Manila, Philippines – I ALWAYS thought being mayor of Manila was a cushier job than being president of the Philippines. So what could be better than being mayor of Manila?
It’s being his “Vice.” The vice mayor of Manila presides over the city council. Ordinances are authored and passed at this level, and become law. But better than local legislative work, the “Vice” and the city council are a republic unto themselves. They have their own system of appropriating, collecting and disbursing funds.
Not a trifling matter, considering that there are 38 councilors sitting for the city’s six districts, and each councilor is entitled to the services of a staff of 25 – yes, 25 – employees, consultants and researchers. (Senator Joker Arroyo, who manages one of the smallest units, if not the smallest, in the Senate, would likely faint to hear this!)
Is it any wonder, the salaries and perks of the council and the “Vice” amounted to more than P500 million last year, compared to P97 million for the rest of the City Hall, including the office of the mayor.
At a cost of half a billion every year, the mayor of Manila has reason to be curious about how public funds are spent. After all, there are six hospitals to run, one in each district, all of them mandated to serve the sick for free, even the stingy rich who arrive in their Benzes.
The mayor’s remarks that no one is immortal – which sent the “Vice” and company into a paroxysm of nerves, to the point that they went to the police to report a “threat” to their lives – should be taken in the same light as Louie Beltran’s comment that President Cory Aquino “hid under the bed” at the sound of gunfire during a coup attempt in Malacañang. Some metaphors are more snappy than others.