Friday, February 10, 2012

The Political Neutrality of Mayor Ed Gadiano

My principal, Mayor Eduardo B. Gadiano, is often accused by some quarters here in Occidental Mindoro of “extreme neutrality” but he doesn’t seem annoyed by such uncalled for labeling. Despite of the fact that he ran under the so-called Performance Team last in 2010, stalwarts of the rival Dream Team can go inside and out any time in his office. Another great achievement of LGU-Sablayan was when it bagged the most-coveted 2011 Seal of Good Housekeeping given by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in MIMAROPA Region. The plaque of recognition was awarded September 26 last year by Atty. Rolando B. Calabazaron, the department’s regional director.

Only last Saturday, February 4, 2012, Governor Josephine Y. Ramirez Sato and Vice Governor Gene J. Mendiola, along with representatives of almost all municipalities in the province attended a luncheon meeting on good governance with Vice President Jejomar C. Binay at Sablayan Convention Center. Prior to this, Gadiano and Sato both served as witnesses when Calumpit MPCI received the most coveted Gawad Saka Award at Malacañan Palace handed by no less than President Benigno Simeon S. Aquino III late last year. On the other hand, in the third issue of “Tugon”, the LGU’s newsletter, there was an almost full page news item on the projects and accomplishments of Congresswoman Ma. Amelita C. Villarosa, spouse of Sato’s arch political rival and the opposite team's head figure. Prior to this, Mayor Gadiano and Rep. Villarosa joined hands in meeting with Department of Energy (DoE) Secretary Jose Rene Almendras after the latter formed the Task Force Power Crisis (TFPC). Fair, isn’t it?

But is there really such thing as objective political neutrality? My answer is in the affirmative but it is not practiced here in our country. Allow me first to say something wonderful about the “politics” of Mayor Ed Gadiano. The second issue of “Tugon” bannered a headline which reads: “Serbisyo Muna, Hindi Pulitika”. In said issue, he appealed to various political blocks to join hands for development. He said, “Ngayon ang panahon ng serbisyo, hindi ang pamumulitika. Dapat tayong maglingkod sa mamamayan batay sa ating katungkulan at kakayanan. Ang taong bayan ang apektado ng pamumulitika sa serbisyo…” (“Now is the high time for service and not for politicking. We must serve the people based on our authority and capacity. The people are the most affected when politicking comes before service”) The speech was delivered on the occasion of 111th Anniversary of Civil Service in a little ceremony held in Sablayan also carrying its national theme, “Championing R.A.C.E. in Public Service Excellence at Full Speed.”

He’s never been neutral in situations of injustice and environmental destruction for he stood firm against the Mindoro Nickel Project (MNP). He sided with dignity of labor when he ordered the long overdue promotion of six (6) department heads and elevated to permanent status some four (4) casual municipal employees just last year.

To my mind, a model of political neutrality in government can be summed up with these words: Politics and policy are separated from administration. (This is what the good mayor, perhaps, had in mind when he rendered his above speech.) Public servants are to be judged on the basis of merit, rather than on the basis of party affiliation or contributions or the whims of their party leaders. Public servants do not engage in partisan political activities while not yet election time. Public servants provide forthright and objective advice to their political patrons in private and in confidence and the latter is expected to listen to them in return and do not get mad. Public servants execute policy decisions loyally and zealously, irrespective of the philosophy and programs of his political patron or allies. As a result, public servants enjoy security of tenure during good behavior and satisfactory performance. This is how I differentiate politicians from genuine public servants.

To this humble blogger, in what I call "Politics of Friendship", friendship is possible and can be maintained without surrendering your principles or sacrificing your personal judgment. In "Politics of Friendship", being polite is the utmost rule so it's big no-no for its practitioner to badmouth his opponents specially in public.

Human as he is, Mayor Ed also has shortcomings but he assured everyone that he’s open to constructive criticisms. But what can he do? Some people tend to look at weaknesses of an individual seedling rather the grandeur of a forest.

In reality, this model of political neutrality is never been truly practiced in its "pure" form. Here in the Philippines, people cannot separate politicians from public servants like the way we cannot rightfully define “conflict of interest” and to majority of Filipinos, there is no such animal as “political neutrality”. Theory and practice, as usual, often diverge anywhere in the land.

Knowing Mayor Ed for a very long time as a human rights advocate and an environmental activist, he would never use his authority for personal gains. Like a good housekeeper, Mayor Ed keeps everything in proper order and trying to be so friendly to everyone.

He doesn’t care if his visitor is a political friend or foe…

(File photo from Mayor's Office)

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