About a week ago, I wrote a column for my regular Manila Times gig praising the efforts of a Facebook group called “Masbate Talks” for taking the ordinary social media group format a couple productive steps farther, and turning it into a model of public attentiveness and interaction with their local government that could easily be copied — to everyone’s great benefit — elsewhere in the country.
The government, however, in this case the administration of Masbate Governor Rizalina “Dayan” Seachon-Lanete, apparently doesn’t want you people all up in their business, and given the suspiciously pork-flavored cloud of doubt that seems to follow Gov. Lanete around these days, that might not be the best attitude to adopt towards voters and taxpayers. What the group does – mainly through the efforts of the chief organizer, Rigz Estrella, although he has many enthusiastic province-mates assisting him – is produce a monthly “progress report” that quickly summarizes the financial status of the province, the activities of the Governor, Vice-Governor, and individual Provincial Board members during the month, the most popular topics discussed in the Facebook group during the month, and any specific ideas, questions, or suggestions that the group members would like to follow up on with the provincial government.
The first report was posted a week or two ago covering the month of June, and there were already hints that Masbate officials felt themselves caught off-guard by it; the group thread on Facebook detailed a series of unhappy phone calls and e-mails from various personalities in the government, complaining about things like the province’s current bank balance being published, the report’s having listed the monthly salaries of the elected provincial officials, and most particularly, comments regarding former Congresswoman and now Governor Lanete’s alleged involvement in the “pork barrel” scandal. Lanete, as some may recall, was at the top of the list of people from the House of Representatives tabbed in the initial exposés published by the Inquirer, and along with a couple of her family members, earned herself a bit of dubious renown as “the sardine can lady” in the short-lived “anti-epal” fad about a year ago.
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Earlier today, Mr. Estrella sent a message – addressed to me, but posted openly on the Masbate Talks page, since “transparency” is a concept that Masbateños, at least those who have not been elected to something, don’t seem to have any trouble wrapping their heads around – explaining a bit of a snag he had run into when trying to gather information for the next installment of the “progress report”:
I’m already drafting the report or August, so I just called the Provincial Accounting Office OIC Ms. Norie Agunas to get the cash-on-bank for end of July, and she told me that she was reprimanded by Provincial Administrator Jose Tamayo for giving the info for June over the phone. There is now an instruction for her not to give the info without prior request. So I ask, ‘How can I make the request? Is it through email?’ She has no idea.
So I decided to talk to Mr. Jose Tamayo.
Me: How can I send the formal request?
Mr. Jose Tamayo: You need to send letter of request through a postal mail address to Governor Dayan.
Me: It’s fine with me, I can do that. But if I send a mail to Governor Dayan, will she mail me back with the info?
Mr. Jose Tamayo: It depends, because it will still be deliberated by the Finance Officer and approved by Governor Dayan.
Me: That’s a lot of red tape for simple info that will not even take a minute to give over the phone.
Mr. Tamayo: Ok sir, you can send request through email.
Me: That sounds better. I can send an email right away.
Oh, for crying out loud. When I see things like this, I marvel at the courteous patience of guys like Mr. Estrella to put up with it. If I were the one asking the questions, Ms. Agunas and/or Mr. Tamayo would be having a very bad day right now, one that in all likelihood I would be inclined to deliver in person. And why is that? If it’s not obvious to Governor Lanete and her subordinates, and it apparently is not, the particular piece of information being sought – the province’s cash balance – is being sought by the people to whom that money belongs. That information should be delivered to anyone who asks, by whatever means they ask, immediately and with a smile.
Here’s a bit of frank reality for Governor Lanete and her government. The Masbate Talks group has adopted an attitude of being thorough and thoughtful in assessing the goings-on in their province, and in interacting with their elected officials in as friendly and productive a way as possible. If I’m not mistaken, I believe even one member of the Provincial Board has realized the potential of the civic model that has been created, and has joined the group herself.
Obstinacy and a misplaced sense of proprietary boundaries will get you nowhere. After all, there are a little more than 11,000 members of “Masbate Talks”; there are not that many of you. And, although I personally don’t give myself that much credit, as far as the group is concerned my taking an interest in it (because I know a good idea when I see one), constitutes “national media attention.” So here’s the deal: You can either set a new standard for ethical, interactive governance through the way you work together with your constituents, or you can be subjected to an intensity of uncomfortable scrutiny that you probably did not imagine was possible. I’d prefer the former, and obviously, so would the people who love their province and want to see it improve. But that’s up to you.
I write a column for The Manila Times on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Most of the energy sector and the heads of several government agencies probably wish I didn’t.
17 Replies to “Masbate Government Doesn’t Want You People All Up In Their Business”
Great idea. It should be done on the national level. I’d be happy knowing where my tax money goes.
Second that. We don’t have to be outraged when things like the pork barrel scam erupts only because someone on the inside becomes a whistle-blower after a falling out with his cohorts. And wasn’t the whole premise of Penoy’s administration TRANSPARENCY?
Speaking of transparency, Rigz Estrella wouldn’t be getting the runaround if we had a proper Freedom of Information law in place. He could simply compel the Masbate government to release the information.
Johny, im actually invoking the Full Disclosure memorandum circular issued by DILG. so i dont need to wait for FOI..
That’s good to hear! I really hope this grows into something that forces the whole of our government to become more accountable, not only the local government units, but also agencies and public officials at the national level. That was my reason for bringing up the FOI act. If we want to replicate the great work you and your group have been doing in Masbate, we’ll need the right instruments to compel the release of information. The FOI would go a long way to accomplishing this beyond the limit of the LGU full disclosure circular.
great idea! it would be great if we can implement this up to the national level and include all government agencies.
Philippines should have a website accessible to all which at the start of the month starts with X money and the ending balance at the end of the month, y money. Within the month it should state that the government allocated how much for a specific city/town or municipality or other expenses which should result to the ending balance.
The city/town/municipality in turn would have similar system setup which also has starting balance and ending balance add/subtract all the transactions within the month siting specific projects or any allocations.
I mean it doesn’t have to be so complicated. For me it would be enough just to know the major things. Hell, it can be done on a simple spreadsheet. No need to complicate things.
Masbate as can be shown in statistics is one of the poorest provinces in the country. People are crawling in poverty to say the least.
As observed during the several months of my stay during one of my vacations the provincial capitol seems to have not undergone even the slightest maintenance during the last forty years or more. Even some of the deserted old buildings in the Bronx, New York look far more presentable compared to it.
Most of the roads around the province are never paved and potholes are so deep even for big vehicles to pass through most especially when it rains.
Most of the towns and counties don’t have running water system like the towns of Aroroy, Baleno and almost all the other so called towns. Electricity are rationed from 6 PM to 11 PM only, if the weather is favorable. There are no access roads in remote baranggays. The only way to go to the nearest major town is through the sea if the waves are not dangerously huge for travel. There’s nothing that can be bought in the stores in these remote baranggays when the weather is rough.
As per my personal observation the culture of corruption in this impoverished province is rooted in its own people.
Majority of the voters would never vote without any amount of money from any candidate. Regardless whether or not the candidate is competent to serve the interest of the people.
The poorest of the poor keeps on bearing a child almost every year. Most poorest couples have no less than five children with them. They can even hardly have two square meals in a week.
This is where mindless use of dynamite and poison in fishing is as common as breathing air. They even do it in the area beside the beach house of the town mayor.
As a tip for tourists and other travelers unfamiliar with the place and its people, never try to eat or even ask for a drink in restaurants or carindderias even owned by one of your close friends that you’re not familiar with. They tend to put poison in your foods even in bottled soda or water if you let them open it for you. Some of the poisons they put is lethal enough to kill instantly a person.
Mostly their intention in poisoning a person is for him to agree to be treated by them for money. Some do it just for their their own personal belief or “panata”.
Therefore based on observation perhaps the extremely corrupt leaders in this province are obviously the product of the deep-rooted culture of its people.
Transparency can only be achieved if the entire LGU system of Masbate Province is automated. Every LGU has a Citizen’s Charter and all LGUs for that matter – be it provincial office or municipal/city level are required to post in their Transparency Board the Current Financial standing of their LGU: Remaining Budget, Expenses, Cash on hand and liabilities , etc , not to disclose it in public is a clear violation of DILG directives.
AH, the insinuation of a threat, NICE!
But in the mean time, some creative accounting will be done. There is no FoI is there? WHY is that? There is still a bank secrecy law, isn’t there? The smoke and mirrors are being polished. The thieves are hiding what ever they still have, MAYBE even getting nervous…..BUT—
Don’t stop now. Time is of the essence in matters like these. Creative accounting being what it is.
OH and…Listen to Johnny Saint-Ghandi, he has got IDEA’s.
This is basically a watchdog group, like many already operating in the U.S. We need more of these, and this is essentially how a democracy works. You can’t expect the government to work by itself these days, you have to knock on the window to make sure they’re doing things properly.
yes, chino, it has evolve into a watchdog group. i created it initially as an experemental “talk anything under the sun”..to promote socio-political awareness
heres, the 1st monthly report i published 3 weeks ago, pls give inputs on how can Iimprove the report.. i mwriting the 2nd report right now
MT MONTHLY PROGRESS TRACKING REPORT ON MASBATE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT FOR JULY2013.
This report is generated to monitor the accomplisements of the Office of the Governor, Vice Governor and the Sanguniang Panalalawigan. It will also monitor the movement of Provincial Funds
Cash on Bank as of June 30, 2013 = P 607,210, 945 .00
Source:: Provincial Accountant Norie Agunas/ Nonita Liao
ACCOMPLISHMENT FOR THE ,MONTH OF JULY
Gov Dayan Lanete ( Salary- 79,815)
Per phone conversation with Provincial Information Officer Merien Cervantes Esber, Gov Dayan put priority on convening of the Provincial Peace and Order Council this monh.
Ongoing projects are:
1. 200 Bed Capacity Provincial Hospital
2. Rehabilitation of the Masbate Cultural center and converting it into a Convention Center
Vice Gov Vince Revil (Salary – 69, 181)
Presided 4 SP sessions for the month of July with only 3 SPs incurring one absences from SP Alim for medical reasons and SP Jojo Rivera due to the weather. SP Lovely Abapo.
Being the first month of the 3 year term. The SP voted for approval of the Internal Rules and the setting up of their organization ( Committe chairmanship and composition)
Ordinances/Resolution Resolved or Passed
1. Resolution Supporting the Proposal of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council to a 10% Increase of Government Share in a Mining Company’s Gross Revenue Income;
2. Resolution commending the 9th Infantry Batallion for safeguarding the recent election.
SP Jamon Espares ( Salary – (P 62,670.00)
1. Filed Resolution Supporting the Proposal of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council to a 10% Increase of Government Share in a Mining Company’s Gross Revenue Income;
SP Albert Vincent Chu ( P64,057.00)
1. Filed a resolution commending the 9 th Infantry battalion.
SP Kaye Revil (Salary- P62,670.00)
1. A Resolution for the Creation of an Official Website for the Province of Masbate;
2. A Resolution for the Creation of an Official Website for the Office of the
SP Lovely Abapo (Salary -P 64,057.00)
Filed 2 resolutiions but has not delivered her previlige speech about. It will be counted next month..
No Resolution were filed by the following SPs;
SP Alberto Abayon ( Salary- P62,670.00)
SPJason Arevalo ( Salary -P62,670.00)
SP Boboy Arregadas ( Salary -P63,360.00)
SP Ricar Vasquez (Salary – P63,360.00)
SP Jojo Rivera ( Salary – P63,360.00)
SP Tantoy Alim ( Salary – P64, 057.00)
Ex Officio Members
SK – Fed Gerald Sanchez
ABC – Manuel Hermosa
PCL – Liela Placer
ISSUES HIGHLIGHTED DURING THE TARABIL
1. Gov Dayan landed in the national newspaper to be the number 1 congressman that was involved in the 10 Billion Pork Barrel Scam
2. Jofer Asilum Bunan highlighted the lack of Vision for for Masbate
3. Dr Rufino Bartolabac highlighted the Safety issue on the Small Scale mining in Aroroy
4. Maricel Legasapifrancisco Mortejo highligted the condition of Tagpu to Bon-oco road which has been confirmed by Engr Mark Ian Garbo to be a provincial road
5. Nilo Antonio Aban highlighted the issue of quarry Mining at Baranggay Tabu and Mandali in Mobo
6. Josie Deinla Albao posted about the Camote crunch and chichacorn. Wondering why we cannot produce these two products despite the abundant supply of corn and camote in Masbate.
7. Marissa Borromeo highlighted the issue of Sanitation concerns over the piggery in the town proper of Dimasalang. The issue was forwardedto Dimaslang Vice Mayro Naga for resolution at the SB level.
8. Love Pawican highlighted the issue about the lack of OB Gyne Facilities in Cataingan District Hospital. Dra Llacer explained that a facility enhancement program is ongoing.. However the will not be closed until the completion of the program and the Ob Gyne facility are proven to be in place.
9. No official website for the Province of Masbate
SUGGESTIONS FROM MT:
1. Josie Deinla Albao : Creation of the Mining Council that will take care of the safety and environmental concerns brought about by both the Small Scale and Big Scale Mining Operations in Aroroy
2. Creation official website for SP that will contain all the SP session minutes, previliges speeches and other activities of the SP.
3 Glenn Lazaro:: creation of the Local Youth Development Council.. and confederation of all youth organizations in our province
4. Meriam Merioles Aspi : A resolution to promote investment in Masbate..
5.Kath Arcenas Nuhs What about create an Enterprise Zone para sa mga Foreign investors similar to MEPZA in Mactan Cebu.
6 Distribution of Masbatenyo Dictionary to grade Kinder, Grade 1, grade 2 and Grade 3 teachers.
7. SP resolution recognizing the appointment and rare feat of Airis Mecenario Manaloto in NYC.. The bagging of Bb Pilipinas-International tilte of Ms Bea Rose Santiago, and the baggng of Quiz Bee national champion by Rainier Mendoza
8. Feasibility study on Chichacorn and Camote Crunch
9.SP resolution to build more toilets to address one of the criteria in determining the poverty rate
I applaud the initiative – sad, but unsurprising that it is such a struggle to get basic public info and that there is not a uniform benchmark of key performance indicators for all towns/cities.
It is quicker and easier to produce now and specialist software exists which can be customised as a dashboard analysis and many cities/countries do this.
If IBM were not just helping the current administration in internet surveillance/data tracking they could divert some of their ‘free resources’ to do something beneficial for the country.
This sounds an ideal initiative in public responsibility and social involvement
What gets measured gets improved.
What gets hidden gets stolen.
No FoI, No chance.
I think everyone needs to dial down their enthusiasm and expectations for what the imagined FOI bill could do. Having come from the land where it was invented, I can tell you that FOI is used quite effectively by the government to control how & how much information is released, through miles of procedural red tape. That business about “send a request by mail” that Rigz ran into? That’s the sort of nonsense that becomes SOP under the US FOIA. You get the information, eventually (provided it’s not something designated “national security”) but not before jumping through a bunch of hoops.
So you can imagine what this government could do with an FOI law. Don’t expect much from it, seriously.
we have the same stand,ben..that is why i did not wait for it..from the press releases alone,i can feel that there is nothing much to it..so decided to use what is already there, the DILG Full dsclosure policy..
@BK, The Freedom of Information Act in the U.S.A. is constructed to give U.S. citizens access to its Governments activities in a ‘timely and open manner’. When procedures are followed correctly, a response is ALWAYS forthcoming in a prompt courteous manner. Whether the citizen gets what they want is a matter of ‘National Security’ but when it comes to most things like personal FBI files or minutes from a joint-session of the U.S. Congress the concerned U.S. Citizen will get the info requested.
IDK where you heard about ‘jumping through hoops’ but as long as the U.S.citizen/ applicant can read and understand the English language(Spanish now too!) the process is not complicated and rather straight-forward. The U.S. citizen/applicant will get a response, if not the requested info., in 6-8 weeks. The FoI act is the U.S.A. is legit and works as well as any bureaucracy can.