By Pet Melliza/ The Beekeeper
Should Rommel Ynion make it to the May 2013 polls as mayor of Iloilo City, he should restore, pardon this unsolicited advice, to the city government full control of the Dinagyang festival.
Since the festivity was handed to a private entity, Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation, Inc., (IDFI) a lot of unpalatable commentaries have reached us disproving the canard that taxpayers are better off with the private sector directing the show.
The local government, goes this theory, would incur less expenses with the IDFI running the show. That’s the excuse that then Mayor Jerry Trenas hoisted to justify the surrender.
Before, the Dinagyang was handled by the Dinagyang Committee which was directly under the mayor’s office. The committee comprised city officials and private individuals.
The Dinagyang committee was a much maligned entity during and after the festival but it had one trait that the IDFI doesn’t have – public accountability. The former as a matter of course, rendered a public accounting, or liquidate its expenditures. It would tell the public how city funds and donations were expended. In short it was bound to be transparent being a government instrumentality.
The IDFI has never done that. It receives funds from government and non-government sources yet refuses to account how it has disbursed public monies entrusted to it.
In Dinagyang 2010, then Mayor Trenas released P9 million as grant, the Province of Iloilo P500,000. Nothing came out from it. The IDFI is yet to render a public accounting how it disbursed these funds.
Under Trenas and Mabilog, the IDFI has grown into a powerful entity. A member of the hotel and restaurants operators’ group says it even has the power to assess and collect fees from members who joined the “food festival”.
No less than the Constitution prohibits the levying and collecting of taxes/fees by private entities for the use of public properties. Why does the city government abnegate to the IDFI its power and obligation in the assignment of kiosks or booths along roadsides, and collecting rents from their operators?
After all, it is the city government’s electrical lines being tapped to light up individual stalls. Further, it is the city workers and water trucks that clean up the streets after the bacchanalia.
It is the city government that spends for the installation of the “portalets” (portable toilets), yet it turns a blind eye to the racket of IDFI people charging P10 per user. The queue to the mobile restrooms stretches infinitely during the peak of the bacchanalia.
The Iloilo Provincial government also puts up the stage known as Judging Area II. Its tickets and press cards are given free to guests, reporters and select group of photographers who are assigned to a box good for 40 persons.
But the IDFI made a mess in the latest Dinagyang. It accredited over 700 “press people” and assigned them to individual staging areas.
Nothing is wrong with that for stages which the city government erected but the IDFI imposed its will on Capitol by unilaterally dumping over 100 “press people” who were actually commercial photographers, hobbyists, bloggers and FaceBookers.
IDFI in effect dislodged the outnumbered reporters like the ABS-CBN crew who just interviewed viewers from the sides instead of shooting tribe performances.
You want to be journalist? Go to IDFI that sells press IDs for P500 each.
Mayor Ynion must investigate.