BEHIND THE LINES: How are we? PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 15 December 2014 11:41



San Jose CA. — How will Mayor Ma. Isabelle “Beng” G. Climaco-Salazar play out her last 18 months in office that starts on January 1, 2015? What would likely be her pronouncements in her State-of-the-City Address when the city council reconvenes after the holidays? Is she going to spend those crucial months “building back” the four communities ravaged by an attacking Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) force on Sept. 9, 2013 that rendered hundreds of people homeless and forced to take cover in refugee camps such as the Mayor Joaquin F.F. Enriquez, Jr. Memorial Sports Complex? Is she going to mend fences with the greatly-divided and money-depleted opposition and even her own party allies desperately and deliberately trying to destroy her overly-lenient office in order to install their recycled candidate, or candidates, to push her out of city hall?

For one thing, Mrs. Climaco-Salazar has scored a monumental accomplishment: the rehabilitation and resettlement of the refugees — the victims of the dreadful MNLF siege — with concrete, but sub-standard, homes built for them in the devastated areas and providing them, in the future, with work and decent livelihood. She has, in the process, aroused people’s confidence and trust in her shaky administration. Her office is often maligned and undermined by the rightists, the businessmen, the academics, perhaps even the clergy murmuring in silence at the way she handles the peace and order conditions of a city daily stricken by index crimes. She will probably need to do whistle-stops from Limpapa in the west to Licomo is the east to convince the barangay folks that their safety is being addressed to the fullest in incontrovertible collaboration with the police and military.

I was talking with two of her strongest, financial backers before I left for the country that promises milk and honey to every citizen and they said that she is definitely running for re-election in 2016. That’s as sure as there is hell, because it comes from the mouths of two heavy campaign donors. It seems that they have placed, this early, all their eggs in one basket. Mrs. Climaco-Salazar’s basic creed is simple: do good. That means — quite a reality — that she will do combat with Congressman Celso L. Lobregat who has verbalized his intentions so many times over, as Gen. Douglas MacArthur did in Australia after fleeing Corregidor, that HE SHALL RETURN.

To keep himself in the limelight, Mr. Lobregat has taken the podium more than a dozen times — before government workers, retired soldiers, the clergy and businessmen — to warn about some the critical provisions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law that may have a direct assault on Zamboanga’s sovereignty over the seas fronting her coastlines that net abundant catch that brings fortune to canning factories and fishermen in the west coast. It is an intriguing, yet interesting, point worth listening to. Other than that, he has no other issue to advance to keep his political stature afloat until the campaign period starts. At least, none for now.

Mrs. Climaco-Salazar may have a tough and rough time getting a second term against Mr. Lobregat who has mesmerized 90 percent of the voters during his unbroken years of public service. They simply adore him — his looks and his money. They have fallen in love with him, it seems, for his defining passion on health care, education and social services programs, not to mention the enormous infrastructure projects he undertook as three-time mayor and three-time congressman. “He will be a hard nut to crack,” says a Zamboangueno observer who lives in Los Angeles. Mr. Lobregat’s crusade all these years to keep Zamboanga out of the Bangsamoro Homeland speaks of his moral conviction and patriotic goals for Zamboanga.

Mrs. Climaco-Salazar, partnering with Congresswoman Lilia Nuno, will have another gem to her achievement if she can finally get Cabatangan, as urged by bar topnotcher Vic Solis. This prime property was perceived by the late Rear Admiral Romulo Espaldon to be the regional center. (But that’s not the ideal anymore since we lost the regional capital to Pagadian city.) Maybe, as wished for by the late Maria Clara L. Lobregat, that vast, hilly land can be transformed into the seat of local power where a new city hall and all its allied offices could be built. This move will also erase any fear that with the passage of the Bangsamor Basic Law, a satellite office would be erected thereat.

Then, Mrs. Climaco-Salazar stands a change of beating Mr. Lobregat, a man who has perfected the art of politics and who in the after-life will certainly go down as one of greatest mayors Zamboanguenos ever elected.