, April 22, 2024

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Taguig: Breaking Bad

  •   3 min reads
Taguig: Breaking Bad
Credit Manila Bulletin

Taken within the context of governance, the park’s closure exposes how a local government can abuse the regulatory powers granted by law to pursue a political end

By Joey Salgado 

Taguig calls itself “probinsyudad,” a portmanteau for “probinsya” and “syudad,” province and city. 

It is meant to evoke a rural oasis of sorts, farmlands and rivers, in the midst of a frenetic city life. But it can also describe a two-faced city, one where squalor exists side by side with glitz, hovels alongside gleaming towers. 

It can also describe Taguig politics, the feudal politics of the warlord in what is supposed to be a modern city. 

This could explain Taguig’s recent behavior, but not justify it.

Since gaining political jurisdiction over 10 Enlisted Men’s Barrios (EMBO) barangays that used to be part of Makati, Taguig’s local leadership has staked its shaky claim of ownership over public properties in these barangays with arrogance and belligerence.

On several occasions, Taguig has ignored legal processes and the rule of law. It has abused and misused the powers of government to get what it wants. In attempting to grab properties owned by Makati, Taguig prefers the blitzkrieg of occupation.

The forcible closure of Makati Park and Gardens is a recent example.

Invoking regulatory powers, the Taguig local government issued a closure order against the park, located in West Rembo, on March 3, a Sunday. Taguig said the park, which sits on land awarded to Makati by the national government during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, did not have a business permit. 

At around 6:40 am on the same day, unidentified men in civilian clothes, wearing sunglasses and with half their faces covered by scarves, padlocked the gates of the park. Several Makati employees were trapped inside (These employees have sued city officials, including Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano, for coercion and illegal detention).

After locking the gates, around 100 personnel from the Taguig Traffic Management Office surrounded the park and blocked all entrances.

The closure order came after Taguig personnel failed to occupy the park a few days earlier. 

@manilabulletin Personnel of the Taguig City government on Sunday, March 3, reportedly locked the gates of Makati Park and Garden while there were still Makati employees inside. It also served a closure order on Makati Park for not having a business permit. #MBNews #NewsPH #News #NewsUpdate #MakatiCity #TaguigCity #MakatiTaguig #latestnews #mb #manilabulletin ♬ original sound - Manila Bulletin News

Wrong Signals

It would be difficult for Taguig to claim a presumption of regularity in their actions. 

For one, there was no pressing or urgent condition to warrant the extraordinary and highly irregular release of a closure order on a Sunday and its enforcement on the same day. 

In a statement, Taguig claimed the park was being used as a garage. But what public interest is served by ordering the closure of a supposed garage on a Sunday?

Secondly, the enforcement of the order was not carried out by city employees in regulation uniform. They were not wearing identification cards. The men who served the order and padlocked the gates were clearly hiding their identities. And the deployment of 100 uniformed personnel to guard the park was nothing short of overkill.

It was an exercise in shock and awe. 

As in previous incursions, Taguig invoked the welfare of EMBO residents to justify the park’s closure. They promised to open the park soon, ostensibly under Taguig’s management. But if the intent was to win over the residents, who remain politically loyal to the Binays of Makati, the closure backfired. 

The reasoning did not sway the residents, who expressed dismay on social media. Instead of trying to occupy the park, the Taguig leadership was told to improve their spotty health services, especially for senior citizens. 

Taguig, whether by design or sheer neglect, also managed to close down the Makati Aqua Sports Arena, where the city holds swimming lessons for some 4,000 public school students. 

The facility is not included in the closure order. 

Taken within the context of governance, the park’s closure exposes how a local government can abuse the regulatory powers granted by law to pursue a political end. It sends the wrong signals to the private sector and potential foreign investors. 

The closure of Makati Park and Garden is nothing short of scandalous, but it is the latest in a series of scandalous and tone-deaf actions by Taguig in the EMBOs. 

There should be a reality show devoted to Taguig behaving badly.

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