Charlotte, North Carolina—Good day friends and followers I hope you’re all doing well in your home quarantine in whatever part of the world you live in and that all of us find the light in the end of the dark tunnel that is the COVID-19 pandemic.
I’ve had two podcasts/online voice broadcasts posted so far this week, the latest on Thursday April 2 at 7 am to 8 am Philippine time over at the Facebook page of 105.5 Bay Radio Way Kurat FM Balingasag, the station based in Balingasag town, Misamis Oriental which is the birthplace of former congressman, former Misamis Oriental governor and now last term Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno.
Speaking of Mayor Oscar Moreno, my Thursday online broadcast centered on the noise generated over the Cagayan de Oro City Council’s approval of the P658 million budget for the city’s response to the COVID-19 threat
The FB post drew attention from local netizens who joined in on the online uproar, venting their ire on what they perceived was the slow response of the Moreno administration in allocating funds for the distribution of relief goods to the households affected by the ongoing citywide quarantine.
And rather than be dismissive of the online furor, let me be clear that Filipinos are guaranteed free speech under the 1987 Constitution even if a lot of them tend to be abusive of this right to the point of being outright malicious.
Yes lest we forget the social media landscape had been populated by bashers/trolls or paid hacks who dish out verbal abuse on their designated targets who are usually public officials like Mayor Moreno. And the last two elections had witnessed the rising weaponization of social media by scheming politicians who pay these trolls to bash their rivals and ride the resulting wave of dissatisfaction to score political mileage.
That is where Mayor Moreno finds himself in, a very volatile spot in which he is being circled by detractors and bashers out to poke holes on his stance to maintain a calibrated citywide quarantine rather than a lockdown that they continue to insist on demanding to this day. Elected public officials made of less sterner substance would have caved in but not Mayor Moreno and so far I admire him for it.
Proponents of an ‘enhanced quarantine’ in Cagayan de Oro City similar to what is imposed in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon by the national government may have conveniently overlooked what is happening in these areas right now with the local governments there are barely keeping order as it was amid the riots erupting over the distribution of relief goods.
Again, anyone has the right to question and require transparency from government in their dealings and programs that affect their welfare and interest with exceptions of course on public security that may be compromised should details be disclosed and made accessible to enemies of the state. But such demands for transparency and accountability from government unfortunately are being exploited by those with a political agenda in order to score brownie points with the masses.
The same thing applies here. The Moreno administration should ensure that they are transparent and accountable to its constituents in the allocation of relief assistance and to be fair, City Hall officials exerted every effort to be transparent to city residents through the daily press briefings at the mayor’s conference room that had been unfairly judged and sneered at by online trolls and paid hacks of these opportunistic opposition politicians.
All that these bashers and trolls have produced so far is online noise, screaming ALL CAPS RANTS and sanctimonious indignation signifying nothing of substance, not even a shred of evidence to back up their vitriolic attacks. And I am at a certain age when I get tired and furious at these pathetic trolls who must now work harder than ever to earn their daily bread from their masters.
Let’s try to do it by the numbers okay? City Budget Officer Percy Salazar said City Hall sourced P90 million from the city’s five percent calamity fund or quick response fund amounting to P340 million as initial fund for its response to the COVID-19 threat. About P28 million out of the P90 million had been spent so far which included P111,000 assistance to each of the city’s 80 barangays or more than P8 million in barangay assistance alone.
The P28 million also went to the acquisition of thermal scanners or zero contact thermometers that looked like those radar guns used by the police to measure the speed of incoming vehicles which aren’t cheap, along with the purchase of medical supplies for barangay health centers and health workers or frontliners assigned at either the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) and the JR Borja City Hospital.
No specific amounts were mentioned but owing to the sharp demand by other hospitals around the country for alcohol, hand sanitizers and other essentials that are in now short supply, it’s safe to assume that the city government spent a lot to maintain this daily supply to their frontliners. Also add in the daily disinfection of public places, the salaries and meals of personnel (we can’t reasonably expect them to work all day for free now, do we) and the picture becomes a bit clearer.
And Mayor Moreno made it a point to emphasize to anyone who cared to understand that while the city has money it still has to fully source the P658 million it needs for its COVID-19 response and due to the citywide quarantine that shut down hotels, malls and other businesses that attract large crowds, City Hall expects revenues to decline.
I just hope that the P658 million standby fund won’t have to be used so the money can be reverted back to its intended items like school building projects and more, but people’s lives are at stake and Moreno has the foresight and wisdom to calibrate the allocation of funds for as long as the state of public health emergency remains in effect around the country due to the COVID-19 threat. (For questions and comments email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and also keep an eye out and hit the notification button for my online broadcasts at 105.5 Bay Radio Way Kurat FM Balingasag by liking, following and sharing the station’s Facebook page).