FASTLANES: Oro city hall’s sleight of hand?

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SUBIC BAY FREEPORT (MindaNews/11 January) – After his falling out with Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Vicente “Dongkoy” Emano years ago, the inimitable lawyer Frederico Gapuz said that aside from the self-styled political kingpin’s addiction to politics, he has that gift of pulling off sleights of hand.

I was wondering how Emano  would justify City Hall’s alleged malfeasance and misfeasance in disaster risk reduction management after Storm Sendong struck on Dec. 17, 2011.

It is clear that Emano, who is not known to believe in participative processes through local special bodies and even has the temerity to make a rubberstamp of the elected City Council, did not convene the Local Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council as mandated by Republic Act 10121 otherwise known as the Disaster Risk Reduction Management Act of 2010, and its Implementation Rules and Regulation (IRR) before Sendong struck, despite warnings from the weather bureau.

Let us have a short walk through of RA 10121 and its IRR relative to the LDRRMC and disaster response:

Sec. 11 of RA 10121 and Rule 5 of its IRR are very clear that the Local Chief Executive or Mayor is the chairperson of the LDRRMC.

Sec. 12 mandates the establishment of the LDRRM Office (LDRRMO) under the Office of the Mayor.

The big question is whether the mayor really constituted the LDRRMC and established the LDRRMO.

How City Hall handled the post-disaster situation betrayed its legally mandated role as crisis manager.

In the aftermath of the deadly floods which claimed more than a thousand lives in Northern Mindanao’s prime city (including the missing and presumed dead), Emano’s City Hall has been under pressure to justify its actions before and after the deadly catastrophe.

In an interview with ABS-CBN’s Strictly Politics show before the New Year, President Aquino, asked what really pissed him most in his almost two years presidency, said something about why local officials abetted the settlements in geo-hazards areas like Isla de Oro, Cala-cala and Tibasak.  The local government had abetted the existence of communities that were hardest hit by the floods even if these are known to be geo-hazard areas.

 

Now comes the emerging defense of Emano: 1) He said that he had issued an executive order prohibiting people from living in geo-hazard areas; 2) Of late, a supposed December 13, 2011 city ordinance supposedly authorized the use of the City DRRM funds.

His first defense may be reflective of his administration’s ineptitude and even City Hall’s split personality disorder.

If indeed there was an Executive Order, why people continue to live there is monument of his failure as local chief executive.

But that is only one side of his two-faced defense. Documents would now seem to prove that the geo-hazard areas were covered by his controversial “Piso-piso program”. This program allows urban poor constituents to resettle in public lands in exchange for one peso.

The Dec. 13, 2011 city ordinance which surfaced after the Sendong floods is purportedly in conformity with Sec. 21 of RA 10121. This section mandates the allocation of at least five percent of an LGU’s revenues as Local DRRM Fund. In pre-RA 10121 days it was known as the Calamity Fund.

The core paradigm shift under RA 10121 is that it would be least costly and more lives and properties would be saved if the disaster management regime is on risk reduction which aims to prevent, mitigate and adapt to the impacts of disasters and climate change.

Cagayan de Oro’s income is about P1.4-billion, five percent of which is about P70-million. In two years that RA 10121 has been in effect, this may have accumulated to about P140 million. Under Sec. 21, 70 percent of the DRRM fund is for disaster prevention, risk reduction, impact mitigation, among others. Thirty percent is for disaster quick response.

I don’t know if it’s true that in the aftermath of Sendong, after PNoy’s visit and the President’s express displeasure over the city’s post-disaster management and the brewing protest from the people against Emano’s administration or the lack of it, City Hall’s bright boys were busy at work formulating his defense.

I would not be surprised if they will come up with a DRRM plan. Granting without admitting that indeed the Dec. 13 City Ordinance 12217-2011 is genuine and approved after passing through the usual procedures, Dongkoy’s defense is starting to shape up.

But for whatever purpose it may be, these are all water under the bridge meant to save themselves from the bar of public opinion and in the cases meant to exact accountability which are forthcoming.

It would come as a surprise that his defense now would be another sleight of hand or at least another attempt at one.

Whatever, it will not undo the damage, the lives lost, the dreams turned nightmares and even the glimmer of hope the multitude of people in the city of golden friendship have been wanting these days.

Res ipsa loquitor, the city of golden friendship has been left for dead.

(The writer is an environmentalist from Cagayan de Oro. He is a senior editor of an Arabian newspaper’s South Asia and Philippine Bureau based in Subic Bay Freeport Zone. Comments can be sent to [email protected].)

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