MANILA, Philippines – Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto said he would relentlessly pursue corrupt Pasig bureaucrats for accountability, as he heralded his administration’s achievements on his 100th day in office on Tuesday evening, October 8.
Facing the crowd that gathered at Pasig’s Plaza Bonifacio for his State of the City Address, Sotto singled out the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), which inspects businesses for environmental safety.
The mayor accused CENRO of having been remiss in its duty after he inspected and ordered the closure of a meat processing plant in Barangay Bagong Ilog that morning, for releasing waste water with hogs’ blood straight into the drainage and even onto the street.
“Warning, warning, warning nang ilang taon. Ano’ng nangyari sa warning? Sa dulo, nabigyan siya ng permit. Hindi naman inayos ’yung planta. Hindi naman inayos ’yung STP (sewage treatment plant) pero nabigyan ng permit,” Sotto said, digressing from his prepared speech.
(Warning, warning, warning all these years. What happened to the warning? In the end, they were given a permit. They did not even fix the plant. They did not fix the STP but they were given a permit.)
“Mag-isip-isip na po kayo dahil binigyan ko na po kayo ng 100 days para maglinis-linis ng mga ranggo ninyo,” Sotto warned. (You better start thinking because I already gave you 100 days to clean up your ranks.)
“Kung hindi pa kayo magpakatino, hahabulin ko kayo. At hindi ko lang kayo hahabulin. Ipapakulong ko kayo,” he added. (If you don’t shape up, I will fo after you. And I won’t just go after you. I will have you jailed.)
Earlier on Tuesday, Sotto joined a surprise inspection of the plant whose workers said belonged to the restaurant chain Razon’s of Guagua.
It did not have a sewage treatment plant or any anti-pollution facility, which the law requires, so Sotto had the place shut down, saying he did not care “even if a big company owned it.”
State of the City Address
Sotto was all smiles for most of his speech as he reported his administration’s accomplishments in 5 key areas he had promised to reform: health care, housing, education, good governance, as well as public order and safety.
Key achievements included a supplemental health budget of P470.5 million for the rest of 2019 and a nearly-tripled P772.7 million for 2020; a record 13,000 scholars for the current term and an expected 16,000 in 2020; the professionalization of traffic enforcers; the opening of a “one-stop-shop” for social welfare assistance, and of a complaints office called “Ugnayan sa Pasig” (Touchpoint in Pasig).
The city government has accounted for about P400 million of the P1.4 billion in missing supplies and assets flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA) in its 2018 audit report on Pasig’s expenditures from the administration of Sotto’s predecessor, Bobby Eusebio.
Photo by Lisa Marie David/Rappler
Sotto had ordered a massive inventory of assets and materials early into his term in response to the COA red flag, and it poses “a big challenge” to his administration, he told reporters after his speech.
The city government needs to sort out and organize the inventory, and “safeguard” the procurement process to prevent public funds from leaking out because of loose management.
During his speech, Sotto reported other spending anomalies by Pasig City’s past administrations.
From 2006 to 2015, the city government spent P9.4 billion on public infrastructure that were, in the end, not officially declared as government property.
Some P528 million in land holdings were likewise not titled to the city government.
The Eusebio family ruled Pasig from 1992 until May 2019, when Sotto won against reelectionist Bobby Eusebio.
Afraid or corrupt?
In the case of environment safety permits, Sotto ordered the city administrator to look into who had inspected the Razon’s meat processing plant and other establishments in the same area.
He said the city government had shut down a few other facilities for similar violations.
But before making any conclusions, Sotto said he wanted to know why the CENRO had let those violations slide.
“Baka natatakot kasi, ‘Mayaman ’yan eh, baka balikan ako niyan eh, kung ipasara ko negosyo niyan, baka mayari ’yung pamilya ko,’” Sotto said, thinking of reasons a CENRO employee would go easy on erring companies. (Perhaps they worry, “Those are rich people, they might get back at me, if I shut down their business, my family might get in trouble.”)
“These are realities of governance na ’yung ibang empleyado natin, medyo kinakabahan, so kailangan ma-discern natin bakit ba ganu’n ’yung ginawa niya nung inspeksyon niya. Dahil ba takot siya o dahil ba corrupt siya?” Sotto wondered.
(These are realities of governance, that some of our employees get rather nervous so we need to discern why they did that in their inspection. Is it because they are afraid or because they are corrupt?)
“Kung corrupt siya, hindi tayo titigil. Hahabulin natin lahat ng mga corrupt at alam kong marami pa diyan. Iisa-isahin natin ’yan,” Sotto said. (If they are corrupt, then we won’t stop. We will go after all the corrupt and I know there are still many out there. We will go after them one by one.) – Rappler.com
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.