By Alex P. Vidal
People of Bacolod City thought when their former congressman Monico “Nyok” O. Puentevella was elected as city mayor in the recent elections, his political detractors would refrain from aiming their rifles at him and give him cooperation and respect due the father of the “City of Smiles”.
People expected a ceasefire and forging of camaraderie among newly elected officials; smoking of the proverbial peace pipe among squabbling politicians, burying the hatchet and letting bygones be bygones for the good of general public.
But even before Puentevella, 67, assumed office last July 1, eight newly elected councilors sent him a curt message by boycotting the new administration’s flag ceremony. After being ribbed by media for the snobbery, others gave lame excuses while Puentevella’s more acerbic critics in the group were mum if not truculent.
Those who failed to show up were councilors Jocelle Batapa Sigue, Caesar Distrito, Em Ang, Carl Lopez, Mona Dia Jardin, Keith Ramos, Bobby Rojas and Alex Paglomutan. We presume not all of them intentionally avoided the occasion.
Those who joined the newly elected city mayor in the first flag raising ceremony at the Bacolod Government Center grounds, were Vice Mayor Greg Gasataya and Councilors Sonya Verdeflor, Wilson Gamboa Jr., Claude Puentevella, Ana Marie Palermo, El Cid Familiaran and Archie Baribar.
The no-show of some city councilors was viewed by some observers as a portent of events to come in the Puentevella administration. Many observers fear some of the councilors allied with the former mayor and now Rep. Evelio “Bing” Leonardia are bent on giving Puentevella a nightmare in the next three years. Vindictiveness begets vindictiveness and public interest would be the first casualty if the internal conflict accelerated and exacerbated.
Bacolod is one of the cities in the Philippines where politicians don’t see each other eyeball-to-eyeball and not on good speaking terms. Both Leonardia and Puentevella have been locked in a bitter political rivalry that escalated when both their loyal followers in the barangays and sympathizers in media and city hall joined the fray.
While Leonardia always breezed his way to victory in the past elections, Puentevella had to endure the agony of a series of defeats in his quest for the city’s mayoral post. In his most recent candidacy, critics threw at him everything but the kitchen sink to ensure he would be slaughtered again and prevented from conquering city hall after his three terms as congressman expired in 2007.
The plunder case the sports commission had filed against Puentevalla had been marshaled with ferocious intensity in media and during the campaign sorties aimed at dismantling his aura of political invincibility.
Bacolodnons have had enough. Among the city’s grizzled politicians who have carved a national niche in public service, only Puentevella wasn’t given the chance to govern city hall as chief executive. Other prominent names from Sugarlandia’s fabulous political clans have either retired or faded away, but not Puentevella, who has been grabbing national headlines either as sports analyst or the country’s chief of contingent in various international sports events in his capacity as chair of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC).
It would be a travesty of Bacolod’s grand reputation as producer of icons and illustrious leaders if Bacolodnons did not elect Puentevella as city mayor.
Now that he is at the helm of city hall, it is incumbent upon both his critics and supporters in the city council to give Mayor Puentevella the respect he deserves like a father in a family. The sacredness of the fresh mandate people gave him in the last elections must be honored and safeguarded because it is the will of the people.
Instead of being piqued though, Puentevella reiterated his appeal for support and cooperation: “We should now act as servant leaders of Bacolod. We should serve our fellows with a smile, same as beauty of our government buildings, be it Government Center or our City Hall. Let us always remember that customers are always right.”
He added: “I would like to hear feedback from the public that, in the Government Center or at the City Hall, that the work attitude of the public officials and government employees are worthy of recognition and it should start from me. As the song goes, ‘Let there be peace and let us begin with me.’ We have been chosen by the people to lead this more beautiful and progressive city. I am the captain of the ship and the team should go in one direction.”
“Some of you are wondering what can of Ship Captain I will be? I heard stories in the past that the benefits of the employees are always low or less compared to other cities. Let us work hard for the good of our city so that your benefits will increase. If our finances will improve and be stable again, I want to see a Christmas that will mean an increase in your benefits.”
“I will never succeed if I am alone. This is a team and we need team work. The people of Bacolod have spoken. The elections are over and please help me. Let us go to work. What matters now is really our work performance. If the performance is good, it will also bring goodness to Bacolod and that will also boil down to your benefits,” he concluded.