Senior citizens criticize Zambo solon

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - First Page -

Photo released by City Hall shows Zamboanga Mayor Beng Climaco with senior citizens during one of her pro-poor programs.

SENIOR CITIZENS IN Zamboanga City who are beneficiaries of the local government’s medical assistance program have strongly criticized Rep. Celso Lobregat after he questioned the distribution of medicines and incentives to the elderly here.

They accused Lobregat as being anti-poor. Lobregat, who served many years as mayor and congressman, complained that Mayor Beng Climaco is using government resources to provide necessary medical and financial assistance to senior citizens in different barangays.

For 75-year Ruben Bautista, the Largo Vida program has become their lifeline. He and his diabetic wife are both beneficiaries of the medical assistance for the elderly population of Zamboanga.

Largo Vida, which literally means “Long Life”, is part of Climaco’s benevolent programs dedicated for the welfare of senior citizens. It is being implemented by the City Health Office, City Social Welfare and Development Office and Office of the City Mayor.

“I am happy. We are so grateful with the medical assistance under Largo Vida because the Mayor is able to help us – me and my wife, who is diabetic. We are receiving free medicines,” Bautista said.

Despite the overwhelming success of the Largo Vida, rabid critics and political foes Climaco led by Lobregat strongly criticized the local government medical program for senior citizens and questioning the timing of its launching.

Bautista defended Climaco’s Largo Vida program from criticisms. “We heard that on TV, on radio that other people are trying to malign her (Climaco) – that is what I can say. She (Climaco) is helping us (senior citizens) so why will they criticize that (Largo Vida program), it is intended for senior citizens and other people are trying to destroy her (Climaco) and that is not right. It is our only hope,” he said.

Bautista’s wife, the 73-year old Filomena, an amputee, also defended Climaco from her political detractors and said: “Just like what he (my husband) said, we are just receiving a meager pension. I was a former teacher and what we were receiving then was very small compared to the salary of the teachers nowadays. We are just happy that we are getting free medicines from the Mayor.”

Former government worker, Aida Masuhod, 67, also has praises for Mayor Climaco’s medical assistance program for senior citizens. She and her husband, and her 100-year old mother are all receiving free medicines from the Largo Vida program.

“That medical assistance program is for long life, if we don’t have money, we cannot buy medicines. That (Largo Vida program) is really good because it help us greatly – the three of us, I and my husband, and my 100year old mother. If the local government will not help up, we are all going to die because we have no money to buy maintenance medicines. So to all the critics (Climaco) just stop, because this (Largo Vida program) is big help to the poor, to the senior citizens,” she said.

Stroke victim Carmelita Alob, 61, also thanked Climaco for free medicines she is regularly receiving from Largo Vida “life liners” who go house-tohouse in different villages to distribute medicines to the elderly. “The Largo Vida program is a big help to us. We thank the Mayor for the free medication,” Alob said.

Aside from the Largo Vida program, Climaco also provides cash incentives to senior citizens celebrating their birthday as provided in a local ordinance. Considered as the first of its kind in the history of Zamboanga, the distribution of the cash gifts covers all the 98 barangays here.

City Hall said a total of P12 million has been allocated for the incentives which is being implemented by the CSWDO, City Treasurer’s Office and the OCM. Under the ordinance, the birthday cash incentives will be given annually starting this year to all senior citizens: P500 for ages 60 to 69; P700 for ages 70 to 79; P800 for ages 80 to 90; P1,500 for ages 91 to 94 and P2,000 for ages 95 to 99.

Lobregat also criticized the cash incentives for the senior citizens. But Cesar Jimenez Jr, a former council member and Climaco’s ex-spokesman, said this will be increased to P18 million by next year and included in the 2019 Executive Budget which was also opposed by Lobregat’s allies in the City Council.

“This will be increased to P18M in the 2019 Budget to which the councilors from the Red Team (of Lobregat) voted against. I criticized the P25M fountain at Paseo del Mar during his (Lobregat) term. To make matter worse, it cost up P130K per month to operate it. Let people be the judge,” Jimenez said in his Facebook page and followed by a hashtag #NOTOMATA- POBRE.

Lobregat admitted that he considers himself as an “underdog” in the mayoralty race.

“This is going to be a tough fight; it will not be easy as our opponent is using all government resources for her re-election. Incentives are given to the senior citizens that were never given before; medicines are delivered personally to the houses of senior citizens which never happen in the past. Tarpaulins have been posted all over the place announcing projects still to come and so much more. All of these are done to give the impression that the city government is doing so much,” Lobregat said, who also has his photograph printed on national government projects in Zamboanga.

Climaco is seeking re-election so she can continue serving Zamboanga and her constituents and propel the city to becoming one of the most progressive in the country. Her loyal supporters said Lobregat was just griping because during his time as mayor, he did not have projects like what Climaco initiated. “Lobregat is just bitter and scared that he will lose in the 2019 polls,” said Noel Santos.

Other supporters said Climaco is a strong advocate for the welfare of the elderly, the poor children and youth and her various humanitarian programs and barangay projects are well received and appreciated by the people because they have not experience anything like it in the past administrations of the Lobregats which had ruled Zamboanga for many decades now. The Lobregats are natives of Cebu and Lanao del Sur provinces. In the 2016 elections, Lobregat’s brother, Jomar, lost in the congressional polls. He is running again as congressman in Zamboanga.

City Hall said the tarpaulins where infrastructure projects of the local government are printed show how serious the Climaco administration of being transparent and for the people to know where their taxes go and what is to come for the benefit of all.

And unlike congressmen, whose mandate is to craft laws and not in construction business to build roads and buildings, Climaco said she always see to it that all local government projects be known to all her constituents as “taxpayers money”. “Government funds are really being used to support many and various projects and programs of the city because we are not pocketing or stealing it. Government resources are intended for the welfare of my people, of my constituents to uplift their long sufferings in the previous Lobregat administration,” Climaco said.

The mayor is also known - by her peers - to run her office “democratically” and not like a dictator who wanted to control all aspects of civil governance, according to one employee, who asked not to be named so as not to be accused as partisan. “She listens to all. She hears and talks from the heart and respects everyone, Christians, Muslims and the indigenous groups, and that is one of her best traits,” the employee said.

Climaco is the niece of Zamboanga’s most loved Mayor Cesar Climaco, who served the city for 11 years, and had greatly influence her to serve the public. Among Zamboanga greatest mayors were the elder Climaco and Vitaliano Agan. (ZCH)

Photo released by City Hall shows Zamboanga Mayor Beng Climaco with senior citizens during one of her pro-poor programs. (Kathy Wee Sit)

Photo released by City Hall shows Zamboanga Mayor Beng Climaco with senior citizens during one of her pro-poor programs. (Kathy Wee Sit)

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