By Teresita S. De Lima, Bandillo Newsmag Editor

2020 was a very, very tough year like no other. The pandemic coronavirus (Covid-19) has forced all peoples of all races, rich or poor to a standstill.

Buhi was no exception. Its people’s character was put to a litmus test. The successive typhoons (Quinta, Rolly and Ulysses) compounded the suffering of the many who looked up for mercy to the Most High. We beat the odds.

But we want to remember 2020 not because we don’t want to forget the nightmare, but because we want to learn a lesson or two from the terrible experience.

Consider these:

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Quarantine measures, yes, constricted our freedom of movement and lost many opportunities to live, laugh and earn more. While a few smart people successfully took the crisis as an opportunity to have more, many were not as fortunate.

But everyone had basic food on the table. The taxes imposed by the government from its people were returned to them through services: relief goods, As Ernie Verdadero of Naga media texted: “Salamat sa taxpayers, tinawan kitang relief goods nin mga politiko (thanks to the taxpayers, politicians gave us relief goods).

Typhoon Quinta on Oct. 25 destroyed homes, agricultural products, killed tons of tilapia cultured at Lake Buhi. Thousands of tilapia or the St. Peter’s fish were overfed with commercial feeds, much of them silted the once pristine lake. Now polluted, the Lake Development Office (LDO) has a program readily available for implementation to control fish population to save the dying lake. But LDO’s Ronilo Leal complained that the office of the mayor did not release any funds to effect the program, according to the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) records. Year in, year out, the SB has been religiously approving LDO budgets.

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During the first three months of the community quarantine, the search for lapnisan trees in this protected are ( owing to its juice used as an ingredient in making expensive perfumes exported to an Asian country) was made easy. Designated checkpoints manned mostly by Aguinillo’s men were very strict on people leaving or coming to the town. Yet, the valuable lapnisan trees were gone.

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There was the secretary to the mayor, Omar Mercurio who was caught on video camera by Task Force Kalikasan (TFK) on Oct. 13 interceding for the release of two LGU equipment used illegally quarrying at Barangay Salvacion. Justified Mercurio: “ the LGU quarries for LGU projects, so please release the equipment. The pleas were unheeded by a stubborn TFK because “LGU still needs a permit to quarry from capitol.: The provincial governor has exclusive power to issue quarry permits, according to a provincial sanggunian ordinance.

Meanwhile, the heavy equipment remain impounded at the capitol grounds. A resolution which MDRRMO (municipal disaster risk reduction and management office) passed has requested the TFK to release them was unheeded too.

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There was the Ombudsman which ordered Mayor Aguinillo to submit a verified position paper relative to the administrative and criminal charges filed by Councilor Agustin Villadares for refusing to act within a reasonable time on the cry of a de la Fe resident to help stop the illegal quarrying of Councilor Marlon Tabalde, her political ally, fearing of a landslide that she saw on TV footages may also happen in her own barangay. Purificacion E. Oliveros’ house sits at the back of the quarry site. Aguinillo was also ordered by the Ombudsman to file another verified position paper in relation to the charges of Edwin Salvamante, a senior environment management specialist. He sued an erstwhile ally and friend when the chief executive completely ignored his application for a managerial position for no valid reason. Still another one is pending at the Ombudsman was filed by Vicente Antonio F. Pabeliña for her unauthorized foreign travel in 2017.

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The purely partisan politics… the tug-of-war between former Mayor Rey Lacoste and Board Member Manny Noble to get Cong. LRay Villafuerte’s endorsement as standard bearer in hometown politics is over. LRay chose Lacoste, Apparently, Noble lost his application due to a Sandiganbayan decision which convicted him for malversation of public funds on Jan. 24, 2019.

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In June, the public has seen the arrogance of public officials brought about by Councilor Loreto Camasis when he tried to declare the Bandillo editor as persona non grata for correctly reporting the goings-in at the SB. He failed to convince  administration ally Councilor Myrna Imperial to his side. Camasis boasted of his 17 years in public office that “ I need not study anymore.” His was ignorance personified at its lowest, who preferred to be loved, adored and praised for a job not well done.

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In May, the rural heath unit ( RHU)  constructed at an unsightly and environmentally unfriendly site at the mouth of the reclaimed area was used as an isolation facility for returning individuals who were stranded elsewhere due to COVID restrictions. The RHU sits across a densely populated San Buena and beside the public market…The department of health (DOH) declared the RHU-turned isolation facility as unfit for isolation because it stands in the middle of residential houses and the market, the go-to of everyone from all walks of life.

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And then the three typhoons that hit so bad the already hurting, hungry people were made to wait for the return of Aguinillo from hospital quarantine due to COVID infection. She left her office from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12. She came back and reassumed her post on Friday, the 13th where slowly she distributed thousands of boxes of relief goods stored at the St. Francis of Assissi Parish Pastoral Center. A truckload of relief goods was captured on the cellphone camera of Job Rubi on Nov. 20 and shared to Bandillo as proof that the Mayor indeed ordered to hold in abeyance the relief distribution until she returned. Between Nov. 3 to Nov. 12, then Acting Mayor Jofred Balagot wanted the relief goods distributed pronto! but the employees were adamant to follow Balagot because the incapacitated mayor interferred with his administrative functions.

For writing about the truth, the Bandillo editor was bashed by a constituency who has yet to understand that the Ina nin Banwaan is actually a suruguon nin banwaan bound by the rules of public governance. She is not there to be served but to serve because she gets full pay by taxpayers money. The taxpayer is her master and she is not the master of the people.

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In the meanwhile that the clock ticks towards 2021, the LGU is assured of enough funds amounting to Php. 254, 984,322.68 approved in toto by a less critical SB. It is broken down into Php. 250,534,541.41 representing general fund and Php. 4, 449,781.27 for economic enterprise.

            With the huge appropriation, 14 newly created plantilla positions were approved by a subservient SB while 14 existing once are still unfilled up since 2018.