COMMENTARY: When overriding the Mayor’s veto is buffoonery

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 February) — A good speaker, particularly a facilitator, respects the intelligence of his listeners. In the same way a good writer gives his readers’ intellectual capacity room to operate. What we are getting from Davao City’s 17th Council is a spoonfeeding of poison poorly disguised as medicine under the proposed Amendment of Section 13 of Article XI of Ordinance Number 0546-13.

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte fortunately vetoed the amendment on February 22, an act worthy of a man of wisdom.

Had he not done it, housing projects in the city would no longer include the environmentally significant Green Space consisting 10% of the land development area. In effect, residents would have been deprived of a mini forest, a park, or at least a public garden, that are important to the good health of humans and other lifeforms.

Instead, the Council sought to give away the percentage for developers to convert into residential units for sale while the Green Space will be integrated to the 30% allotted for infrastructure such as roads and drainage canals. The 60%, therefore, meant for subdivision units, is increased to 70%.

What is the sound rationale behind the amendment that people’s taxes should be spent for Council meetings for its passage?

To address a lack of basic shelter for Dabawenyos? This best guess of mine cannot stand by the reality that subdivisions and high-rise condominiums for the wealthy and well-to-do are mushrooming in Davao. Is somebody expecting all the country’s population to converge in Davao City?

These residential housing projects are presently mostly empty. I remember hearing the Mayor in his TV program address outside investors to momentarily stop investing in Davao because the city is growing too fast. Truly, the pronouncement is admirable for it has sound ecological, social and, yes, also economic bases.

But the Sangguniang Panlungsod is rowing off with a different direction. A Water District official, after hearing a complaint of water unavailability in Indangan/Cabantian area, flatly asked why does the SP keep on approving housing projects in those areas when it is common knowledge we have no water there? The locality in question used to be prime agricultural lands.

In the background, the reality of low-cost, sub-standard, housing projects in the past looms in memory. Demolition of squatters still keeps sheriffs busy. Riots involving them and squatters resulted to swollen crania and/or bone fractures. One of the kind even received a well-placed punch to the face by former lady mayor Sara Duterte, the incumbent’s daughter. Indeed, Davao City is gifted with father and daughter mayors the past terms who proved their political will to serve their constituents.

Interestingly, two of the biggest housing developers in the country are owned by former national officials. One was a senator, the other a former vice-president, if my informant is correct. Before I drift off to a bigger biting reality, let me go back to the question “What’s the sound rationale for the amendment?”

Circumventing fishy smells, a curious mind still comes face to face with the imminent and most obvious equation: Developers profit most from the move to monetize Green Space.

Are Davao’s legislators, then, ignorant of basic ecology laws and principles that grade school children can explain? Every which way it goes, that people’s money is spent for these gentlemen (and ladies?) to sit as august body is nauseating. They who are recipients, temporarily, of the power emanating from the people failed to understand their role as public servants in these times of devastated environment and natural calamities.

Legally speaking, the 17th Council can still try to override the Mayor’s veto of the Housing Ordinance Amendment. Should it give him another headache along the presidential campaign trail, he does not have to go far to do cleansing. He can start shooting at some Davao legislators.

Before the beloved Mayor does that, we beg the 17th Council to respect the intelligence of the Dabawenyo and refrain from further making buffoons of themselves. Ulaw kaayo, bai!

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Phillip Somozo is an environmentalist with little gifts for painting and writing. He worked as environmental campaigner and educator since the 1990s and was instrumental in freeing Davao City from its last Timber License Agreement holder in 1992).