In his 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA) delivered during the joint session of both the Senate and the House of Representatives last July 22, 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte directed all mayors in Metro Manila to recover all public roads and sidewalks for the use of the public.
Later, the Chief Executive ordered the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to expand the coverage of the government’s anti-road obstruction campaign to include all local officials in the different parts of the country giving at least 60 days to do so, or else face possible suspension from office if nothing visible is achieved in this campaign.
Local officials immediately went to work starting the day after the President issued the marching order. They cleared roads and sidewalks from obstruction with opportunistic publicity-hungry politicians boosting their images in both social and mainstream media as if there was no more tomorrow in having to land in the front pages of publications or viral in the social media. But while most of them opted to be noisy about their compliance to the presidential directive, there were a few local officials who opted to do the reverse with the least possible fanfare.
One of the issues faced by local governments in their clearing operations is the presence of titled properties that encroached in the road-right-of-way of national and local roads. Thus, we see that despite the compliance of concerned government agencies and the local governments to the 3-notice rule, illegal structures still remain obstructing the smooth flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic because of issues on ownerships that have to be resolved by the courts in the said areas. A related issue is the failure of government to compensate some private property owners for portions of their properties taken during the initial stages of road widening projects decades ago.
A key issue in this campaign is the lack of due process. Some local officials believe that because they were elected into office by most of their constituents, they are clothed with enormous power that their word is already the law that must be immediately complied with thereby depriving the ordinary people due process as provided in the fundamental law of the land. Some are vindictive and wilfully transgress the rights of their political opponents and use this clearing operations to get back at them.
There is still a long way to go in achieving the objectives of the government’s anti-road obstruction campaign. The 60-day deadline has expired and it will now be up to the evaluators and assessors to ascertain the success of the campaign in all the local government units around the country. It is also incumbent upon them to submit their recommendations on who among the local officials will be suspended or who was able to perform well in the implementation of the campaign.
We suggest that the monitoring teams include in their reports how local officials actually walked the talk as shown in their publicity against the actual work they did. The President must be well informed on what happened on the ground and not rely on mere social media posting and media publicity to be able to gauge the performance of local officials in the said issue.
We agree to the contention of ordinary people that the social media had been blatantly abused by keyboard warriors to project a good image of bad politicians and to ruin the image of good politicians. In this issue of the government’s anti-obstruction campaign, it is now again being used to project the good image of the non-performing local officials to the discredit of those who had performed well without the use of the fanfare. We should not be fooled by falling into the trap of the keyboard warriors who want to make it appear that the truth are lies and lies are the truth.
Let us give the people the chance to independently judge the performance of our local officials in this very important aspect of governance because we really need our roads and sidewalks for our use.