Vico Sotto promises to tell ‘the good, the bad, the ugly’ about Pasig City

JC Gotinga

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Vico Sotto promises to tell ‘the good, the bad, the ugly’ about Pasig City
The Pasig City Mayor says he would dismiss and punish errant city workers, as he opens a 24-hour public information and complaints desk

MANILA, Philippines – Pasig City government employees saw and heard a different side of their new mayor, Vico Sotto, at their weekly flag ceremony on Monday morning, July 15. Although still quite the joker from the past weeks, Sotto said a few things during his speech that drew nervous laughter and awkward silence from the assembly.

After announcing city hall’s new public information and complaints desk, he turned his gaze toward enforcers from the Traffic and Parking Management Office (TPMO) standing in a row at the back of the crowd.

Nakikita ko po mga TPMO. Itong linggo lang na ito, mahigit limang video po yata ang sinend sa akin, ng mga TPMO enforcer na nangongotong. Kung dati, hinahayaan po kayo, ngayon, mag-ingat na po kayo,” Sotto addressed the officers from the podium.

(I see the TPMO. Just this week, I think more than 5 videos have been sent to me, of TPMO enforcers extorting money. If before, you were tolerated, now you better be careful.)

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Sotto said he will start firing and prosecuting errant traffic enforcers, city hall clerks, and even wet market supervisors once there is enough evidence to prove they have been extorting money or goods while on duty.

Sotto promised sweeping reforms when he campaigned to take the mayoralty from the Eusebio clan, who had ruled Pasig City for nearly 3 decades.

Sotto said he had been swamped with complaints and tips about lapses in public services since he took office on July 1, such as reports about city hall clerks asking clients for grease money to expedite permit requests, and officials who fleece goods from concessionnaires at the city’s wet market or palengke.

The public information and complaints desk, called “Ugnayan sa Pasig” (Connecting in Pasig), is a reorganization of the city government’s existing complaints unit but given a fresh mandate and equipped with its own computerized system of logging complaints and requests for public records.

The desk’s “hotline” will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Sotto said any “freedom of information” request – covered by the law on bureaucratic transparency and Pasig’s corresponding city ordinance – would be processed in as little as 10 minutes, including queries on how the city government spends its money.

The young mayor promised his administration would be more transparent than his predecessor’s.

Walang sikreto. ‘Pag may problema, sasabihin ko sa inyo. Kapag may challenge, ikukuwento ko sa inyo. Hindi tayo magtatago ng problema, ng challenges. Ipapakita ko sa inyo the good, the bad, and the ugly,” Sotto told reporters.

(No secrets. When there is a problem, I will tell you. When there is a challenge, I will let you know.  We wom’t hide problems or challenges. I will show you the good, the bad, and the ugly.)

On Sunday, Sotto revealed that he would launch a physical count of the city government’s supplies and materials after the Commission on Audit flagged P1.464 billion in missing inventories from 2018.

No politics and no accusations yet, Sotto added, just making it clear that the shortfall in the audit was not under his watch.

Aware that these actions could fall hard on his subordinates, the former city councilor clarified that although corruption in local governments had become an “open secret,” he does not accuse every one of them of pilfering on the job.

“Siguro po, karamihan po sa inyo, karamihan po sa atin, maaayos, mahuhusay, matitino naman. Pero kapag mayroon kang departamento na sampu matitino, mayroon lang isa o dalawa na hindi matitino, nasisira po ang pangalan ng ating mga departamento, nasisira po ang pangalan ng ating Lungsod Pasig,” he told the assembly at the flag ceremony.

(Maybe most of you, most of us, really are proper, competent, and upright. But if you have a department with 10 upright with just one or two who are crooked, this ruins the name of the departments, this ruins the name of our Pasig City.)

Noticing the crowd’s stunned reaction, Sotto quipped, “Hindi po ako galit. Nagpapaliwanag lang. (I am not mad. Just explaining.)” Yet again, he managed to make them laugh.

The tension doused, the city’s workers headed off to their offices, including the mayor. –

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JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.