As discussed in the previous essay, Quezon City has been mismanaged by the incumbent city mayor, Herbert “Bistek” Bautista, and his allies in the city council.
The mayor’s younger brother, Quezon City Councilor Hero Bautista, used to head the city council’s very powerful infrastructure committee until he went on leave after he publicly admitted being a drug addict. This drug scandal prompted a noted civic group to file criminal and administrative charges against the Bautista brothers before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Many residents of Quezon City suspect that the numerous squatter colonies in the city provide sanctuary for drug dealers and addicts. These colonies consist of intricate nooks and alleys which make them ideal hideouts for drug pushers and their willing victims. Veteran policemen find it difficult and dangerous to chase criminals inside these squatter colonies.
Not everybody who lives in these squatter colonies is poor. The shanties have access to electricity, and many of them have modern amenities including cable television connection, internet access, and even air-conditioning.
Enterprising colony dwellers operate stores, beauty shops and lotto outlets; adjacent sidewalks are often cluttered with cages holding fighting cocks; and gambling openly takes place at nighttime. Many dwellers own vehicles, motorcycles, or tricycles.
Roads near squatter colonies become makeshift wakes and gambling casinos whenever somebody in the colony dies.
The big squatter colonies are located at the back of the Lung Center of Philippines, at New Manila, at the Araneta Avenue area near the Quezon City-Manila border, and along the entire stretch of Commonwealth Avenue up to Fairview.
They have been in the city for decades, and they actually expanded under the Bautista administration.
Every local government tax assessor knows that the government collects more taxes (real estate taxes, business taxes, etc.) from real properties that are actually utilized by their lawful owners. On the other hand, when real property is occupied by squatters, the government is unable to collect taxes. Therefore, it is in the best interest of the city that squatter colonies are dismantled, and that the real properties concerned are developed by their lawful owners.
Why then does Mayor Bautista’s administration tolerate the squatter colonies in Quezon City? Answer—the city government allows these colonies to remain where they are, in exchange for the thousands of votes they deliver during elections.
The old, decripit cinema houses along Aurora Boulevard in Cubao, which dominated the district in the 1970s and the 1980s, still operate despite an obvious dearth in regular clientele. There are complaints that they are filthy, and that they are used as make-shift motels by sexual perverts.
Prostitution houses masquerading as bars proliferate in the side streets near these dilapidated theaters. They operate apparently with the permission of the city government, even if there is a private school for girls just meters away.
Many sidewalks in Quezon City are occupied by parked vehicles. Thus, pedestrians are forced to walk on the streets and narrow the road space available to vehicles. Anybody who has been to Bohol Avenue, Timog Avenue, West Avenue, and Katipunan Avenue knows this. The Quezon City government under Mayor Bautista has not done anything to solve this problem.
A skyscraper of stratospheric proportions is quickly rising at the corner of Edsa and Quezon Avenue. Motorists headed for Edsa from Commonwealth Avenue can readily see that this building is so tall, it drawfs the nearby Quezon Monument. Isn’t there an existing city ordinance which prohibits constructing in Quezon City any structure higher than the Quezon Monument?
Even assuming that the said city ordinance has been repealed, that building ruins the skyline and destroys the majesty of the Quezon Monument. Are the nation’s heritage conservationists—the ones who opposed the Torre de Manila building in Manila on the ground that it ruins the background of the Rizal Monument—aware of this radical construction allowed by Quezon City local government authorities?
The old reliable Manila Seedling Bank, which used to provide the public with tree seedlings, closed shop during the watch of Mayor Bautista. Located at the corner of Edsa and Quezon Avenue, the seedling bank contributed to the greening of the metropolis. Alas, the land on which the seedling bank once stood became too valuable for the city government to ignore.
Although the seedling bank had vested rights over the land it was using, the city government managed to evict the seedling bank. A veteran newspaper columnist, now deceased, exposed the details of this anomaly. His exposés can still be read in the internet.
During the incumbency of Mayor Adelina Rodriguez, the Quezon City Hall compound included a small forest located between Kalayaan Avenue and the main entrance along the Elliptical Road. Carnivals used to be held there during the yuletide season.
That forest is gone. It has been replaced by several makeshift structures, a filthy depot, and a two-storey office building bearing the sign, “Office of the Senior Citizen Affairs.” Since the sign is in wrong English (the word “the” is not necessary), some officials in Quezon City Hall should take a crash course in basic English. Even if the mayor used to be a comedian in Philippine cinema, that sign isn’t funny to many.
When Quezon City was established during the commonwealth era, President Manuel L. Quezon envisioned the city as the haven of the Filipino workingman. Sadly, the Quezon City of today is nowhere near that description. Taxes in Quezon City are among the highest in Metropolitan Manila. A number of city councilors are facing graft raps in the Ombudsman. The city mayor beats up suspects on live television, and went on a needless junket to Norway at government expense. His brother, a city councilor who heads a powerful committee, is a drug addict. Quezon City Hall employees have a parking lot taxpayers cannot use.
What a way to remember President Quezon on the 77th anniversary of the city named in his honor.