BY PET MELLIZA/The Beekeeper
Where are the private businesses supposed to occupy the first two levels of the new city hall of Iloilo?
That was among the justifications proffered by Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog when he revised the design that served as his excuse in adding P262 million to complete the seven-storey structure.
Mabilog’s predecessor Jerry Trenas stepped down from on June 30, 2010 to sit the following day as the member of Congress representing the lone district of the city. He bequeathed on Mabilog a “complete” project, a skeleton sans furnishings including finishing materials like tiles, electrical and plumbing systems.
The original plan cost taxpayers P470 million in loan from the Land Bank. Trenas turned over the balance of P70 million. The business sector including TNT publisher and Iloilo Press Club president, Rommel Ynion, cried in unison that the balance was sufficient to complete the city hall replete with two elevators.
However, Mabilog insisted on his revision. Accordingly, he would convert the first two floors from parking spaces as originally planned into commercial spaces so the project would be “self-liquidating” from the rents paid by private tenants. Space for parking was no problem after all, he would convert neighboring streets as far as Muelle-Loney into parking areas, and second, he would buy a neighboring lot to serve the same purpose for P35 million. The latter further ignited hoots from critics, notably Ynion.
Ynion and company argued that the new plan that would cost taxpayers P262 million in principal loan plus interest, required a new public bidding pursuant to RA 9184. Mabilog insisted otherwise. According to him, there was no need for another public bidding because the changes he contemplated were mere “continuation” of the original plan.
Now, where are the commercial spaces for rent at the first two floors of city hall?
Where is the sun-powered electricity that should be at work? Since city hall was deemed complete and employees started transferring to the new edifice last January, the solar panels were only installed last month. Solar energy supplies less than 10 percent of the new city hall need for electricity.
Mabilog parroted the same excuses at “Kape kag Isyu”, a talk show at Sky Cable’s channel 13. Yours truly is a co-host of the sitcom along with columnist Peter Jimenea, and we could still recall in two appearances where Mabilog promised to install solar electricity and design the first two floors as some sort of a mall or commercial complex.
Mabilog ignored public grumblings against his extravaganza and pushed ahead with his version of city hall sans public bidding.
Now, it is already a matter of public knowledge that the end product is still de facto fully run by conventional and dirty electricity, not solar, and its first two floors are all local government offices.
This writer doffs his hat off to Mabilog for his gallantry, whatever that means, to parade his grand amnesia around like a badge of honor.
Aside from slinging on the taxpayers’ necks the new P262-million loan on top of the original P470 million to build the city hall, he further hung another, P90 million that he borrowed to buy heavy equipment for use at the Calajunan open dumpsite. And he is still negotiating for a fresh P300-million borrowing to establish a sanitary landfill on the same site.
“Mama mia!” cries Kape kag Isyu co-host, Atty. Dwight Trasadas.
Where is public accountability when our current breed of city leaders don’t even give a hoot to make their transactions in the name of the people transparent? (Folklorist Gary Granada’s line “Sila’y yumayaman by serbing da poor” aptly fits here.)
The offices of the Commission on Audit and the Ombudsman were in blissful slumber all the while that Ynion and company screamed to the heavens for public accountability in spending public monies.
Virginia Palanca-Santiago, then head of the regional Ombudsman office in 2010, was caught in catatonic inaction in the midst of the deafening noises raised by the opposition against Mabilog’s extravagance. She is known to act even on mere verbal tips and newspaper clippings yet this time around slept like a moral pygmy whose sense of right and wrong is as revolting as her looks.
City Hall has become an Augean Stable that Ynion needs herculean strength to clean it up, that is, if he made good his plan to topple Mabilog come 2013.