Tinimbang ka ngunit kulang

Sad to say, Mayor Robredo (through Mr. Prilles; email 01/26/10) is now accusing me, among other personal attacks, of having "cherry-picked" data and of "intellectual dishonesty." He also dragged in Fr. Wilmer Tria and took a swipe at Bicol Mail's editorial writer who allegedly "swallowed your propaganda hook, line and sinker." Given the email's scurrilous and possibly libelous nature, I am unable to give it space here following the ethics of journalism and basic civility.

But we owe it to our people to clarify some points on the merits:

1. It was Mayor Robredo in his 2009 State of the City Report who bragged Standard & Poor's overall rating of "intermediate" for Naga as his "latest proof" against "those who are not yet convinced" of a "rock solid City Hall" he was leaving behind after 18 years in power.

2. But, he did not explain what "intermediate" means. Hence, I asked him for a copy of S&P's report since it was not posted in Naga's supposedly transparency-renowned website or the homepage of S&P's or even in the entire Internet. It turned out "intermediate" is only a score of 2 on a scale of 0 to 5 (0 = Underdeveloped, Evolving or Poor; 1 = Basic; 2 = Intermediate; 3 = Sound; 4 = Sophisticated; 5 = Advanced). Consequently, I asked if it was "the best" for undeniably, intermediate is a dismal 50% rating. A failing mark regardless of perception, packaging or spin.

3. Mayor Robredo, through Mr. Prilles, insisted that: "So, to answer your question, an 'Intermediate' score is the best among Philippine LGUs according to that S&P report."

4. But the process of S&P's credit rating is this: S&P's listed down what it believed to be "key international good practice" or global standards on certain "analytical elements" against which it then weighed Naga's "main strengths" and "main weaknesses," using the rating scale cited above and basing mainly on information submitted by city officials (incomplete at that despite repeated requests) and other information S&P's may have had.

5. The overall score of 2 or Intermediate was based on these individual grades: Annual budgeting: 2; Financial policy and medium-term fiscal framework: 1+; Financial reporting and disclosure: 2+; Revenue management: 2; Expenditure management: 1+; Debt management: 2-; Liquidity and cash management: 2-; Management of LRG-owned companies: N/A; Performance focus and measurement: 1+ (key elements in bold). Unfortunately, Naga did not even get a passing 3 in any area.

6. According to S&P's, Naga's overall score is "the highest among assessed Philippine LGUs to date." But these LGUs only include Iligan, Malabon, Mandaluyong, Marikina, Naga, Quezon City, Tacloban, and Taguig. It is quite a big jump then to proudly conclude that Naga-by changing "highest" to "best" and dropping the word "assessed"-is "the best among Philippine LGUs according to that S&P report" since only 8 LGUs have been assessed. Remember, we have 81 provinces, 136 cities, 1,495 municipalities and 42,008 barangays as of December 31, 2008, plus the ARMM.

7. Nevertheless, being highest or even "the best" among 8 assessed local peers is only a consuelo de bobo since the entire class, so to speak, failed the global standards test.

In fine, as it were in film: "Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang" (You Were Weighed But Found Wanting).

Addendum: As to Mayor Robredo's petty challenge now through Mr. Prilles "if Fr. Wilmer Tria will be up to it" to publish the entire report of S&P's in Vox Bikol to see "who is really engaged in spinning lies and half-truths," it may be noted that: (i) the S&P's report is dated July 31, 2009 and was long released to him, (ii) he cited it in his 2009 State of the City Report delivered to the City Council on September 1, 2009, and (iii) it consists of 48 pages of text, tables, graphs, and abbreviations for which Vox Bikol obviously would not have sufficient space in one issue and one page at a time would require 48 weeks then.

Anyway, if indeed the S&P's report was something that you could drumbeat to our people and to the world, you don't really need Vox Bikol. Mayor Robredo could have immediately published it separately or easily posted it in Naga's website with his 2009 State of the City Report. If I am not mistaken, only when I asked for it was it actually released for public consumption.

In law, it is presumed that evidence willfully suppressed would be adverse if produced. I believe this holds true for the entire S&P's report kept secret all this time until recently, especially since Mayor Robredo never explained what "intermediate" actually meant in the first place.