Local candidates share vision for Manila in mayoral forum

Last April 6, Task Force Safe Schools, together with the DLSU Committee on National Issues and Concerns and the Jesse M. Robredo Institute of Governance, organized the University’s first major event on campus at the Henry Sy. sr. Hall grounds since closing its doors because of the pandemic. The Manila Mayoral Candidates Forum-part of the Pili Mo, Pili Ko, Pilipino! Voter Conversation Series-had runners for the city’s highest executive seat discuss their stances and plans for the City of Manila.

Former Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing, Ret. Police Brig. Gen. Elmer Jamias, and Atty. Alex Lopez attended the forum. Incumbent Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna only spoke through pre-recorded videos, while Christy Lim and Onofre Abad were invited but did not attend.

Manila, the ‘City of Dreams’

Stating to have served as a congressman of Manila for over 20 years and being a part of KABAKA partylist, Bagatsing brandished his political experience, always bringing up the laws he passed as part of Congress and the activities they started in his partylist.

In terms of his plans for the future of the city, he wants to revitalize Manila as the “prime city” of the country. Besides land reclamations that would, as he claimed, expand the land area, invite businesses, and generate employment, “Kulang po tayo sa excitement,” Bagatsing said. “Manila should be what Manila was before the development of Makati, Greenhills, and Muntinlupa. We have to bring… people back [into] the city.”

Jamais has also been a long-time public servant in Manila, having been a police officer assigned broadly throughout. He emphasized that the next Manila mayor should not “act like a king.” It is this principle that he wants to move Manila forward with, saying that he will go to communities and consult with them on what they need. His platform focuses on what he called the 4K’s: Kalusugan, Kapayapaan, Kabuhayan, and Kapaligiran. He also constantly mentioned justice and due process of law, staying consistent with his branding as a former policeman.

(Health, peace, livelihood, and the environment.)

Meanwhile, Lopez introduced himself as an “educator…economist, lawyer, and a builder.” Like Bagatsing, Lacuna, and Lim, he is also part of one of the city’s powerful families.

The lawyer often took a jab at how the incumbent city leaders demolished and rebuilt buildings around Manila that didn’t need fixing. “We need to redirect the resources of the city… [Ang] kailangan po natin gamot, vitamins… trabaho.

(What we need are medicine, vitamins, and opportunities for employment.)

Calls for accountability

The candidates emphasized the need for transparency and good governance in the city, both topics which were highlighted during discussions on a controversial 2020 sale of Divisoria land and an executive order (EO) was recently passed on devolving duties to municipalities.

EO 138 was signed in 2021 to strengthen the autonomy of local governments by passing down certain functions of the national executive branch to municipal units. Despite a lengthy discussion dedicated to probing the candidates’ plans regarding the increased funds that came with the new mandate, the three candidates only parroted honesty, transparency, and integrity with budget management.

Bagatsing remarked that devolution will be welcomed in Manila, as the additional funds can be focused on health and education sectors. However, he steered the conversation toward transparency issues of the current administration and brough up the Divisoria issue, saying the city government did not make any documents related to the sale available to the public and vendors were only given notices to vacate without due process.

Besides criticizing the sale of Divisoria-which was sold for P.1.4 billion last August 2020-Lopez also slammed the billions that the city loaned, the demolition of “condemned” school buildings and health centers, and the city’s many new construction projects. He protested that these became the city’s priority rather than providing more jobs and food for Manileños.

Voice of the people

When asked about their first 100 days in office, Bagatsing proposed to improve the accessibility of health facilities by making them free by incorporating diagnostic laboratories within secondary health centers. Meanwhile, both Jamias and Lopez agreed that it is time to “clean up” the city hall by leading by example, removing the politicization of bureaucracy and empowering people and the marginalized.

Manila’s contractual daycare workers were also addressed in the forum. Lopez decried the city’s P30-billion allocation for consultancy, which he said could be used to regularize their own employees instead. He also exposed the 30 daycare centers, along with their respective barangay halls, demolished by their political opponents.

Jamias assured that all contractual workers will be regularized if there is enough funding from the government while Bagatsing called on the national government to “set the tone” against contractualization.

Hulidap“, where policemen unsatisfyingly arrest individuals and extort money in exchange for their freedom, also remains to be an issue in the city. Jamias motioned for a required reorientation of police officers and called for their accountability. Meanwhile, Lopez intends to improve the cooperation of barangay officials and policemen and to increase allowances of police officers to reduce hulidap incidents. Similar to Lopez, Bagatsing plans to empower barangays officials as they are still persons of authority and above the police force.

Overall, the goal of the three aspirants is to “clean” Manila of its corruption and to call for more transparency from the outgoing administration.

Jezah Mae Bagsit

By Jezah Mae Bagsit

Kim Balasabas

By Kim Balasabas

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