Año’s job: Whipping mayors into line

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    ONCE again, local government units (LGUs) are in the line of fire of the Department of Interior and Local Government, led by Secretary Eduardo Año.

    It seems that the saying “ningas cogon” aptly describes the LGUs especially in Metro Manila, in connection with the campaign to clear the streets of illegally parked vehicles, illegal construction, vendors and their wares, and almost anything that blocks the smooth flow of vehicles and pedestrians.

    Here again is the helpless and toothless DILG issuing another order — its second — giving the LGUs 75 days starting Monday, February 17, 2020, to clear all roads within their jurisdiction of all forms of obstruction.

    Año said the clearing operations this time will include local and tertiary roads, as stated in his DILG memorandum order 2020-027. He said, “I direct all LGUs to clear local roads from obstruction with the same urgency and enthusiasm as when the President issued the directive.” He was referring to President Duterte’s fourth State of the Nation Address in July 2019 during which he ordered officials to reclaim for the state all roads appropriated by private persons and even government agencies — police, barangays, etc.– for their use.

    What happened was the local mayors, police station commanders and barangay chairmen complied, and those who did not became respondents in administrative complaints. These are mostly mayors in far-away towns and cities, and it looked like the DILG forgot about them already.

    Interestingly, no mayor of Metro Manila became a respondent in any case filed by the DILG.

    The mayors of Manila, Quezon City, Pasig, etc. were even praised by the DILG for their purported compliance with the clear-the-roads order — but look at the situation on the ground now. The area of Carriedo LRT station is back to normal in terms of obstruction – tricycles, vendors, illegally parked vehicles. Parts of Cubao near Camp Crame are no different, and even small-towns Malabon and Navotas have the same congestion and obstruction problem.

    Speaking of Navotas, the mayor looks like he is more interested in politicking even this early, rather than ensuring that its narrow streets are passable to traffic.

    Wilfredo Mariano, the barangay chairman of barangay Tangos, has sought the help of President Duterte himself because he felt he is a victim of a political war being waged by the Navotas mayor against his political foes. This barangay chairman said he is facing a non-bailable criminal case and he felt the mayor wanted him to implicate his political rivals in the case.

    In San Juan City, meantime, the mayor is busy doing TV and print commercials endorsing Jag jeans, a parody of what the mayor of Manila had been doing with certain apparel and skin care services. This despite the explicit prohibition in the Local Government Code that mayors cannot practice their profession (actor, commercial model, etc.) while in office.

    Secretary Año needs a long stick to whip these mayors into line. And Ano should start with strictly implementing his directive on clearing the streets, Part 2.