Bacolod: a Deep City

I APPLIED the popular American idea of a “Deep State” to describe Bacolod because the city under Evelio Leonardia and his cohorts in the Grupo Progreso political party in the Sanggunian Panlungsod exhibit the characteristics of a Deep State.

What is a “Deep State”? This is a modern term but its characteristics are ancient as there were kingdoms and governments. The modern term is Turkish in origin which refers to “a state within a state”, a form of “clandestine government made up of hidden or covert networks of power operating independently of a nation’s political leadership, in pursuit of their own agenda and goals.”

The term was popularized by a former American legislative aide, Mike Lofgren, in his 2013 book, The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government. All governments have agencies, organs and personnel, like soldiers and entrenched career civil servants, that operate outside or independent of the political leadership but are all in the service of the government and thus for the interest of the people and the State.

I use the term “Deep City” in a limited sense, not referring to all those working in the Bacolod City government but those who are within the government and those outside but are financed and controlled by Leonardia and cabal using city funds and operating in hidden or covert networks of power independently in pursuit of their own agenda and goals and in the service of their patrons.

Those controlled by Leonardia of the Deep City are used to obstruct, resist and subvert the opposition or the outsiders suspected of being unfriendly. They are outside the city government or within but are unbridled except for the orders of the mayor. Those within but are not part of the Deep City are coerced to serve his agenda or objectives to stay in power.

In general, the operators of the Deep City are also tentacles that “genuflect to big donors to secure campaign and operational funds”, people “utterly bereft of a moral compass…who sell their souls to entrenched interest” while our roads are pocked, garbage uncollected, funds spent to burnish political image, the hospitals overcrowded, our water is increasingly undrinkable or non-existent, and traffic snarled by illegal structures, incompetent political casuals – name it.

The Deep City is the target of Ombudsman but the lawyers and courts had been corrupted and the laws rendered impotent to protect the city from these operators.

Three weeks after he assumed office, President Rodrigo Duterte issued on July 23, 2016 Executive Order No. 02. This is a landmark order because it “operationalizes “in the Executive Branch the people’s right to information and the state policies to full public disclosure and transparency in the public service…”

The right to information can only be exercised by full disclosure and transparency in the operation of the government. This is to prevent the existence and growth of the Deep State, or in the case at hand, of Bacolod as a Deep City. This right runs in complete contrast to secrecy in government, particularly financial transactions, which is the root of corruption and of which Bacolod under Evelio Leonardia has become a prime example at close range.

For months and several columns we have been asking for disclosure of transactions of the city but not even a tiny bit of information had been published.

We can cite a few. The city recently renewed the contract with the garbage collector, IPM Construction. What are the terms and conditions of the new contract? Has there been a performance report to justify the renewal? Surely there is nothing secret about its performance but nothing was published. Was the justification as secret as the 2016 initial contract and succeeding renewals?

Is there a mechanism for checking IPM performance? How many tons were collected since the last contract? What was cost per ton of collected trash? The questions are aplenty.

People need answers because they know that tons of uncollected garbage litter the streets and yet IPM was rewarded with another contract. Any sane man would demand an accounting. Is there such report? If so, how about publishing it, then at least the people of Bacolod would know that the reason a lot of trash is not collected is that the city did not pay well.

We will have more next week of the Deep City secrets.