Last week, Vox Bikol’s columnist Atty. Che Carpio examined the touted claim that the Naga City government’s website is an effort in transparency. He went through the website’s links under the section of “Transparency at Work” and made known his observations about them. Atty. Carpio’s review of the city government’s website yielded some interesting conclusions which seriously undermine the boast that transparency is at work through posting of information inwww.naga.gov.ph.
While a rehearsal of the many points which Atty. Carpio raised is not required here, we deem it best to focus on a curious item he stumbled upon: the “confidential expenses” of Mayor Jesse Robredo which amount to Php1,420,500.00. Like Atty. Carpio, we find it curiously contradictory that under the heading of “Transparency at Work,” an item labeled “confidential expenses” of the city mayor can be found.
Is this huge amount (notwithstanding the devalued peso, this amount is nothing to be scoffed at) intended for “intelligence purposes for law enforcement or similar purposes” as Atty. Carpio charitably speculated? Or is this no different from the “discretionary funds” of traditional politicians? The absence of illuminating data on this item seems condemnatory from our point of view, given that “transparency” was supposedly being aimed at.
It is interesting to note therefore, that the effort of the Naga City government in being transparent about its expenses—in this case, through its much acclaimed website—may actually hide more information than it actually reveals. By providing token information, the website and its offered information are able to satisfy a superficial “curiosity” about the decisions and goingson at the Naga City government. One receives the impression that all are accounted for.
But are they?
A critical examination of the website proved otherwise. Even if there is a satisfactory legal and moral justification for the Mayor Robredo’s confidential expenses—and we would be much delighted as citizens and taxpayers if one were forthcoming—the fact remains that as far as claims of transparency goes, we are left in the dark as to what these expenses constitute. The website’s information on this matter, far from providing illumination, conjures only an illusion of transparency and deftly hides what ought to be known.
To mention “transparency in government” and “confidential expenses” in the same breath is simply oxymoronic.