GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/ 24 September)–So Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio will face her strongest challenge yet in next year’s election in the person of top City Councilor Ronnel Rivera.
Unless there is a sudden and dramatic shift next week when candidates begin to file their certificates of candidacies, Custodio and Rivera are slated to slug it out for the city’s mayoral post.
For the first time, elections in the city will be contested between two candidates who are barely in their 40s. Both are also scions of rich parents although the Antoninos made their fortune a long time ago when logging was “the” industry in Mindanao.
The Riveras, of course, are the biggest tuna producers in General Santos City with diversified interests in scores of businesses.
That both will marshal their vast resources in next year’s elections is already a given.
So what do we want to hear from both Custodio and Rivera when they present themselves to the local electorate next year?
Re-districting the city
I already had the opportunity of presenting this idea to the two protagonists who gave two contrasting answers.
Custodio said redefining the first district of South Cotabato, where General Santos City is a component, will require amendment to the 1987 Constitution as the matter of apportioning the congressional seats was included in the transitory provision.
But this may not be the case as Iligan City was carved out as a separate congressional district from the erstwhile second district of Lanao del Norte under Republic Act 9724. Last week, MindaNews reported that the Philippine Senate already approved the bill creating a fourth district for Bukidnon.
Rivera, on the other hand, was non-committal at the time I brought out the issue with him saying he was still feeling his way around as a newly-elected councilor.
General Santos has been part of the First District of South Cotabato since 1987. Included in the South Cotabato First District are the towns of Tupi, Polomolok and Tampakan of South Cotabato. At the time the Constitution was crafted, the population of the city was mere 180,000 or so. A congressional district must have a population of at least 250,000 to qualify for a seat or unless a new province is created which automatically will be apportioned at least one congressional seat.
In 2010, General Santos already had a population of at least 580,000 making it eligible to have two congressional seats.
Custodio, and before her former Mayor Pedro ‘Jun’ Acharon, now a member of the House of Representative, refused to entertain the proposal. Acharon, however, had already filed a bill creating the city as a separate district.
The city could also increase the number of councilors to at least 16 from the 12 presently elected at large by redrawing the map of the city into two political districts with Silway River as their natural boundaries. Each political district will then elect eight councilors saving candidates time and resources aside from ensuring balanced representation for the city’s growing population.
Relocating the public market
The city’s aging public market is located at a prime location right at the heart of the city and just a couple of hundred meters away from the city’s central business district. It has however caused traffic jams during rush hours. If the city cannot solve the problem of mass transport system by doing away with the ubiquitous but inefficient tricycles, the least it could do is relocate the public market away from the city center and sell or lease the existing one for better use. If the city’s abattoir and fish landing were relocated (they used to stand side by side near the rotunda at the public market), there is no reason why the public market cannot find a new home.
In the meantime, Mayor Darlene should immediately order the city engineering office to provide pedestrian access across the main entrance of the public market along Santiago Boulevard. The railings are not only pedestrian unfriendly. They smack of political vendetta. As it is, the only (imaginable) reason why that portion of Santiago Blvd (from the rotunda to Magsaysay St) was completely fenced off to pedestrian was to deny access to two commercial establishments that are owned by the family of a prominent opposition and a known supporter of a former city mayor here.
When will the occupants of city hall ever realize that having an agricultural college, and perhaps later a prestigious medical school, will be a boon rather than a bane to our food security?
The application of the University of Santo Tomas to open an agricultural school in Barangay Ligaya is at least already a decade old.
Unfortunately for UST, it has become a victim of politics of retribution. But is it UST’s fault if the brokers of the land it acquired were identified with the arch political enemies of the present tenants of city hall?
This has been an issue during the last three elections. But nobody now seems to care. Perhaps it is time to bury the political hatchet and lay down the welcome carpet to the centuries-old España resident.
Of course there will be other and lesser issues during the elections but these do not mean they are lesser important. In public office, there are no small and big issues and concerns. (Edwin G. Espejo writes for www.asiancorrespondent.com)