Jam Baronda confronted her sore detractors

It was a long awaited interview for Iloilo City Lone District Representative Jam Jam Baronda whose name
became a subject of undesirable criticism as a result of the assistance that her office initiated to facilitate the return of Ilonggos who were hindered to travel from Manila to Iloilo because of the lockdown imposed by the national government.

Most Ilonggos who were held back in Manila were Overseas Filipino Workers, Locally Stranded Individuals and workers who were either displaced or who lost a job.

The new program launched by IMT News – IMT Conversations got this issue covered and the first woman to get elected as a lone district representative of Iloilo City was the guest. The weekly online program can be viewed on Facebook as hosted by Rhod Tecson, the head of IMT News.

Congresswoman Julienne “JamJam” Baronda was able to clarify a lot of issues unjustly hurled against her, especially concerning the first batch of around 50 OFWs who came back to Iloilo City last March. 

Uncoordinated return of Ilonggo OFWs and LSIs? Coordination in the period of the Coronavirus is one of the most challenging to establish at various levels: local, regional, national, global. Chaotic is an understatement to describe the lack of coordination from the national government down to the local level, and even down to the community.

In fact, the entire nation still suffers from lack of proper coordination now 6 months under the pandemic. While Iloilo City has been hailed as a fictional community Wakanda as popularized by one journalist, a closer look on its systems of coordination will show a lot of deficiencies, and which puts the city as an accurate example of a Wakanda – a real fictional perfect place.  

Congresswoman Jam Jam Baronda clarified that the facilitation extended by her office to Ilonggo OFWs and LSIs followed proper coordination with the respective government agencies, including the national Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).

“We followed the guidelines, protocols, and we went through the proper channels. We did not overstepped on any of the agency,” she explained.

Covid-19 only proved that our coordination system is very much ‘virginal’ (sorry for a lack of a better term). It indeed tested the strength and weaknesses of government’s coordination tissue and it bled. Let me set aside the drama angle, but even a seasoned politician like Mayor Jerry Trenas couldn’t even held back tears when his leadership is being virus-tested everyday.

Can lack of proper coordination be prevented? Perhaps, yes. The repatriation of Ilonggo OFWs and LSIs on that March month attempted to follow the established “proper coordination system” but inadequacies revealed itself, a necessary evil if only to strengthen the delicate tissue that holds the coordination system.

We need to bite the bullet. Congresswoman Baronda was correct when she said that we cannot do anything regarding our stranded OFWs and LSIs, but to act and to act fast, because the odds is expanding to overwhelming levels. In short, we need to bite the bullet and biting the bullet she did.

A legislator is a politician and a leader of the community. While the role of an elected legislator is to craft laws, the situation demands that she deliver essential service to her constituents who were in such dire situation. If a barangay captain is mandated to exercise that responsibility, what circumstances can prevent a legislator from doing the same?

Our governance culture in the Philippines is characterized by a blurred line between legislative work and service provider to people. Multiply that work a hundred times and we still lack adequate services from government. Downgrade that little effort and you’ll know what potential problem it would cause.

The conditions that hooked the Ilonggo OFWs and LSIs in Manila was horrible, if not inhumane, especially for those who were held at quarantine centers: uncertain assistance from government, no definite mass testing, and running out of food and money.

She explained that the “Ilonggo OFWs were making a call that they are becoming desperate; that they are running out of money; that they are already having anxiety attacks; and that they are on the verge of a mental breakdown. They are Ilonggos – our brothers and sisters – what people expect me to do?”

This is a good question that must be addressed on Baronda’s critics who were sitting comfortably in front of their Facebook accounts all this time merely exploring the infinite possibilities what subject to innovate as an attack against her just to gain applause from followers. 

Many Ilonggo OFWs and LSIs were able to come back home safety and have joined their families because of the assistance of Congresswoman Baronda, by Iloilo City LGU, by private sector, and by many government agencies.

We are all inside an overpowering crisis which puts to test our government systems. Many former politicians in Iloilo City who lost an election appears to know better, but only on social media. Social media, however, “is a marketplace of ideas” lamented Congresswoman Baronda, and being such people are entitled to voice out and discuss their criticism regarding her efforts or performance.

But the world is round. Congresswoman Baronda is self-aware that the world is round, referring to the enclosed and cyclical world of politics. “They can criticize my work, but not my family and my being a woman,” she said.

This is a fitting reminder on her critics who once occupy the top of the world of Iloilo City politics, but who lost in the previous election. The world is round so this is an opportunity for those loser politicians to improve their competency and exercise responsible leadership. Show your faces offline by bringing services at the frontlines where it is needed most by Ilonggos who are affected by the Covid-19 crisis. That might count if they intend to recover the world that they used to occupy come 2022.

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