By Noel Cababos
A Filipino term taken from the word bayan, referring to a nation, town or community, Bayanihan refers to the spirit of communal community to achieve a common purpose. The same spirit that prompted our lawmakers to pass an urgent measure called Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (RA 11469).
So I supposed “Bayanihan” is now the most abused term at play amid this pandemic spawned by COVID-19 with the entire country now under a state of calamity putting LGUs under community quarantine following the rise of confirmed cases of the disease.
But while the national government is trying to exhaust all possible means to fight this pandemic of our time, even considering to sell all the country’s assets if needed just to aid in the funds to combat the coronavirus disease, we are not seeing a significant counterpart in most of our local government units.
You see, leaders of other countries like New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is now getting praises upon her announcement in taking a 20 percent pay cut of her salary in a symbolic act of solidarity with people struggling financially at these trying times.
Well, it’s good to hear that we have one in the person of Mayor Emerson Pascual of Gapan City, Nueva Ecija, who, aside from distributing a sack of rice and poultry products on every household at his municipality, had also donated his salary from the start of his term amounting to 4.5 million pesos.
Yeah, these bits of news are really heartening and are giving public service a face at this time of crisis. It is indeed true that people will show their true colors in times of adversities like this one.
This leaves me thinking on what other local officials of the country have been doing to address this unfortunate event of our time. Well, maybe they are doing something but maybe it ain’t enough. Try to look at our President every time he addresses the nation and you will see an overly exhausted leader who is trying to make both ends meet just to make sure that no Pinoy won’t starve while we are in the midst of this crisis.
Well, I am not saying here that local officials should also donate their paychecks or introduce some cuts just like what other leaders had implemented. What I am suggesting is that there are so many other ways for them to aid their people, the very people they have vowed to serve since they were campaigning. Perhaps, to take a closer look at the LGU funds and appropriations could be the best start in doing so.
You see, every local government for that matter has this so-called Annual Appropriations. And since I am on a lockdown in the Municipality of Tayug, province of Pangasinan when this quarantine started, I’ll take this town’s annual budget as an example.
For the year 2020, records show that the Mayor’s office has an allocation of P86,400.00 representation allowance, P86,400.00 transportation allowance, P300,000.00 honoraria, P214,180.00 mid-year bonus, P214,180.00 year-end bonus, P55,000.00 cash gift, P66,000.00 clothing allowance, P55,000 productivity enhancement incentive, P400,000.00 overtime services, P1,562,097.47 monetization of leave credits, and P25,000.00 loyalty bonus.
Again, I have not included here yet the mayor’s salary amounting to P2,570,160.00, plus the P264,000.00 PERA, and this so-called 2020 allocation for his life and retirement at P308,419.20.
Yes, we are just looking at the budget for the mayor’s office (how many are the local officials in one LGU again?) here and to think that this is just a 3rd class municipality with only 21 barangays that we are talking about.
Gandhi once said that the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. Perhaps it’s about time for local officials to take the lead in enlivening and fortifying the spirit of Bayanihan and in finding the better part of themselves by introducing some significant personal contributions in their respective localities.
Let’s embrace the Bayanihan spirit and let us heal as one.