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EDITORIAL - Cebu City is not a welfare state

There is a proposal in the Cebu City Council to provide retirement pay for barangay captains and councilmen. If approved, this will be another addition to the growing list of gratuities that the city has been providing to people -from cash gifts to senior citizens to class valedictorians to centenarians. The impression this gives to the public is that the city is awash in cash. But it isn't.

Cebu City may no longer have unwieldy debts to pay, but that doesn't free it up to dispense largesse at the expense of better public services, of which so much is lacking. Garbage disposal, for one, is one smelly problem. Cebu City has one of the worst roads among cities of comparable importance and affluence. And that is because it does not know whereof its priorities lie.

Its city officials, with a few notable exceptions, are not forward looking. They are myopic and parochial even. And this is particularly validated by this very proposal about giving gratuities to barangay officials. Such a proposal has petty patronage politics written all over it. It smacks of a desire to be ingratiated to barangay officials, who as everyone knows, are responsible for how elections turn out.

Earn the gratitude of barangay officials and one's fate in the next election is almost assured. But do barangay officials really need retirement pay? Of course it is preposterous to say they do not need money from wherever it may come. But barangay officials are elected and, depending on their political savvy, can either stay in office for years or just short enough to be quickly forgotten.

The thing is, they are not regular civil servants but serve at the pleasure of the electorate. In other words, they do not enjoy the same sense of permanence that should make civil service deserving of gratuitous recognizance. If they happen to be in office still, it is only because in this country, there is nothing more skewed than the schedules for barangay elections.

Elective office, in a sense, is voluntary. Nobody asks elective officials to run. They present themselves to the public. And if they get paid for it, that ought to be it. No need to give more where more is not required. Money intended to be spent under this proposal is better spent on matters that are necessary, required and what the public has come to expect. If trash is not collected, some heads should roll, instead of being rewarded.

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