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Año, anyare?

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“AS MUCH as we can, we make certain that we update the SGLG criteria and 2019 is no different, yet, it is noteworthy that despite a harder set of criteria, we gained a 44 percent increase of awardees.”

Not with a little sense of pride and achievement did Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año predicate his announcement of this year’s Seal of Good Local Governance awardees – 380 LGUs comprising 17 provinces, 57 cities, and 306 municipalities – that surmounted “the redefined all-in assessment criteria” of: financial administration, disaster preparedness, social protection, peace and order, business friendliness and competitiveness, environmental protection, and tourism, culture, and the arts.

Region 1 had the most number of winners with 65 LGUs, followed by Region 3 with 63, Region 2 with 40, Calabarzon with 33, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with 28 – making this year’s Top 5.

Noteworthy. Año’s laudatory term hewed closely to that of his predecessor Ismael D. Sueno who, at the SGLG awards ceremonies three years ago, enthused: “We find a deeper meaning in this year’s celebration because while we have achieved a lot in terms of empowering and making local government units more self-reliant, we need to set our sights on further strengthening local autonomy under a federal system of government.”

Alas, who still speaks of that federal system today? Alack, where has Sueno gone? Fired from the Cabinet by the President for his apparent failure in upholding the seal of good governance himself, impacted with allegations of corruption, of illegal public transactions.

No, not the least do we wish Sueno’s fate befall Año. There’s just this sameness in their words, and mindset too, on the SGLG.

Indeed, even what Año called “redefined all-in criteria” for this year’s selection, as itemized above, are but rehashed criteria of three years ago, to wit: “To be conferred with the SGLG, an LGU must pass three core criteria: financial administration, disaster preparedness, and social protection as well as any of the following essential criteria: business friendliness and competitiveness, peace and order, and environmental protection.” So said then-DILG-3 director Florida Dijan.

Added this year were: tourism, culture, and the arts.

Ranged against these standards of measurement, the worthiness of the choices is ever questioned. We postulate now, as we did then:

So, was the ratio between IRA (internal revenue allotment) dependency and locally sourced revenues factored in the aspect of financial administration? Ditto the approved budget against actual expenditure of the LGUs, the preponderance of supplementary budgeting, collection target accomplishments? Were COA reports on the LGUs considered?

Disaster preparedness covers not only incidents of calamities such as typhoons, floods and fires. Traffic is a current disaster not only in Metro Manila but in virtually all urban centers of the country showing the LGUs’ utter unpreparedness to cope, much less to even just think of any solution.

Social protection? The tragedy of children begging, with or without their parents, of physically-challenged mendicants, of the mentally-lost, all roaming the streets makes a big joke of the SGLG bestowed upon urban LGUs. How about gender-sensitivity? The general state of PWDs and the elderly?

Business friendliness, indeed! What with investments taking precedence over the environment and the well-being of the populace, of the sacrifice of labor in favor of capital.

Peace and order, wow! So how many killings – drug-related or not – have been reported, how rates the crime index within the territorial jurisdiction of those SGLG-conferred LGUs? Traffic, again?

Environmental protection? So how and where do these awarded LGUs dispose of their garbage?  Any one of these in the list of the LGUs with open dumpsites that were taken to court by the Environmental Management Bureau? What is the state of their waterways? The cleanliness and greenness of their communities? The air pollution index of their skies?

How reflective of the Filipino, of the ethos of the place, are the tourism, culture, and the arts initiatives the LGUs had undertaken, over and above the number of arrivals, the number of shows, exhibits, and festivals staged?

Now, as then, it leaves us wondering how the awardees passed those stringent “all-in assessment criteria” set for the SGLG when they all, arguably, failed in so minimum a criterion of good local governance as the implementation of DILG Advisory No. 2019-0016 that Año himself issued to ban tricycles and pedicabs from major roads, which was but an iteration of the much older DILG Memo Circular 2007-001.

To paraphrase the Good Book: If one fails in small things, how can one be even thought of as capable of succeeding in mighty endeavors?

Is Año even remotely aware of the ramification – to his (in)competence – of all this?

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