By GEORGE AGUILAR
SQUATTING, poor sanitary facilities, poor sewage systems, garbage and traffic, plus the growing incidences of crime, are among the major problems of Bacolod City. The roots of these problems, of course, lie in the pervading poverty, a parochial educational system that sorely lacks facilities (despite the grossly mispriced computers donated by some local officials to public schools), and the lack of employment opportunities in a city that is no longer purely agricultural, but not yet industrial. This I noticed shortly after I moved into the city of smiles as a permanent resident almost two decades ago. The problems were there in the early 90's. They grew worse as the years went by.
Why can't the city government do anything about the above mentioned problems? Well, for one, economic gains made in the city tend to stay in the hands of the elite few and the slowly growing middle class. The poor remain to be as impoverished as they were some 17 years ago. Worse, the population of the poor is growing at an alarming rate with the flourishing of squatters' areas and black market businesses all over the city. Logs, illegal or quasi legal, continue to be dumped onto "side walk" carpentry shops along Lopez Jaena St. while city officials conveniently look the other way. The growing number of public utility vehicles vies for passengers to the point of double and triple parking along busy intersections while hawkers shout and traffic enforcements mere look on.
Bacolod city can no longer claim to be safe from crime. Indeed crime has flourished lately. This includes rape, hold up, burglary, and even the most heinous of crimes. Moreover, urban poor gangs and fraternities have become more public and bolder while spoiled elite kids use our city strips to race their expensive and dangerously fast cars and motorcycles. When caught these rich drag (drug?) racers won't go or stay in jail.
Our city officials seem to be incapable of dealing with the above mentioned problems mainly because they are too engrossed with making more and more money and/or preparing for the next elections. Indeed, everything they do seems to be politically motivated and calculated. Indeed, one root of all of our woes stem from a failure of leadership. This failure of leadership is the fault of the voting public at large. We seem to vote for the least competent among the candidates for each election.
Easily, we can trace the problem for poor leadership in the city to dirty and dishonest elections. There are some 200,000 voter's in the city of Bacolod. Only 40,000 of these voters come from the A and B classes. The remaining 160,000 come from the D and C classes. The votes of the lower middle and urban poor count in every election. This fact alone could and does empower the city's poor but in a perverse manner. Instead of using their votes to vote for pro-poor leaders in Bacolod, the organized poor sell their votes for a few hundreds of pesos, a free trip to the polling centers, plus lunch and snacks (even groceries at times) to boot. For the price of money that is not even enough to get them through the second day, the poor in Bacolod tend to sell their votes to unscrupulous politicians. People who buy votes certainly do not deserve to be in office. But precisely because they do buy votes they win elections easily. And after elections they will spend the next two and a half years making up for the money they spent in buying votes and more. It's a deadly cycle this unprincipled leadership and we can only blame ourselves for allowing vote buying to remain unchallenged within our midst.
But there is hope yet for Bacolod city. Recently a group of independents, principled candidates that belong neither to the machineriesd political parties have emerged from out of the blue. Atty. Andy Hagad, running to represent Bacolod city, Atty. Joel Dojillo, running for mayor, Atty. Lyndon Cana, vice mayor, Celia Flor and Jocelyn Battapa, both running for councilors, are all running as independents who base their platforms on electoral reforms and good governance.
These independents stand a better chance of winning if they will band together instead of going it alone. Most of the 40,000 A & B voters will vote for the independents. The problem is their lack of machineries among the C, D, and E voters. Will they be able to reach out to the remaining 160,000 urban poor voters their message of hope in time? I. for one, am praying that they do!
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