Big trouble over small change

Last week, the honorable members of the Sangguniang Bayan of Virac, incensed by accusations that one of them asked for and got a certain amount from the contractor of a key government project, ganged up on a colleague.

Councilor Juan Paolo Sales happens to the station manager of Padaba FM, where blocktimer Janelyn “Jing” Rima raked the concerned legislators over red-hot coals, so to speak.

After denying the alleged payoff never happened, they focused their attention on the radio station, particularly on whether the honorable Sales knew of Rima’s intention to “malign” the good names of the councilors and the Sanggunian.

They were incredulous that their colleague, as station manager, is unable to review beforehand the topics to be discussed by blocktimers during their public affairs program.

Somehow, it has not come to their understanding that, unlike written articles which can be reviewed and edited before publication or release, the live spoken word is an entirely different matter.

They only would have to recall the thinking majority’s discomfort with the tendency of the President of the Philippines, the incomparable Rodrigo Duterte, to do away with prepared speeches and ramble on for over two hours just to say a few things.

The Filipino public often equates spellbinding oratory with the ability to speak in public without reading notes or prepared speeches. To them, bombast is better than well-articulated and fact-based written speeches, which in the hand of a skilled public speaker, are actually more substantial.

Which brings us to the question of whether Rima’s attacks have basis, particularly with regards to the alleged payoff to the “mestizo” councilor.

The juicy tidbit actually came from the Isip-Isipon Ta column in the May 10, 2020 issue, where Tang Tacio narrated the case of one permit application that took three months at the council before it was approved once cash changed hands.

To assume that the item was mere rumor would be in error, as the allegation was made before several officials of the provincial government where the same contractor’s representatives asked for and got the required permit before the day was over.

The purpose of the publication of the article was to remind public servants that as members of the same government, they are expected to support its vital projects. And the project involved is one of them, being part of the National Broadband Plan being pushed by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

Certainly, it would be frustrating for their internet-hungry constituents to learn that the Sangguniang Bayan or part of it directly contributed to the project’s delay, for a measly amount that would not even allow one to buy a smart TV.

As the Tribune’s most read column pointed out, there is nothing for the concerned councilor to fear. No case would be filed as the informants would rather get on with their work undisturbed.

Like many of numerous instances of official malfeasance that everyone considers normal in this archipelago, this incident would soon be considered as just one of the amusing but infuriating ways by which Filipino politicians try to recoup their election expenses.

And there are conceivably similar incidents that could be unearthed and disclosed to the public, given the number of permits that need to pass legislative oversight.

If the aggrieved legislators want to exact revenge, they can always go to court. But it would be too risky to further stoke the ire of the media, as the case could drag on until the 2022 campaign period.

It would be best to let sleeping dogs lie, as the well-worn saying goes, over an issue that would soon be gone and forgotten.

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