Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 12 December 2016

My attention was caught this week by a half-page ad in this newspaper, titled “Iloilo City: Safe and livable.” It was apparently paid for by the city mayor, Jed Mabilog (who succeeded Jerry Treñas, who had a very good reputation). I read it with a comparison with Davao City in the back of my mind, and the question: Is it necessary to be a human rights violator, a Dirty Harry, in order to bring peace and order to a city?

On the whole, the claims made in the ad are valid. Iloilo City did win the Livable Cities Design Challenge 2015, organized by the National Competitiveness Council (among others). The second- and third-place winners were Legazpi City and Cebu City. Where was Davao City? It was among the 17 other cities that joined the competition.

Mayor Mabilog indeed was No. 5 in the 2014 World Mayor Prize, with the winner being Naheed Nenshi of Calgary, Canada. Nenshi is the first Muslim mayor of a major North American city (elected in 2010), and it is interesting to note that six weeks before the elections, the opinion polls gave him only 8 percent of the votes. But he won, thanks in large part to social media and door-to-door campaigning, and when he stood for reelection in 2013, he got 75 percent of the votes cast. So don’t anybody think that it’s all over in the Philippines.

But I digress. The World Mayor Prize started in 2004, initially annually, but starting in 2006 it became a biennial affair. I wanted to know how many of our local mayors got into the top 10. In 2004, we had no one. In 2005, Oscar Samson Rodriguez of San Fernando, Pampanga, was in fourth place. In 2006, Jojo Binay of Makati City placed fourth also (there was very little talk about his corruption then). In 2008, Marides Fernando of Marikina City won seventh place. In 2010, the Philippines did not place in the top 10, but Jesse Robredo of Naga City was shortlisted. The testimonials he got were inspiring. In 2012, we had Edgardo Pamintuan, mayor of Angeles City, in eighth place.

Note that with the exception of Binay, the Philippine mayors mentioned have had no charges of corruption against them. Their reputations are solid. I see none of these mayors with unexplained wealth.

It is also interesting to note that some of the World Mayor Prize candidates, like Widodo of Surakarta, Indonesia, Santana Lopez of Lisbon, and mayors in Mexico, Italy and Iran eventually ran for higher office, though not all won. Widodo, of course, is the example of a mayor in our part of the world who sought and won the presidency of his country—but he ran on an anticorruption platform.

Even more interesting, as far as I was concerned, is that Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City was never nominated, from 2004 when the awards started, to 2014. I checked.

In other words, in credible competitions, neither the city nor its mayor stands out.

Back to Iloilo City, its war against crime and drugs, and its efforts at rehabilitation and reformation. Mayor Mabilog is proud to point out that the PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) cited his city as the only one, presumably in the region, to notch 100 percent in creating antidrug abuse councils in its barangays. Its crime volume has dropped; its crime clearance efficiency and its crime solution efficiency have significantly increased. The Iloilo City Police Office is supposed to have achieved 358-percent increase in drug cases filed in court, 200-percent increase in positive operations conducted, and 132-percent increase in illegal drugs seized between 2013 and 2014.

It would be good if Davao City’s crime-fighting and drug-fighting performance were as well-documented. Then the Filipino voter will have a solid basis for judging the performance of its mayor, don’t you agree? We need facts, not Wild West stories.

And it seems the performance of Iloilo—and I am sure there are other cities with as good a record—has been achieved without any violation of human rights, any I-will-kill-you threat, any unexplained disappearance. It can be done, within the parameters of the law. Why should we be pleased with anything less?

I will say this for Duterte, though. He is for real. He has admitted to two wives (consecutively, I hope) and two mistresses, his need for Viagra, his cursing, his take-me-as-I-am-or-let-me-go stance. On the first three issues, he need not have told us about it, although given our penchant for chismis, it would have come out anyway. But just because he told us about it does not wipe his slate clean. There is not even a hint of I-did-wrong-and-will-not-do-it-again. And if there is none, how can he be forgiven? His cursing he cannot keep to himself. His first public speech in Manila was a revelation.

I also listened to part of his national interview over ABS-CBN last Wednesday, and I was not impressed with his answers on the economy and social reform. But that is for another day, including comparisons of the responses of the other leading candidates on similar questions.

Can you imagine him leading the country? As of this moment, I can’t. So where does that leave us? Not in a good place. The first division of the Commission on Elections, by a 2-1 vote (the one refers to Christian Lim), has followed the second division. It has canceled the certificate of candidacy of Grace Poe on residency grounds, and went further, disqualifying her on citizenship grounds also (she can be considered a citizen, but there is no evidence that she is a natural-born citizen, which is the issue). Which means that leaves us with Roxas vs. Binay. Is anybody seriously thinking of voting for Binay? As of this moment.