Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Smell of Something Fishy

Rumors are spreading among the well-informed in Lianga that the local municipal government may again (for the nth time) be embroiled in another financial controversy. This time, according to the rumors, high town officials may have improperly allocated government funds to buy a package of several vehicles supposedly for the use of the municipality in an allegedly questionable deal. While the purchase of a much needed firetruck and a police patrol car could have been justified, the talk around town has mentioned other additional vehicles - the purchase of which may be difficult to defend in view of the current precarious state of Lianga's fiscal health.

While a proper investigation about the actual transaction should be done at the earliest opportunity, it is clear here that any new charges of financial anomaly or irregularity that concerns the municipal government becomes always highly credible in view of what is generally perceived as a "culture of corruption" that pervades the municipal hall. After all, this is hardly the first time the town elders have been accused of dipping their hands in the town coffers, near empty it may be.

If that is so, then why are not the Lianguenos crying out in protest and demanding accountability and reforms? Why is there no public sense of anger and outrage? No demands for public accountability?

The fact remains that in a true democracy, public accountability is the result of a concerned and actively involved citizenry. An actively involved citizenry is informed and has access to the information he needs to make reasonable decisions concerning his government. An active and concerned citizenry manifests its power through the ballot and the right of suffrage - to elect government officials who will serve well and, in like manner, refuse to elect or remove from public office those who betray the public trust.

The truth is Lianga is not, at present, a democracy in the true sense of the word. Its local officials, despite the facade of regular elections, are not truly accountable to the public. There is no public opinion to fear. The townspeople know this in their hearts even if they don't like it or refuse to admit it. And that is why they remain silent.

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