WITH MODESTO P. SA-ONOY
We enter the year of the Fire Monkey. No matter its appellation, a monkey is still and by its nature mischievous and playful and even lovable. Of course it depends on your experience with one or from where you stand in relation with this simian. Whether it is fire or water, monkey is unimportant. What is relevant is that this year Negros has plenty of monkeys or people with the proverbial monkey business.
The first casualty of mischievousness, ironically is this year's BacoLaodiat festival. Because of the antics in the Bacolod Sanggunian, the festival is held in a limited way. It is like just having it but not with the same intensity and variety as people expected it to be each year. After all the Chinese New Year always has plenty of activities to offer.
The funding for the festival has been assured by the yearly budget because it is an official activity of the city although managed by private citizens. This is similar to that of the MassKara Festival and, more lately, the Diwali Festival.
However, for the private foundation to avail of the fund, it has to sign a contract or memorandum of agreement with the city.Without this agreement it would be illegal to disburse funds for the festival.
This should have been a matter of course as it was since its inception a decade ago. But because the SP did not authorize Acting Mayor Greg Gasataya to sign the memorandum, the money gets stuck in the Treasurer's Office.
The SP cannot issue this authority because it cannot conduct any other business unless the annual budget is passed. No budget, no authority; no authority, no money. The SP has been sitting on the budget since Monico Puentevella was suspended by the Sandigang Bayan on corruption charges.
The majority of the councilors is beholden to or is under orders of Puentevella. Even as he said he will help the BacoLaodiat Festival, his words come in empty because the SP has not passed the budget.
From what we hear, the SP will pass the budget only if or when Puentevella returns to office. This stance is a clear indication (need we have better proof?) that the SP will not move an inch unless their lord and master returns. Never mind if much damage is done as long as they please their master.
One indeed wonders whether these councilors are paid by the city or by Puentevella. Anyway they can do their monkey business as they please. Our only regret is that we voted them to office, only now to realize they owe their allegiance, not to the people who voted for them, but to the one financing their electoral campaign. We should remember their names in May.
The BacoLaodiat has become part of our lives and we owe it to our brothers and sisters of Chinese origin who are sharing their culture with us. In fact, we learn about the roots of our “native” culture from them and therefore understand the close cultural ties we have with them.
There is a lesson here. The foundation running the festival should consider freeing itself from the city's coffers. We had this sad experience in the past when politicians also tried to dictate on the MassKara Festival, even threatening to stop it. But we decided we can do things better without the city's money and we did survive and prosper.
It is only now that the MassKara Festival turns to the city for financial assistance but for almost 20 years we managed the MassKara Festival without the SP deciding our fate.
I believe that with the city government playing the monkey game, the BacoLaodiat management should consider their funding sources and be independent and be free from being the ball to be kicked around by monkeys in a political game. They have more resources and sources than we had and surely they can plan and operate better no matter who sits or squats in the Government Center.
The BacoLaodiat is not the only victim of the mischievousness in the SP. The monkey game in the SP has now affected the operations of the barangays. One barangay official lamented the failure of the SP to pass the budget and thus the barangay operation is stalled. They cannot pay their personnel, extend assistance and continue with their projects because their funds have not been released.
We must learn lesson from the SP monkeying.*
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