Bacolod- Deep City-6

IN THE Deep City of Bacolod, casual employees are the main sources of votes of Mayor Evelio Leonardia and upon which his group, Grupo Progreso, depends. These are, in a way, his controlled votes, people who disregard issues and vote for them. They are estimated at a low of 5,000 to a high of 12,000. The actual number is unknown to the public, because not all of them are on official record, except for several that are included in the payroll. This is among the secrets of the Deep City.

The term, “casual employees” as used here is therefore a misnomer because not all work for the city although they are paid for by city funds. Some are political operators to advance the agenda of Leonardia and his cabal. They are in the payroll with functions that are merely covers to enable the city to appropriate funds for them. Because of their temporary status, they could be removed at any time for whatever reason that the Deep City cabal determines. Insecure, they are victimized.

In the May 2019 elections there is a new set of candidates under GP thus even the non-incumbent candidates are already being financed by city funds – among others through the casuals. This is the reason that there is strong lobbying for inclusion in the administration slate and the ones who could be dictated upon regardless of the legality or morality of Leonardia’s demands, get the priority. Consider, for instance, the mother of Councilor Caesar Distrito- why was she included in the GP line-up as if the slot is an inheritance? Distrito is the majority leader in the SP and all requests from Leonardia passes through him. He thus carries a strong influence. Will the mother be also as pliable?

It is always flaunted that this army of casuals will carry Leonardia and his cabal to victory. While logic tells us this could be possible, it has been shown that the casuals, including the ghosts, cannot bring about victory. Recall then Mayor Monico Puentevella had his army of casuals, both visible and ghosts but they failed to make him win. In fact, most of Puentevella’s candidates for the city council lost, which means that the casuals are untrustworthy as a prime element in winning the election.

One reason for this is many of the casuals then and now are, to repeat, victims of corruption. They suffer in silence because having a job even under the exploitative circumstances is better than nothing at all. It is not a secret that Leonardia’s trusted men take a cut or a certain percentage from the wages of the casuals. The cut varies but whatever the amount taken out the scheme is still unjust and immoral.

One justification for this, according to the victims, is that the amount is a contribution to Leonardia’s political machinery – Grupo Progreso. This is sort of a party tax but where that really goes nobody knows except the collector and of course Leonardia and the cabal.

This deduction for the party can be counter-productive. There is resentment. Indeed, why should they be made to pay to the party? However, others believe that the money actually goes to some people’s pocket. Thus the resentment can turn into a vote for the opponent. This system was also adopted by the previous administration and which I wrote about before, could be a reason the casuals cannot be depended upon as a solid block.

There is another secret money-making machine in the Deep City. To see the physical manifestation of this machine is to observe the Bacolod City Treasurer’s Office on payday. There are the collectors for the usual cinco por seis lenders but there are also people who collect from the casuals who got advances before they got paid. Before they could be hired, they already committed portions of their salaries to the “intermediary” of the top member of the cabal. By agreeing to the advances, they are assured of being hired at least for a month or two. If they are more amenable, their employment could be renewed.

There are casuals who really work – sweepers, cleaners, traffic enforcers, etc. but there are casuals who are free-range workers. They are the political operators who wage a campaign for GP from day one after the election to the next.

We’ll analyze more next week.

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