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Survivors of ‘Sendong’ reject Emano

/ 11:25 PM May 18, 2013

PEOPLE power goes to work in Cagayan de Oro City. Supporters of Oscar Moreno celebrate a victory that means an end to a mayoral reign that has left the city helpless at the height of one of the worst disasters that it faced. PHOTO BY JB DEVEZA/INQUIRER MINDANAO

A staunch supporter of outgoing Mayor Vicente “Dongkoy” Emano, Inday Acdal always made sure his campaign posters were plastered outside her house during election season.  That, however, changed after she lost some of her neighbors and her entire home during the Tropical Storm “Sendong” tragedy on Dec. 17, 2011.

“It took a Sendong for me and my neighbors to realize that our mayor did not do enough for us… . He was supposed to be the father of our city, but look at what happened to us?” she said.

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Sendong left at least 700 people dead in Cagayan de Oro City alone, and thousands homeless and many still missing.

Shedding tears, Acdal, 53, said Emano failed in his leadership when she saw the bodies piled up like garbage at the city landfill.  She purposely went there to look for some of her neighbors who went missing during the flood.

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“Even to this day, I still cannot forget how those victims looked like,” she said.

Trust in challenger

During Monday’s elections, Acdal said she did not cast her vote for Emano or any member of his party. It was her first time to put her trust in an Emano challenger.

“I actually felt sad when I voted for his opponent because all these years I had always supported Emano, but I felt that people like us had been neglected in so many ways,” she said.

Acdal, her husband and 12 other families have been staying in “amacan” (woven bamboo) shelters beside the Macasandig barangay hall for a year and a half. Other families still live in similar structures in Tambo and Aluba.

More than a year after the storm, the families continue to experience the hardships of living in temporary shelters where electricity is only available at nighttime.

Acdal said she and her neighbors were still waiting to be transferred to the relocation site in Indahag, six kilometers away from Macasandig, which was near their workplaces.

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“The other relocation sites are so far from our jobs. If we get P250 a day, we need to spend about P50 of that for transportation … . We would rather walk that distance than use up our money,” she said.

Defeated Mayor Emano shows off his indelible-ink-marked finger after casting his ballot. PHOTO BY JB DEVEZA/INQUIRER MINDANAO

Petition for recall

The group Save CDO Now has initiated a movement to gather 40,000 city voters to sign a petition to recall Emano.  It blamed him for the deaths and destruction brought by Sendong as he allowed communities to sprout along the river’s path. The initiative failed.

Other reports claimed that when the storm struck, Emano was nowhere to be found. The mayor, however, denied this.

So when Oscar Moreno filed his certificate of candidacy to challege Emano, the move was welcomed by those who wanted the mayor booted out of office.

Emano is a former three-term governor of Misamis Oriental before becoming mayor of Cagayan de Oro. After finishing three terms as mayor, he ran and was elected vice mayor. In 2010, he took back his mayoral post.

Moreno, on the other hand, was a two-term congressman for Misamis Oriental when he ran for governor and won in 2004. He was reelected twice. Wanting to cut Emano’s reign, he challenged the mayor this year.

Vindication

Acdal could not help but feel vindicated when Moreno won with 109,886 votes over Emano, who just had 92,033.

“When Moreno came to our barangay to campaign, he did not promise that we would be relocated immediately, but I hope that with him, the lives of Sendong survivors would somehow be better,” she said.

Other survivors share the same sentiments with the amacan residents in Macasandig.

A day after the elections on May 13, hundreds of Moreno supporters flocked to City Hall to await his proclamation.

Fe Dewites, 54, endured 12 hours of heat and rain outside the City Hall  to welcome her beloved candidate. “I felt like crying … . I have waited for so long for someone to beat Emano,” she said.

According to Dewites, she had always supported the challengers of the incumbent mayor because she was not satisfied with the health services provided by the city government.

“There has never been any satisfactory service at the city hospital … . The city government has claimed that it has hi-tech equipment, but I find it in such a poor state,” she explained.

Most Kagay-anon agreed that Emano’s mishandling of the Sendong disaster and a combination of community issues, such as illegal mining, allegations of corruption and rising criminality, largely contributed to his downfall.

For the first time in three decades, the kingpin of Cagayan de Oro politics lost.

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TAGS: 2013 elections, Cagayan de Oro, Elections, local elections, Mayor Vicente “Dongkoy” Emano, Politics, Regions, Sendong
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