Metro Manila trio of ‘Davids’ takes over
MANILA, Philippines — A fresh batch of Metro Manila mayors and officials formally assumed their posts on Sunday, heralding a new era of governance in the country’s political and economic center.
First-term chief executives, in particular, were eager to point out the difference between them and their predecessors, with some making it clear they would take not just novel policies to city hall, but also fundamentally different styles of leadership and visions for their cities.
Chief among these were the “Davids” — Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto and San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora — who had dislodged “Goliaths” or longtime officeholders or dynastic families.
Each of them was elected by landslide margins, handing them a strong mandate to implement the sweeping changes they had campaigned on.
“Enough of the politics that instills fear in its citizens,” said Sotto, who at 30 years old was one of Metro Manila’s youngest mayors. “The highest goal of government and law is service to the public — a simple concept that has been easily forgotten.”
Across the capital, pomp-filled inauguration ceremonies gave way, almost immediately, to the sober reality of governing. Minutes after he took his oath of office, Sotto rushed to Pasig City Hall for his first meeting.
The newly elected mayors had spent the past weeks since the May 13 polls basking in the glow of their victories, but they would now face increased pressure to make good on their ambitious promises.
Both Sotto and Zamora, who ended the decades-long dominance of the Eusebio and Ejercito-Estrada families, respectively, said that they had started reviewing the finances, contracts and other documents of their predecessors.
“It’s my responsibility to ensure every centavo was used correctly. I want to start on a clean note,” Zamora told reporters. “The past administrations were all under one family, so it’s only now that we are gaining access to these papers.”
Sotto and Zamora have explicitly denounced the former mayors of their cities for alleged corruption, and both brandished transparent governance as a centerpiece of their platforms.
Even Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte, who served three terms as vice mayor to former Mayor Herbert Bautista, gently chided her predecessor.
“My first executive order will involve the creation of an internal audit service under the Office of the Mayor to ensure that all processes and documents in Quezon City are in order,” she said during her inaugural address.
According to Belmonte, the net amount of funds Bautista had left her added up to only P516 per resident in Quezon City.
“I really wanted to have more elbow room to do more projects and programs during the first six months of my term because you all deserve the best,” she said.
Aside from the individual challenges posed by the capital’s 17 local government units (LGUs), the new mayors will need to work together to confront Metro-wide issues that include worsening traffic on shared highways, pollution in major rivers and the continued spread of illegal drugs.
Metro future ‘very bright’
“I’m very confident that we’ll be able to work well together,” Sotto said. “It looks like the future for Metro Manila is very bright.”
But for all the focus on the political “Davids,” 13 LGUs in Metro Manila will be controlled by reelectionists or relatives of mayors who had reached their term limit.
The national political orientation in this capital of more than 12 million residents would remain largely unchanged as well, as President Duterte retained a sizeable base of support moving into the latter half of his term.
Eleven mayors belong to the administration-backed coalition of PDP-Laban, Nacionalista Party and Nationalist People’s Coalition. Belmonte, meanwhile, is allied with Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte’s regional party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago.
Mayors Jaime Fresnedi and Lenlen Oreta in the cities of Muntinlupa and Malabon, respectively, maintained their allegiance with the Liberal Party, while Makati Mayor Abby Binay and Navotas Mayor Toby Tiangco were allied with the United Nationalist Alliance.
Only Sotto and Domagoso, of Aksyon Demokratiko and the local party Asenso Manileño, respectively, were not allied with a strong national party.
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