The mess that is City Hall

Puerto Princesa City politics is a spectacle with wild twists and turns. Recently, Mayor Lucilo Bayron got himself into trouble again with the Ombudsman and is now facing a second suspension since assuming his post in May last year.

The passion attendant to this turn of events is high, the frustrations unfeigned and deeply felt by all those involved. Bayron and his supporters are complaining about the Ombudsman’s flip-flopping on the once obscure Madreo vs. Bayron case. First it comes down hard on the embattled mayor with a career-ending dismissal order. Then it retracts and reinstalls him in a surprising turnaround, giving him instead a mere slap on the wrist. And when everyone thought things were back to normal, the Ombudsman changes its tune again and puts Bayron back in shackles.

Luis Marcaida III, Bayron’s estranged vice mayor, was a Kuridas. Together, they plotted the sweep of all elective posts in the City during the May elections, thus the term, ending perhaps the glory days of Edward Hagedorn. Marcaida had been a second fiddle most of his political life, albeit with a solid voting base he nurtured throughout his career. He hasn’t been a performer like Hagedorn or Bayron; he was just a bit player seated in the gallery watching the big ones slug it out. When Bayron eased out Hagedorn from the equation, Marcaida was the default running mate, a lotto winner of sorts.

Bayron was Hagedorn’s long time principal and close relative. He too was second fiddle. When they were a team, an era that flourished for over two decades, no one was prescient to predict they were to become the bitterest of rivals. Bayron and Marcaida’s alliance did not last. It wasn’t built on ideology to begin with. They were opposites joined by common interests. It took the Madreo case to redefine each one’s priorities.

When Bayron was mayor, among the many things he wanted to do were the roads. He did a lot, by administration. When Marcaida took over, he wanted it done differently by bidding it out to contractors. When Bayron got reinstated, he nullified the ongoing bidding process. Meanwhile, the roads that were just recently built were already all cracked up. Nobody really knows who is to blame; there isn’t an efficient system of checks and balance at City Hall. Everyone is Kuridas.

The next few days will be defined by how the Ombudsman’s latest decision plays out. There were talks of a “people power” rally of Bayron supporters being held to defy the ruling. After all, they say, he was elected mayor fair and square and thus this was people’s will. Judging by the intensity of the power struggle that is currently taking place, it is evident that this matter consumes all the actors and players involved.

Meanwhile, traffic is heavy along Rizal Avenue and the national highway even at 3 o’clock, the rains are clogging the drainage, the power blackouts are pissing everyone, a lot of the newly-built roads are cracked and triggering accidents, teenage pregnancy is one of the highest in the country, and so is illiteracy. The tourists that used to come in droves are going straight to El Nido and foreign embassies are warning their citizens not to come to Puerto. Most of the people living in Santa Lourdes and Tagburos are slowly being poisoned by mercury from the unkempt abandoned mining site. There is red tide in Honda Bay and the military is on high-alert for reports of a terrorist attack. Last we need is the Second Coming happening.

At the end of the day, rant is really all we can do while caught in traffic or in the dark. As we have suggested in previous editorials, perhaps it is really time that we the innocent bystanders take stock of what is happening around us and not be affected or distracted. Life goes on even while City Hall is in a mess, we just have to learn to adjust and not get carried away. The stakes in these political intramural is not high for every Juan and Maria; it is only for those involved in those wars.

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