WORM’S EYEVIEW: In CDO: Goodbye impunity, welcome propriety

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/18 June) — Impunity is one of the major manifestations of bad governance. Exempting a wrongful act or an illegal deed for any reason diminishes a community and trashes a city. Impunity must be impugned, challenged wherever or whenever it occurs. Otherwise, it will cease to be mere manifestation and become the essence of the office and the community it pretends to serve. It will then seem to be acceptable and attain the quality of permanence.

Such is the case in the city of Cagayan de Oro. It would be difficult to find anyone anywhere who embodies the essence of impunity than its mayor: Vicente Yap Emano—a notorious scofflaw who has managed to stay in office for five consecutive terms through his mastery of
Machiavellian politics in an otherwise civilized community.

Emano has been the city’s mayor for three terms (1998-2007), slid down to vice mayor for one term (2008-2011), back to mayor again (2010-2013), then lost the recent election. Before becoming mayor, he had been governor of Misamis Oriental for three terms, and mayor of
Tagoloan municipality before that. Given his seeming invincibility throughout his career, he has appealed his recent loss and filed an election protest, but it seems unlikely that he will prevail as in the past.

But back to impunity, which he probably thinks is the same as immunity since the practical effect is the same.

Cultivating a public image as a macho strongman leader although his actions belie it, Emano is afflicted with the terrible habit of chain-smoking regardless of where he is at any time. He indulges in this uncivilized and unhealthy behavior without any qualms about its consequences, personal or public—puffing away as if it were the most natural thing for a normal human being to do. But he was a dropout in school so maybe he can be forgiven for not knowing the difference between what’s natural and what’s normal. You know, like it’s natural for an addict to indulge in an unhealthy vice, but it’s not normal for a person, especially a public official, to be an addict.

If anyone so much as criticizes him or objects to his deadly vice, he’ll just shrug and dismiss the “impertinence” in his unique, deep-throated way of speaking: “Katungod ko man manigarilyo!” It’s my right to smoke as I please!

It never occurs to him 1) that even as he asserts his “right” to smoke he pollutes and putrefies the air of whatever place or environment he happens to be in at the moment; 2) when he does it in an enclosed place, which is all the time, he is violating the law openly and encourages others to do likewise; 3) he is denying others their right to a clean, healthful environment; and, worst of all,
3) he is recklessly endangering the health of everyone within breathing or smelling distance of
him including the City Hall staff whom he treats like peasants to his Lordship.

All this makes Mayor Vicente Yap Emano, who exempts himself from the effects of any law or regulation that happens to be inconvenient personally, a walking hazard or risk to the community of which he is the chief servant.

As if to underscore his being a community hazard, the department of health recently reported that
Cagayan de Oro is the city with the highest cancer incidence today, with an alarming rise in HIV-AIDS cases.

Unfortunately, because of the sycophantic nature of the city’s governance under him—exemplified by the fawning City Council of mostly bootlicking, petty traditional politicos or
trapos, the community is left defenseless, without champions who dare question him. Its check-and-balance mechanism is dysfunctional and seriously needs fixing. No one or no ordinance can be passed to stop the Lord Mayor from sowing cancer through smoking. Nor may anyone chide him for his impunity or defiance against civilized norms.

Thus, had there been a City Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council before just recently, not only would the damage wrought by Typhoon Sendong have been mitigated or prevented, the CDRRMC could have “managed” or reduced the disastrous effects of the mayor’s deadly habit!

Who is to say that it was not his obsessive smoking in forbidden places which emboldened minors and the masses to indulge in this cancer-causing habit? Who can deny that it was his cavalier disregard of the no-smoking law that caused the rise and spiraling of impunity in an otherwise cultured community? During the 15 years that he has been in office, he openly and routinely puffed away in his office, in public buildings and parks, in meeting rooms and auditoriums, in broadcast stations during interviews, in restaurants, even in church vestibules.

But no one dared to raise the issue except for a solitary voice or two in the City Council, never enough to pass even a token resolution.

And so it goes…impunity has become the boast of a community once toasted as the city of golden friendship and opportunity. It now sports the message: Good Governance is what the mayor says it is, not what the law states it is. Good behavior is not what the law or the book says, it is the example set the mayor.

So if your idea of leadership is doing whatever you like and getting away with bad behavior, come to Cagayan de Oro, the city of defiant governance scofflaw indulgence!

But, wait, don’t write off Cagayan de Oro just yet! Unless Vicente Yap Emano succeeds in getting the Comelec to perform a miracle the city will have a new mayor after June 30, and hopefully, one with an entirely proper and ethical bent.

I was born and raised here. Please join me in welcoming the Honorable Oscar S. Moreno, mayor
-elect of the proud city of Cagayan de Oro. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Manny Valdehuesa is the president and national convenor of Gising Barangay Movement, Inc. He can be reached at valdehuesa@gmail.com.)