Beyond 2019, unless... PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 11 April 2018 11:43



Los Angeles, CA. — He walked down the aisles with a civilian cadence, shook hands with his well-wishers, fervent loyalists and big campaign donors before delivering his state-of-the-congress address that would resonate like a hundred musical tunes when it came to the part, “hace quita bira el Algeria!”

Months after he temporarily disassociated himself from his original political party that was co-founded by his beloved mother to enlist as a member of the super-majority party, PDP-Laban, he now strides like a cadet having etched his name in the book of powerful leaders that have steered the independent highly-urbanized city of Zamboanga into ponderous economic and developmental growth. He has now conditioned his followers to do battle in 2019 as he moves, as his diehards say, to retake City Hall from the woman he helped install as mayor in 2013. There is little doubt that Mr. Celso L. Lobregat has become one of our remarkable leaders with a paramount vision for Zamboanga.

But there’s one tremendous obstacle to be hurdled — Mayor Maria Isabelle G. Climaco-Salazar — the intelligible, quick-witted, spirited lady from Barangay Santa Maria who has managed the city with a resolute fist in the face of aggression by a group of terrorists, neutralized an atmosphere where gun violence has become a daily norm and where traffic is revoltingly enormous.

She has relied on the young and the bold to partially dictate the pace of her operational and   administrative directions. One of the few original members of the dying Liberal Party confided to me that “Beng” remains strong, firm and vibrant. Similarly, half of the voting population think the same of Mr. Lobregat because of his brilliant plans for Zamboanga. He has rolled up the construction of school buildings, roads and other infrastructure valued at more than P2 billion, one billion more than the entire budget of the city for 2018.

They both have expressed full support for the “Build, Build, Build” program of El Presidente that is tied up to China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” anchored on “repaving the ancient Silk Road through a trade and infrastructure network across Eurasia and Africa.”

Since he shifted lanes, Mr. Lobregat has tightened his grip on the middle-class and less-fortunate voters, activating the grassroots and fielding, as he soundly declared, a powerhouse ticket in the 2019 election. I don’t know what he meant by “powerhouse” because what I see now in the political landscape are recycled, comebacking politicos who sometimes dish out jaberwocky remarks on certain policies.

Nevertheless, challenging Madam Beng in 2019 for the privilege to be the first elected mayor under a federal government is a tall order... and very, very expensive. She has shown all indications that she intends to stay in power beyond 2019. Mr. Lobregat and his advisers miscalculated her ambitions. They probably thought that by handing over the reigns of City Hall in a silver platter to a lady that they transformed into a political titan she would step down after one term. She masterfully used her office to make her the unrivaled center of local power to ensure that she would not be denied a second term.

Punto-por-punto, Mr. Lobregat has outmaneuvered Madam Beng at every turn. He has secured the confidence of El Presidente in him, maintained his good relationship with the voters because of his sound legislation, especially on the critical Bangsamoro Basic Law issue, and his huge infrastructure program for Zamboanga city.

But the “best is yet to come.” There’s no new airport, not even a new architectural design to upgrade the present terminal worthy of the designation “Zamboanga International Airport”, no water dam, no plans to turn world-famous Sta. Cruz Island into a first-class resort, you name it.

The Climaco-Salazar era may have just started. Will it come to an end in 2019 or will it continue until 2020?