Bukidnon mayors push for dialogue amidst Calingasan-Zubiri rift

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/3 Feb) – Behind closed doors, Bukidnon mayors met Wednesday afternoon amidst the brewing rift between Gov. Alex P. Calingasan and Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr.

Most of the mayors attended the special meeting of the Bukidnon chapter of the League of Mayors in the Philippines in the “Secret Garden” of the Amadeo Restaurant in Malaybalay City in an attempt to help settle the differences between the two political leaders.

Kalilangan Mayor Myrna Suyao, LMP-Bukidnon president, said it was a meeting convened by the LMP for both leaders. But Suyao refused to give details about what transpired in the meeting.

“I’m sorry I cannot give comments. It was ‘confidential’,” she told MindaNews after the closed-door meeting.

Reports of the looming rift between the two officials have been talked about even before the May 2010 elections. But last week, Zubiri fumed reportedly on the governor’s scheduled visits to various towns in the province. He was allegedly not invited to the governor’s visiting party.

In reaction, he reportedly asked the mayors to skip Calingasan’s visits and encouraged them to convince barangay captains not to attend, too.

Calingasan denied excluding Zubiri. He said he meant to invite Zubiri, just that the schedule of the visits was leaked before they could send Zubiri’s invitation.

Calingasan eventually called off his visits starting February 1, on the eleventh hour, and said he might do it after the Kaamulan Festival.

It was this concern that prompted the mayors to take action, Damulog Mayor Romeo Tiongco said Wednesday afternoon. He said the pressure is on them.

“We are pressed between the two officials’ (Calingasan and Zubiri) misunderstanding,” Tiongco said in a chance interview.

Zubiri attended the meeting but Calingasan was absent. Mercy Ibcas, of the governor’s office, said Calingasan was in a meeting in Cagayan de Oro City.

Tiongco said that after listening to Zubiri’s sentiments, which took most of the meeting’s time, the mayors met on their own.

“We wanted to seek the help of the two officials how we can deal with the situation,” Tiongco said.

He added that Zubiri was open to talk with Calingasan, who in turn said he does not want a head-on collision with the vice governor.

Calingasan blamed intrigues to have caused the gap between him and Zubiri. The governor said it is not him nor Zubiri but the people who will suffer the most in case they could not settle their differences.

But the governor assured that he is no threat to Zubiri’s political career.

“Who am I to go against him? I have no capacity to run against him,” he added. Calingasan said he would rather retire after his three-year term since he has no further political plans “as of now.”

“I am too tired about this. As governor, I’ve reached the peak of my political career,” he added.

Calingasan appealed to the public and those who are out to destroy him: “Don’t make us fight, you know it is the people who will suffer,” he said.

Tiongco told MindaNews the mayors ought to meet with the governor after their meeting with Zubiri.

But he said the LMP tasked its former president – past Malitbog Mayor Osmundo dela Rosa – and three mayors to meet with the governor.

Tiongco said aside from him, mayors Rey Baula of Sumilao, and Mario Okinlay of Impasug-ong were to accompany Dela Rosa in a meeting the governor in an unknown date.

The mayors, Tiongco said, wanted the two officials to have a dialogue and resolve their misunderstanding to avert effect on the constituents.

“It is just a minute matter (that the two can easily resolve), Tiongco said. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)