EDITORIAL: Watchful Eyes Needed



Ordinance No. 2021-041, an ordinance authorizing the proposed borrowing of the City of Naga in the principal amount of P700 million to fund the road construction of Magsaysay (NCSHS) to Balatas, Urban Redevelopment Project, construction of new Naga City Hospital with Complete Laboratory and Diagnostic Equipment and other appurtenances, lots acquisition for socialized housing projects, and for other priority development projects, was enacted by the Sangguniang Panglungsod of Naga on June 01, 2021.


As if to highlight more importance to the ordinance, it even bore the signatures of City Youth Secretary to the SP Johannah Donna A. Aguayo, City Youth Vice Mayor and Presiding Officer Christobal S. Cambe and City Youth Mayor Berlineth Nymia T. Montes, in addition to the signatures of the regular officials concerned.


Section 1 of the local legislation authorizes Mayor Nelson Legacion “ to obtain loan with the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) in accordance with Section 297 of Republic Act No. 7160 or the Local Government Code,” in the amount of P700 million.


A portion of Section 3 includes in the list “lots acquisition for specialized housing and for other priority development projects”, which is somehow controversial and often a source of irregularities.


The legislative piece will surely draw divergent reactions given that the amount involved is very huge. For one, concerns about the capacity of the city government is highly doubtful and might consequently lead to imposition of taxes over those engaged in active economic pursuits. It could even mean driving away from the city many entrepreneurs.


On the other hand, the projects cited in the ordinance may be considered as necessary, bankable, feasible, justifiable, socially sound, and viable. Besides obtaining loans by government entities from reputable government institutions is already the trend of the times. As to bankability, there is no doubt that DBP will grant the loan given the fiscal position of the City of Naga.


Besides, there is a strong indication that the expanded revenue shares of local government units (LGUs) shall soon be sourced from all national taxes. The Supreme Court, with a vote of 10-3 (with 3 justices not participating), on July 4, 2018, ruled in favor of the petition filed in 2016 by then Batangas Governor Hermilando I. Mandanas.


Few questions however. How come that the repayment period for the loan to be obtained is five years and therefore beyond the term of office of the incumbent elective local government officials? That means that the incumbent local elective officials are not capacitated to bind themselves for the period beyond their term.


How come also that it is only passed now when the three year-term of the local government officials is about to expire in less than one year from now. Anyway, generally speaking obtaining loans to fund public infrastructure is justifiable.


In fact, it has already become a practice, although it should be borne in mind that public works and roads ought not to be that all and be all as a gauge of outstanding performance.


At the end of the day good governance is better attained with clean and honest performance. So, are the incumbent city officials ready to assume such responsibility?


As is often said, the best part of the pudding is in the eating. Will they prove equal to the expectations? That is the challenge. Meantime the public needs to maintain watchful and incorruptible eyes too.