The re­call sig­na­ture cam­paign

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - Front Page - BY TITO MORA

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.”

RAT’S BRAIN

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