The recall signature campaign
PAGASA had provided the expected path of Sendong on the internet. From the East it was to pass midway over the KitangladKalatungan Mountain Ranges cutting between Iligan and Cagayan de Oro. And just like any tragedy, no one expected the fury unleashed by Sendong. It was a Friday night with the entire city caught up in series of Christmas parties. By some intuitive decision, we celebrated the first month of my granddaughter’s birthday the night before with a cake which almost got drenched by the strong rain as I brought it down from the car to the house.
Except for the revelation that a letter of PAGASA, months before, was left unheeded, warning then Mayor Emano of possible floods affecting the same areas around the Cagayan de Oro River towards December, which flooded the hundreds of residents a year before. The letter recommended the transfer of these residents to safer areas and if not possible that the City institute an emergency evacuation plan in case of a similar, disturbance. The inaction proved disastrous.
And so when hundreds of lives were snatched in the dead of night, the entire nation and the world united to assist Kagay-anons and neighboring areas with much needed assistance. Volunteering for a media network at a local university, I was assigned as logistics coordinator, assisting in the receipt and release of relief goods. I was able to witness the outpouring of support in the form of truckloads of canned goods from corporations and the wealthy to a man in tattered clothes driving a beat-up bicycle donating a few kilos of rice. The distribution of goods was not without challenges too. Of drunken men climbing our relief trucks, of certain personalities wanting to claim credit for the deliveries and the feeling that no one was really in-charge in coordinating the entire relief effort. Daily, as I passed by City Hall, the premises hardly buzzed even with a fraction of what we were witnessing relief centers by other private institutions and the national government. At the back of my mind I asked myself, “where is the Mayor?”
Tuning in a radio station one morning, I listened to two city Councilors appealing to set aside political partisanship and instead to unite and help rebuild the city. My immediate thought bubble was why would two public servants be wasting precious airtime for an obvious PR stunt when it can best be used to coordinate relief efforts from City Hall. Then on the day that it was announced that then President NoyNoy Aquino was arriving, there was a live TV report, at the Zayas dumpsite of another councilor being interviewed on why the retrieved bodies of the victims were transferred to the garbage dump. I was stunned beyond belief. And true enough, behind her were bodies lying on top of each other at the garbage dumpsite.
Heading to the relief center that day, I felt a sense of loss, unable to comprehend what is really happening in the aftermath of the storm. Later that day, I stepped out of the gymnasium to catch some air, and as I sat down, I overheard some members of another NGO discussing how to change the mind of City Hall, to provide a government property for the setting up tents as temporary shelters. And so when that fateful morning, after watching the replay of the command conference, I witnessed how the mayor denied, before the president and the highest officials of the country that the city had no land for housing, when in fact it had, of which a portion of one property was sold to church group. To top it all, the mayor said that he would not stop the resettlement of the Islas as the poor had no other choice except “kapit sa patalim”. I stood up, turned to my laptop and googled the phrase “How does one remove a mayor from office?”
Securing the support of a group calling themselves “Save CDO Now Movement”, I presented the plan to remove the mayor through the Constitutional Process of Recall and the steps we needed to follow to make it happen. Thus was born the campaign to recall the election of the mayor, where for about eight weeks, our group gathered signatures at the Kiosko of Divisoria Plza with banners written “Kung Wala Na Kay Salig sa Atong Mayor, Palihug Pirma Dinhi.”