Marikina City

No good way to promote entrepreneurship

In Marikina City, you must register even your small business with the City Hall or face the risk of being shamed in the public eye. The photo you see above is about a small internet cafe (5 computer units) in our compound that was closed by the city government for the mere reason that it had no business permit. As a penalty, the business owner must pay the amount of P5,000.00.

I have mixed reactions to this circumstance. Strictly speaking, any citizen must follow the rules, without which chaos would rule the community. My mother-in-law sacrificed the amount of money she had to shell out in registering her sari-sari store, aside from paying annual business tax and related taxes just to go on with her enterprise without any legal hassle. Perhaps there are three reasons why some citizens don’t follow the rules. One, they simply do not know about them. Two, the business registration process takes very long and/or registration fee is very high. Three, they prefer not to follow the rules of the government under the leadership of a person they dislike, for whatever reasons.

Likewise, I cannot accept the policy of the city government that every business that fails to get registered will be shamed like this. The fact that her business has been closed down and she must pay the penalty should be enough to make her realize her violation and make mends. I know the reason why government is doing it, of course: So that others may know and follow the rules. Still, I don’t buy that reason. I don’t favor using the fault of some citizens to educate the others. There are other ways to do so. Besides, what are the barangays set up for?

After all, what the government should focus on is how to promote entrepreneurship among Marikiños and Marikiñas. Surely, the way it handles violations is no good way to do so.

Marikina City Hall: Transparent, hi-tech, but…

I’ve always been awestruck by the Marikina City Hall (MCH) since I set foot in it a few years ago. The main attraction is its big atrium, whose glazed roof filters light from the sun into the building’s large space. It greatly symbolizes transparency in the local government. And the see-through glass walls of all offices in the two floors drives home the point even further. If you want to easily monitor council meetings inside the hall, just go upstairs and see from outside the Council Room how your favorite councilor performs. You cannot eavesdrop, though.

I’m not in a position to say that the MCH is the best seat of local government in the Philippines (for the reason that I’ve not gotten inside in any more than a couple). But at the very least, the MCH will surely be among the best.

When I visited the place this afternoon–on instruction by my wife to settle our real property tax and secure a tax clearance, which are required for the individualization of lots in my neighborhood–the feeling grew deeper at the sight of one big change in it: Use of ICTs.

There are a couple of sleek machines that run the employee access control and attendance system, or the equivalent to the bundy clock system.

There is a big computer room (or is it?) in which IT employees do their stuff. I saw a lady that was producing a presentation on how one uses the Marikina City web portal.

A set of standing Internet-ready computers is available for students or visitors who may need to hook up while waiting inside the hall.

The Real Property Tax system, at least, is computerized. The counters are using a web-based application to retrieve and supply data based on transactions with the taxpayers.

I did not go upstairs so there sure were more stuff that I missed.

However, I have to admit that behind my big appreciation for the state of the art are my few reservations. You know me, right? I’m a FOSS guy, so I’m basing everything from that perspective.

The LGU must have spent tens of millions of pesos to acquire and maintain computer hardwares and softwares. In my estimate, there are at least 300 computers being used inside the hall. And I’m not speaking yet of other offices outside, like the Engineering and Health Centers. I’m very much sure that had MCF seen the light of FOSS, she would have opted not to buy Microsoft products in favor of open source equivalents, which require less investments. Look, the tax people are using their computers just to run web-based applications, for which Linux architecture fares much better than Windows.

Oh, not only web-based applications. I saw one tax person ‘crunching numbers’ with Microsoft Excel. I swear that OpenOffice Calc can be as cool, free of charge for software updates.

And for non-ICT stuff. I observed a couple of things that are surely a disgrace to the government. First, the payment receipt system is broken. When I paid for my real property tax, I was given an official receipt. But when I paid for documentary stamps, I was given a small piece of white paper with the Assessor signing on it. Twice I asked for an OR. Twice I was told that doc stamps had no OR. Is this allowed? Hmm.

Second, there is no drinking water for public consumption. Cheap rant, you may say. But to me that’s important. To think that Marikina City’s public water service (in partnership with Manila Water System) is much greater than the old cities in the NCR (which are mostly serviced by Maynilad.) I was not asking for a cup of free coffee or hot chocolate. I just needed a little amount of water to drench my dry throat at that moment after doing a couple of rounds among two counters and a xerox service outside the hall.


Separate ICT subject only for elementary schools

Fellow blogger and tech guru Rom Feria was quick to smell something fishy in the proposed bill in Congress mandating IT as a distinct course in public and private elementary and high schools. He believes that IT need not be a separate subject for non-science high schools. What should be done, he asserts, is that it should be integrated in all subjects.

The most noteworthy in Rom’s blog entry is the suspicious question: Who are the consultants to the proposed bill? With ICT already politicized nowadays, that question is very important.

My take on the matter is that IT, in reality, is already being taught in private elementary schools and it is good. My eldest son (in Grade II) has already learned a lot from it from concepts to hands-on. At his age, he was taught to distinguish between a computer and a human being in terms of processing data. He also knows how to use a computer keyboard in touch-typing mode. These are among the things that his parents have no time to teach him. The only problem is that the textbook being used begs for updating. New technologies are not mentioned in there such as the flash drive and the Internet. Worse, he was made to know that it is only the Microsoft Windows applications that exist in the computing world.

I think that there’s nothing wrong with making IT as a separate subject but only for elementary schools. There should not be a separate IT subject for high schools, but instead integration of IT in each of the subjects of math, science, English, etc. Teach the basic IT concepts and values to elementary students and help them apply these concepts like touch-typing and surfing the Internet the right way. Teach high school students how to use software applications in some of their tasks, like research, doing campus paper issues, and preparing an audio-visual presentation.

It would be more appropriate to call it ICT rather than IT. And I am for having ICT as a separate subject only when:

  • Open source concepts and technologies are included, if not given more importance;
  • Related textbooks are up-to-date and not single-software biased; and,
  • There are no proprietary-software-oriented persons or commercial outfits made to benefit. There are enough open source groups and individuals (with their academic background and experiences) who can be tapped to help the DepEd and CHED develop the modules. They sure must be paid but that does not mean paying also for software applications to be used and maintained, however big the discounts are.

Likewise, I’m curious about the Congressperson filing the related House Bill. Rep. Marcy Teodoro used to be the Marikina Settlements Office chief. I wonder what made him try to sound like IT is his thing. Perhaps, he is inspired by the direction that Marikina City is taking as far as e-governance is concerned. But can he not focus on stuff pertaining to housing, taking off from his experience? If IT is his new love, then he must find a colleague or two not only with the same passion as his but also with the credentials to sponsor or co-sponsor the bill. For the legislators and public must listen only to those who know what they are talking about.

Marikina City becoming an e-city

There you go, a small city as it is, Marikina City has been able to optimize information and communication technology (ICT) for its own good governance purposes. Based on a story in its website, the city has set up a project dubbed “Marikina City’s Facility of Wireless Integrated Network Systems,” which is “an infrastructure consisting of 66 sites using mesh technology. It is expected to facilitate transactions and enable the sharing of files among local government offices and the city’s public schools and 16 barangays. The project is believed to make Marikina the first fully interconnected local government unit in the Philippines.”

The reports that the city is the first “fully Internet-connected LGU in the Philippines.” A Marikeno in me felt proud when I read that story. But an ICT advocate in me is taking a grain of salt, wondering about the process, content and direction of that project.

I only was unable to attend the project’s launching yesterday. Sayang. But rest assured that the project, or anything related to the use of ICT in Marikina City, will be a regular topic in this blog.

Shampoo Campaign

A city council candidate in Marikina City must be so cash-strapped that he doesn’t have any ‘gift’ to woo the electorate except a sachet-packed shampoo. When I was approached by this candidate near my house (yes, he did the house-to-house stint in my neighborhood), I was a bit reluctant to oblige but he forced that gift to me.

The gimmick was just simple. Mass-print a vote-for-me sticker less than the size of a sachet shampoo. Buy hundreds of sachet shampoo (costing about PHP4.00 per piece) and mount each sticker on each piece of shampoo.

“Use the shampoo on your hair, put my name in your head.” That must be the subliminal message. It’s creative enough, right? Creative but cheesy.

Marikina settlements chief to run for Congressman

I knew it. When my co-officer in the neighborhood association told me last Saturday that we were going to be inducted today at the Marikina Settlements Office, I wondered: what’s the fuss? I easily thought that there must be something up the sleeves of the city hall.

I was right. We were not only the ones swarming inside the MSO in the Sports Complex. There were four other associations awaiting to take oath of duty.

After waiting for so long, there came the MSO chief Marcy Teodoro, who’s also a city councilor. After he officiated the oath taking, we were asked to sit down and listen to him for a while.

The words that he uttered sounded like he was committing to things typical of an electoral candidate. Straight from his shoulders, Teodoro stated that he was trying his luck to win the Congressional race in May.

Ah oh, is he running in District 2, the same as Ome Candazo, I asked myself. He would be trying his luck indeed.

He said that he was running in another district. Ah, ok. You’re spared, man. And good luck.

Sent using a Sony Ericsson mobile phone

To pee or not to pee

If you happened to visit the Marikina City Sports Center and have to respond to the call of nature, chances are you’d have to use a public utility. And you’d have to take out your spare two peso coins from your purse as service charge. There’s a person waiting in front for your payment.

What a life! In these days, a peso isn’t enough to let you relieve yourself. (Note: The words IHI and DUMI mean urine and stool, respectively.)

Sent using a Sony Ericsson mobile phone

Opposition being revived in Marikina City

It’s election time and Marikina City’s pink color will be marred by red and black.

I know this as I am now at the All Leaders Assembly being mounted by former Cong. Ome Candazo, who claims to have been cheated during the mayoral election in 2004. The number of attendees is estimated to be over 900.

Don’t be deceived by the spick-and-span roads, complete street signs, nicely themed city celebrations, and biker-friendly traffic. This seems to be the message by the speakers. Despite and behind these cosmetics, citizens have remained poor in general, what with the very high taxes collected from them. Take it from the residents of barangays of District 2, which is the known bailiwick of Candazo.

The spirit of opposition is being felt but it seems to be lacking rigor at first. Solidarity messages from non-present Opposition figures like Loren Legarda (through a voice patch), Noynoy Aquino (through Sonny Parsons), and Chiz Escudero (through a personally written message as read by his aunt) helped a bit. The info that both Chiz and Loren have Mariqueno roots helped more.

Ome now declares war versus the cheats, implying of course the current city administration. It’s uncertain, though, which position he is going to run for: mayor or congressman? (My guess is that he’d run for Congressman of District 2.) Perhaps it’s intended not to be revealed yet; it’s not only because he’s not supposed to do so, lest he’d be charged with electioneering, but also to hold the nemeses in suspense and confusion. It’s good tactic.

The greatest gimmicks in this gathering were Sonny Parsons’ (of Hagibis fame) song renditions and a seven-minute movie about the story of father and disabled son who wowed the world for their courage to compete athletically as a team. The message was striking: Do not run alone. Ome’s campaign manager exclaimed that his boss is not running alone–his voters are the heart, and he is the body. Ome was already declared “Tinig ng Oposisyon” (Opposition’s Voice).

Sent using a Sony Ericsson mobile phone