Citizens of Quezon City, also known as Bautista City by those suffering from the abuses of its city officials led by Mayor Herbert “Bistek” Bautista, are in for another piece of shocking news. Over the past few days, the very expensive and ostentatious ceramic tiles lining the wide sidewalks of Tomas Morato Avenue are being removed and replaced with a ceramic tiles designed to remind everyone who the city mayor is. To state the obvious, the original tiles and their more expensive replacements were purchased with government funds.
Bautista’s latest adventure at the expense of Quezon City’s taxpayers is reminiscent of those awful ceramic tiles bearing the letters HB (obviously pertaining to the mayor’s initials) which were installed at numerous road islands all over the city a few years ago. Those tiles can still be seen along Kalayaan Avenue near city hall, and along nearby Visayas Avenue.
The late Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago criticized that wasteful expenditure and called the ceramic pieces Bautista’s vanity tiles. Other critics said that if Bautista wants to praise himself as city mayor, he should do it at his own expense. Indeed, vanity and access to public funds make a bad combination as far as the public interest is concerned.
Since the original tiles on Morato are still in good condition, there is no reason to replace them with more expensive ones—unless, of course, some people in city hall are expecting hefty kickbacks.
The money used for the latest Herbert Bautista vanity tiles should have been spent for the needs of other districts of the city. Several city streets near Balintawak do not have street signs to identify the streets. The vanity tile fund could have solved that problem. Squatters remain in the large tract of government land located at the northeast portion of the East Triangle in Diliman. Money from the vanity tile fund could have relocated them elsewhere, as Bautista repeatedly promised in past election campaigns.
Observers say that Bautista will never relocate those squatters because they deliver the votes the city’s politicians depend on during each election.
What is the Department of the Interior and Local Government doing about the manifest wastage of public money for those vanity tiles along Morato? Ex-DILG and Liberal Party stalwart Mar Roxas lacked the political will to take remedial measures against wastage of local government funds during his incumbency. Hopefully, the current DILG chief will not be a clone of Roxas.
For the past several months, parking has been a nightmare in the city hall area because Bautista converted a public parking lot into an exclusive parking section for city hall officials. That measure forces motorists who have business to transact with city hall to scout around for parking space in nearby streets. This ultimately leads to more traffic congestion in what is already a crowded part of the city. It also shows that in Bautista City, the city officials are the real masters, while the taxpayers are the servants.
The Quezon City government is required by law to clear the city’s sidewalks of obstacles. Despite this legal mandate, Bautista’s city hall allows many business establishments to convert the sidewalks into private parking lots. Just look at the following streets during the commercial hours of the day, and even well into the night—Sgt. Esguerra Avenue, Timog Avenue, West Avenue, Katipunan Avenue, to name a few.
Because the sidewalks are blocked, pedestrians are compelled to walk on the streets. This reduces road space for motorists, and leads to further traffic congestion.
It will be recalled that a couple of years ago, Bautista beat up, infront of live television cameras, a Chinese national arrested by his cops near the Philcoa junction for alleged possession of narcotics. Bautista apparently wanted to project the image that he was a man of swift action. In his desire to be in the news, however, Bautista forgot that beating up a suspect is a criminal act. Perhaps, Bautista likewise forgot that he was no longer a movie actor (he was a comedian) performing for a captive audience.
Apparently, clearing the sidewalks is not among Bautista’s prime concerns because it does not generate the same publicity that beating up a drug pushing suspect on live television is able to attract.
Bautista’s brand of instant justice made a complete about-face last year when his younger brother, city councilor Hero Bautista, publicly confessed to being a drug user. Instead of getting a public scolding from the mayor, his subservient city council allowed Hero Bautista to go on leave to undergo rehabilitation.
In his last speech in the council, Hero Bautista conveniently claimed he was a victim of the drug menace. What hogwash! That excuse is credible if Bautista was a mental retardate. As a member of the city council and the head of its powerful infrastructure committee—which approves construction permits in Quezon City—Hero Bautista must have been in a position to discern between right and wrong.
Having hid his drug dependency from his constituents, Hero Bautista deceived the people of Quezon City. That should have been enough reason to cause his immediate ouster from the city council. Moreover, how Hero Bautista’s drug dependency escaped the notice of his brother-mayor remains a big mystery. It took the President’s anti-drug campaign to compel Hero Bautista to confess his drug habit.
Corruption remains a big problem in Bautista’s city. Criminal charges are currently pending in the Sandiganbayan against certain city councilors identified by the Ombudsman as coddlers of ghost employees in city hall.
Quezon City is virtually the richest city in Metropolitan Manila, and yet it has the highest taxes in the region. Sadly, because the city’s treasure chest is awash with public money, city funds are repeatedly wasted by the city’s officials, to the prejudice of the people of the city.