“There is always room at the top – after the investigation.”Oliver Herford
By Alex P. Vidal
If the proposed redevelopment of the Iloilo central market was not tackled early this year, the alleged anomalies in the management of the city’s premier wet market would not be uncovered.
It was during the tension-filled opposition of some stall owners led by the Association of Stall Owners and Transient Vendors of Iloilo City Public Markets (Astraven Icpmi) that the issue about thieves and racketeers siphoning funds intended for the city government was unraveled.
It was during the ruckus about the proposed privatization of the public market where Councilor Rodel Agado and other officials in the mayor’s office discovered that the market income generated from rentals and other services declined rapidly.
Agado blamed corrupt market collectors who allegedly connived with their bosses and pocketed some collections to the prejudice of the city government. Although he refused to name names allegedly for fear of reprisal, the grapevine points to several high-ranking officials in the executive branch which Agado promised to name “in the proper forum.”
It turned out the problem was not happening only in one public market.
This month, the City Council’s committee on markets and slaughterhouse will convene to tackle the proposed public inquiry on the Iloilo Terminal Market (ITM), which will be conducted by the local legislative branch as a committee of the whole.
Agado is expected to name the hooligans that include four market fee collectors, 14 stall awardees and three regular market employees allegedly involved in anomalous transactions. The councilor’s revelation came in the heels of reports that a market collector was caught selling application forms for the award of stalls at P100 each.
Now that city officials have started to stir the hornet’s nest, they might as well cover other public markets in their on-going investigations. After the central market and ITM, they should swoop down on La Paz public market, Jaro public market, Mandurriao public market, and other wet markets in the different districts.
If there appears to be signs of mismanagement in the major public markets, it’s not far-fetched for other smaller public markets in other districts to also experience a sloppy management.
Anomalous awarding of stalls to unqualified owners, alleged tong collections, and power pilferage are three of the most common problems identified by authorities in the metropolis’ premier public markets most recently.
If public markets are poorly managed, profits will decline and the income of city hall will suffer a major dent.
Slaughterhouses, public markets and other income-generating facilities in the barangay level owned by the local government are major sources of funds for the city government. If officials assigned in these establishments are corrupt and inefficient, the money intended for public coffer will go to the pockets of a few privileged characters.
There were market executives who considered certain public markets as their fiefdoms. They ruled like chieftains. They used their power to assign and award stalls to favored friends if not relatives. A female “friend” of a former city mayor, for instance, reportedly owned five stalls (four of them awarded through dummies) in Mandurriao.
Not only that. She also owned additional stalls in other markets outside that district. Her “friendship” with the former city mayor became the object of whispers because of the special favors she got from the man every ordinary voter called as “pare.”
In fairness to the woman, she never bragged about her “friendship” with the man everyone loved to call “pare.”
“It’s not her fault if she is so dear to pare (first name deleted),” city hall employee and radio blocktimer Nards Grande said.