DILG’s Malaya: ‘Surgical’ Charter amendments drive not politicking, it’s part of department’s mandate
The editorial entitled “Callous Campaign,” which came out in Wednesday’s issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer as well as in your social media platforms, is unfair, uncalled for, and unethical. It tarnished not only my name but also the selfless people behind the Department of the Interior and Local Government who have been working ceaselessly and tirelessly to defeat COVID-19.
Your news reports and the subsequent editorial were erroneous and therefore, “fake news,” as DILG Secretary Eduardo Año himself declared. The vicious and wrathful editorial was clearly an attack on my person because it identified me by name. I’d rather rebut your points one by one than resort to name-calling. In the interest, therefore, of fair play, please allow me to enlighten and correct the following mistakes:
1. DILG is Campaigning for Charter Change (Cha-cha). The DILG is NOT campaigning for Cha-cha. We are advocating for Constitutional Reforms (CORE). Charter change is a revision of the Constitution like federalism or changing the system of government. CORE is surgical amendments. There is a clear and distinct difference between the two which I clearly explained to your reporter, Jeannette Andrade. If only your reporter and desk took pains to know the difference, you would not have misled the public.
2. The Signature Campaign is a priority of the DILG even during COVID. This is completely false and baseless. The proposed CORE reforms were submitted to Congress on Dec. 7, 2019 by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Constitutional Reform, which was created by the President under Memorandum Circular No. 52. The signature campaign in support of the proposed constitutional reforms (CORE) started in January this year. The 2-million target of the signature campaign was the target before COVID, but we have not been actively pursuing this because our main priority now is to defeat COVID.
Precisely because of COVID, the DILG is now unable to actively pursue our advocacy so how can it be our priority? Our civil society partners led by the CORE Movement headed by former Masbate Governor Vince Revil wanted to continue the campaign online. This was the purpose of our May 11 Memorandum where we reiterated that the physical conduct of the campaign is suspended and that the signature campaign should migrate online. Hence, it is our CSO partners that are conducting the online signature campaign and not the DILG.
3. DILG is devoting time to skewed priorities and wasting tax money. This vicious outburst is totally uncalled for. As I have repeatedly emphasized to Andrade, while we have other duties and priorities at the DILG, our primary focus right now is to implement the National Action Plan to defeat COVID. Moreover, advocating for Constitutional reform is part of the DILG’s mandate. The President instructed us to do so in his first State of the Nation Address, he issued M.C. 52 designating the DILG as the lead agency in this effort, and Congress appropriated funds in the General Appropriations Act for this purpose. We have properly accounted for all government resources used by the department to discharge our duties and functions under the law and the Commission on Audit can attest to this.
4. DILG is not focusing on the COVID crisis. On the contrary, the Filipino people know that the DILG is focused on defeating COVID-19 from day one. They see and feel the service of our agency every single day. Our police officers, jail officers, and fire officers are on the ground manning checkpoints and implementing all quarantine protocols. Our Local Government Operations Officer (LGOOs) are advising all LGUs in defeating COVID. Secretary Eduardo Año is the vice-chairperson of NTF COVID where we are the lead agency in contact-tracing, risk communications, peace and order, among others. All of us in DILG are focused on COVID response because we are a frontline agency.
We have also closely assisted the DSWD in implementing the Social Amelioration Program. We strictly monitored the distribution of the first tranche to 18 million low-income families by local government units, acted on complaints we received, and filed charges against erring local executives. In fact, we have so far filed criminal cases against 42 barangay officials, issued show cause orders against 43 local chief executives and 29 barangay officials for poor performance in SAP distribution and violations of quarantine violations, respectively. We will continue our vigilance in the distribution of the second tranche of SAP which will benefit an additional 5 million eligible families.
5. DILG is involved in sneaky politicking in times of COVID pandemic. We are all aware of our limitations as public officials; hence, we do not engage in partisan politics, much more involve in “sneaky” operations to push a particular political agenda. No constitution in the world is perfect and we simply want to introduce amendments to our charter, how can this be politicking? Is it now a crime to amend our charter?
Our advocacy for Constitutional Reform, while “pointless and callous” to you, is important to us in DILG because the uneven development across the regions is one of the unsolved problems of our country. CORE seeks to address this fact. In fact, CORE is part of the broad Balik Probinsya program which is the government’s long-term readiness plan against pandemia. The goal of CORE and Balik Probinsiya is the same: to create more economic and employment opportunities in the provinces to decongest Metro Manila. The COVID pandemic has clearly shown us that unequal economic development across regions is a grave problem not only socio-economic wise but also health and governance-wise. Thus, part of the solution is CORE which is regional development, more IRA for LGUs, greater foreign direct investment in the regional growth corridors, political and electoral reforms, among others.
I am downright disappointed that rather than raising constructive issues against us, you have chosen to attack me personally and even the entire DILG as an institution. By not adhering to the truth, you have prejudged and condemned us before the public. Whatever happened to “Balanced News”? I hope and pray that even if you have condemned, prosecuted, and judged us, your newspaper will give enough space to this rebuttal for the benefit of the public that the DILG tirelessly serves.
JONATHAN E. MALAYA,
Undersecretary for Plans,
Public Affairs and Communications, DILG
Chair, STG Risk Communications and TU Governance
National Task Force COVID-19
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