A desperate defense
There’s an old saying that goes, “the best defense is a good offense.” This really only applies well in sports or combat, because everywhere else in life, people need to approach things from a mature and multifaceted perspective. In politics, in fact, persistent and relentless offense frequently backfires. If a candidate is always on the offensive, this sends a strong signal to voters that you have nothing else to offer but mudslinging, tired tactics and fake news.
Quezon City (QC) has been astir lately with the blatantly myopic (and quite honestly, tiresome) tactics of mayoral aspirant Mike Defensor. It is almost embarrassing to point out, yet too amusing not to: Defensor’s entire campaign appears to be built on petty and inaccurate nitpicking, apart from playground-bully attempts to derogate Mayor Joy Belmonte and her administration. This is in very stark contrast to the substantial platform of governance and service that Belmonte has consistently delivered to the people.
It’s easy to see how aspirant Defensor’s stratagems are ill-advised, poorly researched and sometimes just downright false. A friend recently said she felt like she was rubbernecking, or slowing down at the scene of a grisly roadside accident, every time she saw Defensor speaking on his electoral plans.
Take, for example, the time he raised allegations about overpricing and “split purchasing” ayuda packs – even going as far as dramatically visiting the palengke to purchase food items with the media. What the party-list congressman forgot to bring, of course, was a time machine: everyone who actually goes to the market (to feed their families, and not for cheap publicity) knows that palengke prices in September 2021 will be vastly different from palengke prices in December 2020. Apart from the Christmas spike, it was also the very first holiday season that the country experienced with a full-blown pandemic.
Indeed, all of Defensor’s allegations of irregularity immediately dissolve into thin air when faced with one simple fact: the Commission on Audit (COA) awarded Mayor Belmonte’s city administration with an“unqualified opinion” – the highest audit opinion that COA can render to a government agency, and a first for any QC local government.
Another wonderful example of Defensor at his best was when he vowed to “stop the increase in land taxes imposed by the city government on residential, commercial and industrial lots if elected” in the 2022 mayoralty race. Funnily enough, the ordinance he was up in arms about actually referred to increasing assessed value of properties in the city. It was passed when Herbert Bautista was the sitting mayor.
Since Defensor obviously missed it, Ordinance No. SP-2556 was passed in accordance with the Local Government Code of 1991, which was amended to require all local government units to conduct a real property assessment every three years. What’s more, a little research would reveal that since Belmonte and Vice Mayor Gian Sotto’s election in 2019, there have been no increases in real property taxes, no public auctions due to property tax delinquency during the pandemic and the City Council, under Belmonte and Sotto, passed two ordinances suspending the implementation of SP-2556 in 2021 and again in 2022. Does that sound “anti-poor,” using any definition of the term?
Incidentally, the City Government collected P22 billion in taxes from local sources in 2020 with a CAGR of 3.46 percent in the worst economic downturn in history – and simultaneously spent P18 billion and counting on pandemic response. It is quite frustrating to note that the one time we are able to actually see where our taxes are going as QCitizens is when career trapos decide to pull things out of thin air.
And perhaps the cherry on the top of this mudpie of a political bid is the tired and recycled tactic of filing a plunder case to harass his opponents. Just as he did against then-mayor Herbert Bautista 11 years ago, Defensor’s plunder playbook has once again been dusted off and recycled. To this, Quezon City’s Legal Officer Nino Casimiro perhaps had the best response: “A snake can shed its skin, but its pattern remains the same.”
This wonderful clapback just emphasizes the fact that one campaign is centered on improving lives, business and communities throughout the city, while the other is insistent on feeding QCitizens false and misleading information. Thankfully, it appears that voters are more discerning now, and don’t easily fall for circus stunts.
It’s true what they say: The drum that has the most empty space makes the loudest sound.
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