Cagayan de Oro mayoral bets: Where they stand on issues
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Cagayan de Oro City held its mayoral debate on Thursday night, April 28.
Incumbent Mayor Oscar Moreno from the Liberal Party, PaDayon Pilipino's Vicente Emano, and Cagayan De Oro City 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez from the Centrist Democratic Party traded barbs over how they would run the city if they win the elections.
The debate organizers fielded questions on environment, health, traffic management, taxation, drugs, crime, and urban planning. The questions were based on research from the Kinaadman Research Center.
On environment, the candidates focused on the Zayas dumpsite, which has become a problem in the city.
Emano said the city government under his term complied with the Ecological Solid Waste Management law and even purchased a lot for the transfer of the dumpsite. His plan, however, was not continued by Moreno, the current mayor.
Emano lost to Moreno in the 2013 elections. It was Emano's first electoral loss in the last 15 years he has been in public service.
On Thursday, Moreno responded to Emano, saying the land purchased was not suitable to be used as a landfill.
"We have expert opinion that the land is not suitable, it cannot be a sanitary landfill, there has to be a plan," Moreno said.
Rodriguez, on the other hand, said there is a need to fully implement the ecowaste law. But he pointed out that to effectively implement the law, segregation at the source has to be observed.
"The law requires segregation of garbage, the barangay will collect it, and [it will be] brought to the landfill where it will be buried and covered with 3 meters of soil," Rodriguez said.
Both Emano and Rodriguez said they will use the land purchased in Barangay Canitoan as a landfill. But Moreno insisted careful planning is required, since the land is a cliff and is unsuitable to be used as a landfill.
He added that under his term, the controlled closure of the dumpsite had started. The city government is still looking for a more suitable land that will comply with the requirements of a sanitary landfill.
All 3 agreed that the Zayas dumpsite must be closed to comply with the ecowaste law.
The city is also plagued with traffic and mobility problems. Decades of poor urban planning now affect the city’s growth, with people experiencing gridlock amid the construction boom of high rise buildings.
In 2012, the city purchased a traffic system worth P91 million, but the system is not appropriate for the city's growth.
On Thursday, Emano boasted that it was under his administration when the city modernized its traffic system.
He said he authorized the purchase of the traffic system. After just 4 years, however, the new traffic system is already faulty and adds to the traffic problem instead of solving it.
Moreno, for his part, said the city needs planning to solve traffic.
As the topic shifted to the city's largest public market, Cogon, the candidates discussed the issue of congestion, since vendors now occupy the streets to sell their wares.
Moreno said vendors must be asked to go back inside the public market. This will clear the roads and make them accessible to the public.
But Rodriguez lambasted Moreno, as the latter appeared to have forgotten about Puerto market – a market badly in need of improvement.
Moreno said that during his term, it was already eyed for transfer to a more suitable site. He lamented, however, that the city council allied with Emano kept on blocking his program.
Rodriguez said he will review and modernize the city's public market. He also vowed to keep the vendors inside the market, away from the streets.
On taxation, Moreno was put on the defensive, as businessmen complained of high taxes during his term.
Emano and Rodriguez both hit Moreno and pointed out that many businesses relocated to nearby towns during Moreno's term to avoid the city’s high tax rate.
Moreno shot back, saying that he did not raise or introduce new taxes, but instead implemented what is allowed by the law: proper, consistent tax collection.
Moreno said he merely implemented the 2003 tax code, which was not implemented under Emano's term.
But Emano said there were no problems with taxes during his term. Moreno cut him short by saying it was during Emano’s term that the city lagged behind similarly sized cities when it comes to tax collections.
"Under your term, you employed an engineer as a city treasurer," Moreno told Emano.
Rodriguez, for his part, said he will collect taxes appropriately, should he become the next mayor.
Drugs and crime
During the debate, Rodriguez also slammed Moreno, saying the city's crime index went up under Moreno's term. Now Cagayan de Oro ranks 5th among Philippine cities with the highest crime index.
Moreno, however, said that the crime index is on a per capita count, "There are about 600,000 people living in the city, and on any given day, there are about 1.2 million people here," he added.
But Rodriguez said Moreno allowed crime to prosper, with the most notable one being the Rosaria Arcade bombing in July 2013, when a bomb blast killed 8 people.
Rodriguez said if he wins, he would tap all barangay tanod and security guards as force multipliers to the city's 1,000 policemen.
Meanwhile, Emano said that while he was mayor, his governance was so anchored on peace and order, he even joined his policemen's night patrol. Emano also pointed out there was no bombing incident under his term.
A quick fact check, however, showed there were 4 bombing incidents during Emano's term: the Agora bus terminal bombing in 1999, Alexandria hotel bombing in October 2012, a bank bombing in 2010, and another bomb explosion in Cogon Market.
During the debate, Moreno again blamed the city council for blocking his programs for peace and order. This drew flak from the audience.
But Rodriguez blamed the poor leadership of Moreno for the proliferation of drugs and crime in the city. He vowed to come out swinging against drugs in the city if he wins.
While the 3 candidates were friendly with each other during the debate, the crowd's reactions were more passionate. They cheered for their chosen candidates and heckled opposing bets.
Emano asked the crowd to junk Moreno and Rodriguez, saying he alone can take the city back to its former glory.
But Moreno said his performance speaks for itself. He said he was able to transform the city, invest in education, improve tax collection, and streamline business processes.
Rodriguez, on the other hand, offered himself and his team as an alternative to his opponents' brand of politics.
Emano also called for clean and honest elections on May 9, as he repeatedly accused Moreno of cheating in the 2013 election.
Emano himself was convicted for a 1995 electoral fraud case. – Rappler.com
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