically say that they will enter the compound and start demolishing the illegal structures. What Resma did was to enjoin the provincial government to clear the roads of the compound. If the latter cannot do its part in implementing the President’s order, then city hall will have no other resort but to do it for the capitol.

Remember that the city hosts the provincial compound. Ergo, all the traffic congestion it causes contributes to the traffic situation in the city.

Another thing, the fact that the capitol predicated its statement that the structures inside the capitol compound are illegal, boggles my mind. Is the capitol then saying that it will protect and defend all the illegal structures in its compound?

The capitol even upped the ante by saying: “Dili man na common road nga agianan gyud sa mga sakyanan. Kana nga mga dalan para ra man na agian sa mga empleyado sa kapitolyo.”

Curiously, I wasn’t able to see that category under the Department of Public Works and Highways’ classification of public roads. The DPWH classifies public roads as national primary, national secondary, national tertiary. provincial roads, municipal and city roads, barangay roads, expressways, and bypasses.

Under the provincial roads category, the public works further define this as local roads:

a. Connect cities and municipalities without traversing national roads

b. Connect national roads to barangays through rural areas

c. Connect to major provincial government infrastructure

On Sunday, I saw first-hand how difficult it was for an ambulance to snake its way through the food stalls to get to the Northern Mindanao Medical Center. I talked with one of its guards. He said the food stalls have been operating virtually 24/7. The operation is divided into two “shifts” of 12 hours daily.

What is it in these food stalls in the capitol compound that would push the governor to defy the President’s order? There is even a makeshift motorela terminal beside the row of food stalls in front of the regional hospital. These motorelas ply the city streets and do not go as far as Opol. My point being is that the terminal is operating in the city under what Dugaduga called as a road only for capitol employees. Are these motorelas owned by employees of the capitol?

Whatever the capitol’s answer to these queries, it is clear that the coming days will surely be interesting, to say the least.

Oh, I almost forgot. Didn’t the governor declare that he may run for city mayor come 2022? If he does get that seat, will he issue the same pronouncements Resma did?

It’s like what we say in chess parlance: It is neither a stalemate nor a draw. It is checkmate, Sir. Pfft.

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About Cong Corrales

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Before joining the Gold Star Daily, Cong worked as the deputy director of the multimedia desk of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), and before that he served as a writing fellow of Vera Files. Under the pen name "Cong," Leonardo Vicente B. Corrales has worked as a journalist since 2008. Corrales has published news, in-depth, investigative and feature articles on agrarian reform, peace and dialogue initiatives, climate justice, and socio-economics in local and international news organizations, which which includes among others: Philippine Daily Inquirer, Business World, MindaNews, Interaksyon.com, Agence France-Presse, Xinhua News Wires, Thomson-Reuters News Wires, UCANews.com, and Pecojon-PH.

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