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Patronage politics dominates Pasay City

As a city alderman, Arceo is expected to maintain his composure and to refrain from dishing out invectives against the health workers.



Another abusive official has made it to the news. This time, the official concerned is a city councilor in the National Capital Region with an apparent penchant for excessive cussing.

On 29 May 2020, Pasay City Councilor Arnel “Moti” Arceo went into a rage when he saw health workers testing city hall employees for COVID-19 at the city council session hall. Arceo cursed the health workers without first finding out why they were there.

It turned out that an official memorandum issued earlier authorized the activity at the session hall. Arceo claims he was not aware of it.

The terrified health workers said they were traumatized by Arceo’s excessive cussing. He later apologized.

After reviewing a recording of the incident, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año declared that Arceo’s swearing was excessive, but he left it to Pasay City Mayor Emo Calixto-Rubiano to decide on whether or not to impose sanctions on Arceo.

That was a wrong move on the part of the DILG secretary. Arceo and Rubiano are politicians from the same city, sharing the same political interests. To many politicians, political considerations prevail over judicious decisions. Probably in view of that, and despite Año’s findings that the councilor cussed excessively, the mayor ruled in favor of her city councilor.

Citing the apology offered by Arceo, Rubiano concluded that, “Because the apology is accepted, and there are no more complainants, no charges will be filed.”

It looks like patronage politics prevailed in this case.

What Rubiano failed to see, or probably refused to see, is that while it is very easy for Arceo to apologize for his scandalous behavior, it is not that easy for lower level government bureaucrats (like the health workers whom Arceo cursed at) to refuse an apology tendered by a powerful political personality in city hall.

In other words, the political reality is that nobody will refuse the apology offered by someone powerful enough to make them regret refusing the apology.

At the end of the day, there will be people who will suspect that the traumatized health workers accepted Arceo’s apology under circumstances that vitiated their free will. After all, the health workers were, by their own admission, traumatized by the extensive browbeating they got from the Pasay City councilor.

It is also possible that the intimidated health workers were still too traumatized to refuse Arceo’s offer of apology.

As a city alderman, Arceo is expected to maintain his composure and to refrain from dishing out invectives against the health workers until ascertaining beforehand why they were doing some tests at the session hall.

Since the health workers admitted they were traumatized by Arceo, what happened to them clearly qualifies as a violation of their human rights. Being so, it is proper for the Commission on Human Rights to conduct its own investigation of the incident.

The Arceo incident is the latest instance of public officials, drunk with power, who behave improperly.

Sometime in 2014, and in the presence of television cameras, then Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista used physical force against a suspected drug dealer arrested by the police at a buy-bust operation in a commercial center parking lot near the Quezon Memorial Circle.

On 13 February 2015, a newspaper published a photograph of Bautista beating up a suspect at police headquarters in the presence of several Koreans and the media. The fellow was suspected of murdering a Korean.

In July 2019, Ang Probinsyano partylist Rep. Alfred de los Santos, without any reason, punched a waiter at a roadside diner. Photos of the incident, recorded on a security camera, went viral on social media.

Later in December that year, Guimbal, Iloilo mayor Oscar Garin watched with acquiescence while his son, Iloilo Rep. Richard Garin, mauled a helpless police officer at the town plaza.

On 6 May 2020, Santo Tomas, Pangasinan Mayor Timoteo Villar III held a birthday party at his home, in brazen violation of quarantine restrictions. A recording taken of the party indicated that both Mayor Villar III and his son, Councilor Dickerson Villar, were flaunting their contempt for the law.

If Secretary Año does not address these concerns, local officials will no longer respect him.