An idealistic young city councilor sent this email to Randy David. Published with permission.
Dear Sir Randy,
I'm [name] from, an alumna of the AYLC program from year 2002. I got so moved by the challenges you posed upon us during the congress that it prompted me to define my sphere of influence and work my way towards contributing what I can to achieve what when then termed active citizenship. Five years after, inclusive of my abandoned three years from a lucrative work, I ran for public office and got elected as 4th city councilor.
Though not monumental, I try daily to make a mark in this field I chose for myself. Recently, I tried to block a proposed ordinance allowing land conversion and granting of special use permit for motel operations in a particular barangay. Not needing to even discuss morality issues, I was certain that the barangay concerned greatly opposed to such proposal for several reasons. Upon knowing that a committee hearing has already been conducted by the chairperson, without even ensuring my presence there (as chairperson of the committee on women and family), I became concerned about the proceedings of the motel's approval.
Come the next session, the said committee calendared and put the committee report in the agenda, furnishing all members of the City Council a copy of their recommendation. Since the chairperson was absent during the said session, it was never discussed. Based on the report, the committee is recommending for the motel's approval, citing that there is no apparent reason to deny its establishment. It was apparent as well that the concerned Barangay Captain has concurred with the chairperson, and acted by issuing a clearance (a public hearing in the barangay was never conducted).
At this point, I deemed it proper to share a copy of such report to my mentor who belonged to the barangay where the motel was applying to be established. Upon learning of such recommendation, he immediately convened the community members and launched a signature campaign to protest the same. He even mobilized people to attend our next session, wherein the committee chairperson felt pressured to withdraw said committee report and cited he needed to further study the matter. Needless to say, the barangay chalked a victory, at least on that date.
It was however during the next session where a member of the said committee, through his privilege speech, lambasted my actions of furnishing a copy of the committee report to my mentor. He called such action unethical and demanded that I be subjected to disciplinary actions. I responded by questioning our internal rules and regulations, on wheter such has been explicitly stated that no member of the Sangguniang Panlungsod may furnish a copy of the committee report to the public. That the IRR being silent on such matter, it is therefore logical that a public proceeding conducted by a public official will eventually produce a public document for the consumption of the concerned individuals. I further stressed that such document, being officially calendared, stated in the agenda and distributed to the members of the council, meant that it is being publicly presented for open debating by the members of the council--who are in fact just representatives of the x number of constituents who voted for them.
In this regard, and considering you as a highly-esteemed polical analyst, insignificant as my question may seem compared to the issues you tackle in Public Lives, may I know of your take on the said debate?
Being a 25-year old neophyte in politics, I try my hard to be a team player yet keep my integrity intact. I shall humbly submit myself to asking for apology should my actions indeed prove unethical. But I want it to come from an unbiased and credible observer, from one (who) devotes his time annually to inspire new generation of leaders.
Thank you very much for reading my inquiry. And thank you for being instrumental in my taking a leap of faith towards the direction I am headed now...
Thank you for your letter. I am glad to see that a young person like you is in politics. I think you did the right thing in passing on a copy of the committee report to a citizen of the barangay concerned. In the absence of any explicit prohibition against making public such committee reports, you are not liable for any breach of confidence. You are not part of a private management group. You are not sworn to secrecy. But to be on the safe side, I would advise you to seek the counsel of a trusted lawyer on this issue. The essence of public office is precisely transparency. As an elected councilor, you represent a constituency. and you are obliged by your office to participate actively in debates such as this and to mobilize public support for your advocacies. Good luck, and never be afraid.