Political will

Jed Patrick Mabilog has been in office has been in office as City Mayor for only seven months, but we are already seeing manifestations of a dynamic leadership that wields political will.

Among the early campaigns that Mabilog has embarked upon is the enforcement of the anti-jaywalking ordinance and the anti-smoking ordinance.

Recently, he has turned his sights on violators of environmental laws, and from what I heard over radio, he’s even set to close down a riverside restaurant that blatantly dumped soil on the river with a view to obstructing the waterway.

This is a welcome development for City Hall. In the past, placidity was the hallmark of the city government, and many problems festered because of the slow response to issues. Mabilog is showing that political will is a potent weapon that can attract votes, and not the other way around.

Indeed, Iloilo City needs a strong leader who is not afraid to displease certain sectors just so that the law can be equally enforced. We’ve seen how illegal sidewalk vendors were untouchable because our leaders feared the whiplash of their anger at the polling place. Ordinances were broken right before enforcers. Respect for the law declined.

I’d say Mabilog is doing the right thing. He needs to demonstrate to his constituents nobody is above the law. Economic status will not make a difference when an individual breaks the rules. If he or she crosses the street outside of the pedestrian lanes, then it will not help if the offender wears a Rolex.

It’s not surprising that Mabilog is drawing more praises from the people for what he has done so far. In other cities, the display of political will has proven to be an effective strategy.

Acting DILG secretary Jesse Robredo showed that political will can transform a city like Naga into one of the most outstanding LGUs in the country in terms of efficiency, cleanliness and dynamism. Even relatives are fined when they violate ordinances in Naga City.

Davao City is known as the local version of Singapore because residents are so disciplined one can’t find a cigarette butt on the streets. Now vice mayor Rudy Duterte has imposed a strict no-smoking rule in public places when he was mayor, and now it has become the culture for the people of Davao.

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to talk for two hours with Cotabato City mayor Japal Guiani Jr. during the Janiuay town fiesta and he also shared his own success in bringing change with political will.

Not too long ago, Cotabato City was notorious as a city of violence and kidnappings. Located right in the middle of Maguindanao province, Guiani said he had to tackle herculean tests when he assumed the office as local chief executive.

The first thing he did was clear the sidewalks of illegal vendors. A lot of people warned him it can’t be done. But Guiani went ahead with his plan and demolished those stalls that occupied the sidewalks after a deadline he imposed.

Then he asked the police and military to stop giving out mission orders (M.O.) to civilians to allow them to carry firearms outside their residences. At first, he sensed the military officials didn’t like the idea. He discovered it was a money-making venture for them. Guiani threatened to expose the practice of issuing M.O.’s for a fee. So it stopped.

Guiani next turned his attention to criminality. He got a list of individuals with pending warrants of arrest from the police. The only way to neutralize them, he knew, was put them behind bars. When he dispatched policemen to run after these guys, he was told some of these criminals were “assets” of the military, hence, untouchable. Again, he took a hardline stance, and the military relented. The criminals were placed behind bars.

After just six months, Guiani said Cotabato City has emerged from the dark shadow of its negative image of the past and rapidly taking its position as one of the fastest growing cities in Mindanao. All it took was political will, uncompromising political will.

I know Mayor Mabilog is encountering problems trying to enforce the ordinances on jaywalking and smoking. He should not give up. He should push harder and show the people he means business. I’m sure he will earn more political capital from doing this and emerge as a very strong leader who will be hard to beat in the next elections.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

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