30 APRIL 2007

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VOYEURS AND EXHIBITIONISTS HEALTH AND THE FILIPINO

by ALECKS P. PABICO



WHEN he is not out in the field, Jesse Robredo spends more time in the glass-walled anteroom of his city hall office where he conducts business as Naga City mayor — usually signing papers and meeting with Nagueños who seek an audience with him. [photo by Alecks P. Pabico]
NAGA CITY — Just about anybody who has avidly followed the remarkable political career of Jesse Robredo exhibited the same perplexed reaction to the news that the multi-awarded chief executive of this premier city had fielded his wife to run for mayor — a position he is also vying for in the coming local elections in May.

It was, after all, a classic move of a traditional politician, and therefore something way out of character for Robredo, who has maintained a reformist image for nearly two decades. But his supporters were quickly reassured. According to the mayor of Naga City, which is smack in the center of Bicolandia, he fielded his wife Maria Leonor, a lawyer with the nongovernmental legal group Saligan — who had reluctantly agreed to file her certificate of candidacy at the last minute — as a calculated move on his part, should the Commission on Elections (Comelec) decide to give due course to yet another pending disqualification case against him. (see Table 1)

Had it been another politician giving such a reason, perhaps eyebrows would remain raised. It's not even as if the disqualification case raises new issues against him (like the previous cases, it alleges that he is not Filipino because his grandfather and father were Chinese), but Robredo says he has been told the odds may be against him this time.



Location map of Naga City courtesy of Wikipedia

For an interactive map of the city, click HERE.
Robredo has built such a solid reputation that people do not find it hard to believe most (if not all) of what he says. And so while his opponents have been howling that he is building a political dynasty in Naga, it's an accusation that's not quite sticking.

"They're way too decent to take this route," says Wilfredo Prilles Jr., acting city planning head and Naga's prominent blogger, whose remarks about the Robredos echo those of most Nagueños.

Robredo says that had he really been bent on building a dynasty, he would have done it back in 1998, when he could have easily run for congressman, and his wife for mayor. But as early as then, he had declared that no one in his family would take over his post. "Not a relative, not my wife, not anyone who has blood relations with us," he said at the time.

Now Robredo, who turns 49 in May, is also saying this will be the last election that he will be involved in, and even hints at a possible successor to his position in 2010 from his own slate. But this early, too, even some of his supporters are wondering if the reforms he has instituted are strong enough to last well after he has bowed out of politics.

Table 1: Citizenship cases filed vs Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo

Source: Bureau of Immigration, Comelec, Supreme Court

CASE
CAUSE OF ACTION
OFFICE WHERE FILED
STATUS
Orlando Tan vs Jesse Robredo (D.C. 1992-736)
Compulsory registration of Chinese nationals and deportation
Bureau of Immigration and Deportation
Dismissed on the grounds of prescription (more than 30 years have lapsed from the time of complained act)
Orlando Tan vs Jesse Robredo (SPA Case No. 1992-040)
Petition to deny due course and/or cancel certificate of candidacy
Commission on Elections
Dismissed by the Comelec First Division on October 6, 1992 for lack of jurisdiction
Rodolfo Fortuno vs Jesse Robredo (SPA Case No. 2001-020)
Petition to deny due course and/or cancel certificate of candidacy
Commission on Elections
Denied by Comelec Second Division on June 21, 2001, declaring Jesse Robredo a Filipino citizen by implied election
Rodolfo Fortuno vs Jesse Robredo (EPC Case No. 2001-2)
Petition for quo warranto
Commission on Elections
Dismissed by Comelec Second Division for being moot and academic

Dismissed by Comelec en banc, acting on petitioner's motion for reconsideration, on August 5, 2003 for lack of merit, declaring Jesse Robredo a natural-born citizen
Rodolfo Fortuno vs Jesse Robredo (GR No. 159493)
Petition for review on certiorari
Supreme Court
Dismissed for being moot and academic
Jojo Villafuerte vs Jesse Robredo (SPA Case No. 2004-064)
Petition to deny due course and/or cancel certificate of candidacy
Commission on Elections
Dismissed by Comelec Second Division
Jojo Villafuerte vs Jesse Robredo (EPC Case No. 2004-20)
Petition for quo warranto
Commission on Elections
Pending
Jojo Villafuerte vs Jesse Robredo
Petition to deny due course and/or cancel certificate of candidacy
Commission on Elections
Pending, filed on April 3, 2007

Whoever will replace Robredo will certainly have a tough act to follow. In the 16 years — likely going on 19 with another electoral victory in May, barring disqualification — that he has been Naga City mayor, Robredo has distinguished himself as a titan among local government officials, reaping in the process accolades locally and internationally not only for himself, but also for the city.

To date, Naga has received more than 150 awards and recognitions in diverse fields of local administration during his incumbency. These include being named Most Cost-Effective City in Asia by the United Kingdom's Foreign Direct Investment Magazine (2005); Public Service Awardee for Local e-Governance from the United Nations Department of Public Administration and Finance (2004); Women-Friendly City Award from the UN-Habitat and the UN Development Fund for Women (2004); Model City for Government Procurement from the World Bank and Procurement Watch (2003); CyberCity Awardee for its i-Governance initiatives from the United Nations Development Program (2002); Dubai International Awardee for Improving the Living Environment from UN Habitat (1998).

Last year, Naga bested bigger and richer urban centers like Manila, Makati, Cebu, Marikina, and Davao when it was recognized as the "Most Business-Friendly City" by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the third time — it also won in 2003 and 2004 — thus elevating it to the Hall of Fame. Naga is likewise a Hall of Famer of the Asian Institute of Management-Ford Foundation Galing Pook (Innovations Program) Award and the Presidential Gawad Pamana ng Lahi Award of the Department of Interior and Local Government. It was named "Most Child-Friendly City" in 2006 by the Philippine Council for the Welfare of Children, and received the Galing Pook Foundation's Award for Continuing Excellence.

Naga is also one of only nine areas in the country cited by the UNDP as among the leading lights in the implementation of the UN Millennium Development Goals. It leads the Bicol region in achieving the following goals halfway to the 2015 deadline: eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating major diseases, and providing basic amenities.

Table 2: Status of MDG Implementation in Naga City

Source: 2007 State of the City Report, Naga City Government

MDG INDICATORS
TARGET
2015
NAGA CITY
TARGET
2015
BICOL REGION
TARGET
2015
NATIONAL
Actual
(Current)
Status
Actual
(Current)
Status
Actual
(Current)
Status
Poverty incidence
27.5
18.9
Achieved
27.5
40.5
Off track
19.9
24.7
On track
Hunger incidence
34.1
5.6
Achieved
34.1
22.6
Achieved
17.2
27.6
Off track
Primary education participation
100.0
100.0
Achieved
100.0
85.1
Off track
100.0
90.0
Off track
Primary education completion
100.0
66.6
Off track
100.0
67.0
Off track
100.0
62.1
Off track
Under five-mortality
5.79
3.68
Achieved
5.79
6.09
On track
26.7
40.0
On track
Infant mortality
6.63
8.96
On track
6.63
9.33
On track
19.0
29.0
On track
Fully immunized children
100.0
112.0
Achieved
100.0
87.0
Off track
no data
Maternal mortality
0.31
0.0
Achieved
0.31
1.16
Off track
0.52
1.72
Off track
Acces to safe water
67.52
100.0
Achieved
67.52
45.20
Off track
86.8
80.0
On track
Access to sanitary toilets
79.17
100.0
Achieved
79.17
69.85
On track
79.17
67.85
Off track

Robredo's own awards run up to 21, including being named one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World (1996) and the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines. He also received the Konrad Adenauer Medal of Excellence as Most Outstanding City Mayor of the Philippines (1998) and the first ever "Dangal ng Bayan" Award of the Civil Service Commission. In 2000, he became the Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Government Service.



DESPITE its first-class status, Naga has resisted spending on a cosmetic refurbishing of City Hall. [photo by Alecks P. Pabico]
UNDER ROBREDO'S leadership, Naga has blossomed into a model first-class city, regaining such status after being downgraded to third class during his first stint as its mayor. To many, Robredo's defining moment came early when he cut ties with Bicol's political big boss, Camarines Sur Representative Luis Villafuerte, his erstwhile political patron who was then the provincial governor.

A disagreement in the choice of Naga's police chief led to their falling out. Villafuerte wanted a former classmate appointed. Robredo, unsure of the person's reputation, particularly with regard to his administration's anti-illegal gambling drive, balked. Villafuerte's nominee got the post anyway. Robredo then sought the help of Monsignor Leonardo Legazpi, the archbishop of Caceres. Soon after the archbishop appealed to then President Corazon Aquino on the issue, the police chief was replaced.

This firm resolve to run after the symbols of bad government — jueteng, lewd shows, drugs, quasi-employees at city hall who appeared only during pay day — endeared Robredo to Nagueños and inspired confidence in his leadership. And so they blessed him and his ticket with an uninterrupted gabos kung gabos (sweep) in the last five local elections, even with him sidelined for a term in 1998.

Team Robredo, though, will be best remembered for providing the enabling environment for active citizen's participation and engagement in governance. This, says Fr. Nelson Tria, three-term chair of the Naga City People's Council (NCPC), has been made possible because Robredo understands and takes heed of the concepts of people empowerment and people-oriented development.

Renne Gumba, executive director of the Ateneo de Naga's Institute of Politics, also says that Robredo's "dominance" in Naga is "not the notion of dominance where someone orders everybody around. There's an element of pluralism in his leadership style, letting various political players get involved, take sides. It's really a commitment to a more democratic framework of governance."

But credit should also go to Naga's strong tradition of active citizens' participation. As Nagueño lawyer Soliman Santos Jr. pointed out in his introduction to a 1998 study on people's councils in the country, what made Naga different is also "the presence of an active and vibrant NGO-PO (nongovernmental organization-people's organization) community…that is characteristically pluralist."

The NCPC's precursor, the Naga City NGO-PO Council, had actively involved itself in the affairs of the city back in the early 1990s. And from their quiet discussions with Mayor Robredo and progressive councilors, notably Jaime Jacob, would emerge the "People Empowerment" Ordinance that institutionalized people's participation in local governance.

With the people empowerment ordinance's enactment in December 1995, a city-level federation of over 100 local NGOs and people's organizations, the NCPC, has been co-governing Naga City. NCPC representatives sit in all local special bodies all the way up to the standing committees of the Sanggunian Panlungsod (city council). It's the first of its kind in the country and remains the most developed experiment in the concept of people's councils espoused by "popular democrats" in response to Cory Aquino's call to build "organized People's Power" at the grassroots level.

Naga's faithful compliance with the Local Government Code provision for NGO accreditation even went as far as providing sectoral representation in the city council in the ordinance, one that is similar to the party-list representation in Congress. But the absence of an enabling law prevented the Robredo administration from fully enforcing it.

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