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Wednesday, 18 May 2016 11:42

BEHIND  THE  LINES

BY BOB JALDON

Los Angeles, CA. — Enjoying a marvelous approval rating as evidenced by her overwhelming victory in the last elections, Mayor Beng Climaco de Salazar has managed to deflect scandalous accusations against her and her administration. Those charges of alleged graft and corruption essayed by Team Colorao didn’t make her take a step backward, but instead drove her to stand menacingly in front of her detractors and dubbed them as mere provocateurs out to politically demolish her auspicious debut as an outstanding local chief executive. The yardstick of good governance and economic furtherance is her canon to rival.

She has submitted four modest requests to President Rody: keep Zamboanga city permanently out of the proposed new Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM); sell the ARMM Cabatangan properties to the city of Zamboanga; re-transfer the capital of Region 9 from Pagadian to Zamboanga; and construct a new international airport in Mercedes-Talabaan area. One, two and four appeals may be granted. Request no. 3 is an impossibility. Let me explain.

When three brilliant lawyers — Vic Solis, Tonggo Climaco and Eddie Atilano (now in heaven) — filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court in 2001 with Immanuel M. Jaldon (who in Jesus’s name is he?) as the main petitioner questioning the president’s power to realign administrative regions, it took the high tribunal almost six years to render judgement on the petition.

We questioned the validity and legality of Executive Order No. 429 issued by then President Corazon C. Aquino transferring the capital of Region 9 from Zamboanga to Pagadian. Subsequently, the SC resolved with finality that the president of the Philippines has the power to realign administrative regions (as was the power exercised by deposed President Marcos). And, so, hundreds of state workers and hundreds more of their dependents relocated to Pagadian — their new settlement until retirement — by the mere stroke of a pen. Madre de Dios.

This request can’t be granted. The government has spent a tremendous amount of money to make Pagadian a first-class city. The city is booming, the people seem happy and its economy is emerging as a result of E.O. 429. The three other requests are grantable.

We should have had a new international airport in 1983, two years after it was planned by the Department on Transportation and Communications (DOTC). The assassination of Cesar C. Climaco and the shaky political circumstances then led to the death of the grandiose plan. We would have gone ahead of Cebu and Davao. But, misfortune is our second name.

The plan was revived by Mayor Maria Clara Lorenzo-Lobregat (MCLL) in 2001 when she ordered a feasibility study conducted on a new airport. Two studies were submitted to her office. They were “noted and filed” for unknown reasons. In 2012, then congressman Erbie Fabian tried to resurrect the project that was gathering dust at the DOTC and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). But because Mr. Fabian is a Nacionalista and then DOTC Secretary Mar Roxas (remember him?) was president of the Liberal Party, nothing was achieved. Again, misfortune.

Could you imagine if the mayor did not sit on this project since her president was elected in 2010? Wasn’t she deputy House speaker for three years? But, never mind, that’s water under the bridge. May be, we can get the plan operational by next year, if Malacanang agrees to do it on a private-public partnership. Or, if we can find a funding donor like JICA. Or, we can ask San Miguel Corporation to undertake the project.

The first request is a crucial issue that has long been resolved. We are not part of the so-called Bangsamoro independence. Our supplications have been heard and answered. We have been guaranteed “freedom” by the framers of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) from Muslim-Filipino autonomy, whether it is designed for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) or the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

We have been fighting, through the colossal efforts of Rep. Celso L. Lobregat, and constantly vigilant against attacks of intolerance and injustice. That is why Mr. Lobregat won convincingly, this time, in the second congressional district election.

Our home is Zamboanga and our country is the Republic of the Philippines.

The second appeal: sell the ARMM buildings in Cabatangan to Zamboanga. Long ago, comebacking Councilor Sang Jimenez, who seems to have lost his top but not is touch, brokered a deal for the sale of the lands on which the ARMM buildings are standing. With much pleasure, indeed, the city bought the lands through the representation of Mayor MCLL. We made in-roads into buying the buildings, too. If I’m not mistaken, the legal features of the sale were initially handled by (guess who?) Atty. Vic Solis, the same solicitor who helped forestall the transfer of the regional center.

Somehow, nothing transposed after the demise of MCLL. The plan was mothballed for still unexplained and justifiable reasons. POR QUE? Could it be that the pipes beneath the sink were clogged with murk? How else can I describe it when we could have gotten rid of an irritant that continues to dangle before our mystified eyes with a frightening thought that someday these buildings will be used as satellite offices of the new ARMM!

And, lastly. Malacanang’s new occupant might not even grant any of the mayor’s requests. She wore a yellow ribbon in the month of May.