Non-resident mayors

The following was my column yesterday October 18, 2006 at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today. We buried my mentor and good friend Celia yesterday so I had no time to go online. My apologies.

Yes, I will update this blog. Soon.

I am a resident of the City of Manila. For almost 18 years, in fact, I lived a stone’s throw away from the official residence of mayor Lito Atienza at San Andres Bukid. Of course I know the mayor doesn’t actually live there. Okay, I know his son Kim used to live in the area because I actually saw him a number of times, but in all my 18 years in that neighborhood, I only saw the mayor setting foot in the area once—and it was during a campaign.
In fairness to the mayor, though, he seemed to have omnipresent eyes and ears in the neighborhood because most problems were easily addressed and resolved although this did not negate the fact that he did not live in the area.

We moved to Leon Guinto Street in Malate two years ago. I am still living in Manila and will probably continue to do so given a choice.

I like living in Manila. I like going to those dusty, old quaint shops in Quiapo, Echaque and Mabini. I like the hustle bustle of Divisoria, even the mysterious blend of innocence and danger of Recto. I like the bohemian character of Adriatico at night, or the grand narrative of the Fort Santiago area. There’s nothing quite like the old charm of this historic city. I am biased but I think that despite the decay, Manila is still one of the best places in the country. Obviously, my affection for this city is grounded solely on sentimental reasons. But that’s just me.

I am having a hard time trying to fathom the motivations of the people who are falling all over themselves to become mayor of this city. There must be really something in this city that is worth giving up a senatorial or congressional seat for. Who actually buys that yarn about people wanting to become mayor of Manila purely for sentimental reasons? One will spend millions of pesos on a campaign to get an emotional high or to reclaim family honor? Even this sentimental fool does not buy it. And let’s not even go into the supposed noble reasons of public service and the like.

I am aware that all it takes is to be a registered voter in a certain area to be qualified to run for public office in that area. But how can anyone actually have aspirations to become citizen number one of a city he or she does not even consider worthy enough to live in? This is a question that I have been dying to ask for sometime now because I know that a lot of local executives actually do not live in the city where they seek elective posts.

So may I ask who among Senators Panfilo Lacson and Alfredo Lim, Vice Mayor Danny Lacuna, Reps. Joey Hizon and Rodolfo Bacani, former Rep. Mark Jimenez and commercial model Borgy Manotoc actually live in Manila?

Okay, lest I be accused of being guilty of discrimination, let’s be democratic and ask: who among those running for elective posts in any city in Metro Manila actually lives in the city where they are seeking an elective post? I know it is not required under the law, but surely this is a moral issue. This is a credibility issue. Heck, this is an election issue. If we require residency status for beauty contestants, shouldn’t this be required for those seeking mayoralty posts? It would be unthinkable to have a President who lives outside the country, or a governor who lives outside the province.

So you want to become mayor of Manila? Vacate your mansion inside the posh Ayala Alabang Village at Muntinlupa, or your penthouse condominium unit at the Pacific Towers in Makati or the Serendra at Taguig and move to Manila. Be a resident and see how it is to live among those you govern.

And while we are at it, let me express my utter dismay at the blatant low regard that the Marcoses have for this city. I thought it was a joke until the honorable representative from Ilocos Norte started to enumerate Borgy Manotoc’s supposed “qualification” to become mayor of Manila, among them, genetics (I hope she was talking about the Manotoc genes).

Let me make this clear. I have nothing against commercial models. I think it would be great if more good-looking people with proven expertise and qualification run for public office. God knows we need a respite from the clowns and the bitter old fogeys who currently dominate our political scene. But Borgy for mayor of Manila? Oh please. Aside from making gazillions of money by capitalizing on good looks, the guy has not proven anything yet that makes him worthy of consideration even for the post of barangay captain.

I know that there is no chance that Borgy will win in next year’s elections and that this whole thing is probably a trial balloon designed to check public reaction to the idea. But that’s precisely what gets my ire! What do these people think of us, citizens of this city—stupid, unthinking, gullible playthings that they can manipulate? As if it is not bad enough that these people have not even apologized for the grievous sins their family inflicted on the Filipino people and that they continue to profess their innocence to high heavens, they now have the gall to toy with the electorate of Manila? The nerve of these people!

* * *

The long drawn-out real-life soap opera that is the recent nursing board examinations is one fine example of what is wrong in our system. Here we have a situation that could have been resolved immediately if only someone stepped in and took full responsibility for the investigation and subsequent decisions very early on. But because we are country that takes pride in our own twisted version of democracy, everybody had to get into the act—Malacañang, the Senate, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Court of Appeals, the Department of Labor and Employment, the Board of Nursing, the Professional Regulatory Commission, the deans of the different nursing schools, the various nursing associations, various student groups. And of course, media.

Everybody is insisting that his or her point of view is the only correct one. Everybody claims to be after the common good. Nobody wants to listen. Nobody wants to give in. Shall we be surprised that the issue cannot be resolved?


vic said…
Politics is perhaps the only field of occupation, where no qualification at all is required. Nowadays, you can’t even get a job as a janitor without some kind of qualification, but in a case of politician, especially in our case, all it is asking is you must be a Citizen, must be an eligible voter at election day, and not an official (certain lower official are exempted) of Electoral Body.
And of course it is all up to the voters if they want a convicted felon as their representative or a known philanderer, or a fraud or a con-artist. Funny this Politics.
You're absolutely right, Bong.
The Marcoses are testing the waters, so to speak.
First it was Imelda, now it's Borgy they're grooming to run for Manila's mayoralty race.
Most filipinos are inflicted with political amnesia.
Anonymous said…
>>I am aware that all it takes is to be a registered voter in a certain area to be qualified to run for public office in that area.<<

Actually, there is a residency requirement.

LGC, SEC. 39. Qualifications. - (a) An elective local official must be a citizen of the Philippines; a registered voter in the barangay, municipality, city, or province or, in the case of a member of the sangguniang panlalawigan, sangguniang panlungsod, or sanggunian bayan, the district where he intends to be elected; a resident therein for at least one (1) year immediately preceding the day of the election; and able to read and write Filipino or any other local language or dialect.
Jeck said…
I heard the news. My sentiments exactly. It offends as a thinking citizen that they're marketing persons as qualified candidates based on name and genes alone. I live in a political environment, and nothing irks me more than a candidate whom you will only see come election time.

Who wants to believe that the candidate is going for the post in good faith when they're invisible when you need them the most? And how can you govern something you're not even part of? C'mon voters, time to think. A voter's common sense can help this country a lot, but unfortunately, common sense during election periods are not common.
alden said…
but you know bong, given a choice among atienza, lacson and borgy, I would gor for Borgy...
Anonymous said…
Hello Bong. Long time since I last lurked your blog. Milenyo did that to me and most people in Laguna, at least. Power was restored in our village after 12 days. Yep 12 days. Somehow this storm exposed the heroes and heels in our midst. Heroes are the men who worked all day Saturday following the storm to clean up all the logs and debris and mud that clogged and destroyed the small bridge that is our main access to UP and the town of Los Banos, then made a passable mini bridge out of logs and soil so that people could cross it. They included all our menfolk and the Barangay people including our mayor, walang PhDs, walang tricycle driver all of them were muddied and dirty and sweaty, and heroes to villagers who were stranded for 2 days. My husband turned beet red then brown later on with the heat of the sun.
Then there were the heels who stole wires which were down in the barangays leading to our subdivision. Meralco was firm, ilabas nyo o wala kayo kuryente. That’s partly why the rest of the world had electricity and still my kids were reading with flashlights and candles. We were already wishing a 1000volt jolt surged when they were stealing the wires.
Sorry for relating this unrelated tale to your blog today. Anyway, the lack of power cut me off from local news, funny but I didn’t really miss it! Saved me a lot of annoyance, perhaps that’s why. I overheard that newsbit about the Marcos kid while I was in the kitchen but I didn’t have the urge to run in front of the TV to hear his mother. Nevertheless, I smirked in front of my simmering stew. I could not agree with you more about the qualifications of that brat and the gall of the unrepentant clan. God save your city!
About Lacson. I don’t know why but he still gives me the creeps, something hideous about him. He’s laying low for quite some time but somehow one feels he’s cooking something up. This country holds the record for people who after (un)serving in the Senate will run for local gov’t. then run again for the Senate when they become eligible again. While those in the local gov’t would shove an unremarkable relative, usually wives, to their vacated position when their term is up then run again next time. And only to perpetually stay in power. As if that is a requirement in a CV which they will present at the gates of heaven, or more likely hell, when they enter it. We can only be hopeful that is soon. Again, God save your city!
Sorry for this long comment, bumabawi ng kwento. Haha.
hey bong! have you heard of the call for proposal for the 2007 Development Marketplace? Maybe Remedios would want to submit. The theme for this year is health and poverty. You can go to the world bank website or at for details and application form.

hey, made a tribute to my blogfriends and you're in it. hahahaha!
Anonymous said…
What are we going to do or believe with these bunch of exiled losers the marcosses?Spreading fals and malicious rumors is their brand,just keep on dreaming folks!IN YOUR DREAMS!
Anonymous said…
imelda then borgy,then imee then who?in your dreams!
Anonymous said…
imelda is travelling around our country as if she's still the first lady(name of a horse),ang kapal nang mukha niya.She is nothing and I mean really,N.O.T.H.I.N.G.Yoe are nothing,do you hear me?
Anonymous said…
Tell your grandson that he just can't beat anyone because someone
thought that Cadness was a waitress!She is not a world super Cindy crawford,I thought cadness was a maid!Will Borgy do something against me?i don't think so,I will see him in court,SUE HIM MRS.TAVERA.

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