IT HAS been a tough 15 years in politics for reelectionist San Fernando Mayor Lakambini “Neneth” Generans Reluya, beginning in 2004 when she first ran for town councilor.

Reluya, 53, has had her share of political tragedies, including a failure to secure a reelection in 2010.

But it was on Jan. 22 this year when her worst tragedy came.

Reluya, her husband and Association of Barangay Councils president Ricardo Reluya Jr. and four others were ambushed. Ricardo Jr. and two of his staff members did not survive.

The killing remains unsolved.

Reluya may have suffered injuries and emotional trauma, but she is using this to fuel her campaign for reelection.

What are her plans if she is reelected? What will her priorities be? Here are excerpts of SunStar Cebu’s interview with Reluya.

Your political opponent, Ruben Feliciano, alleges that you and your late husband were “drug protectors,” having accepted money from drug lord Franz Sabalones. He claims you have no moral ascendancy to become mayor. What do you think of this?

First of all, I just sat as mayor for two years and 10 months. Second, I have never recalled any action that would make me a drug protector. If he claims that, he has to put that in writing so I can sue him. They keep saying I’m a drug protector when even the National Government said I was not in the drug list. He should prove his allegation. As to claims that I have no moral ascendancy, excuse me, who is he to tell me that? Who is he to tell me to withdraw or die? I was elected mayor and elected by the people.

What is your leadership style?

I am a bridging leader. I need to check on the people on the ground and empower them, discover their talents and for them to be co-owners of these projects, programs and activities in my town. As a leader, I need to deep-dive in all barangays, to check the current status of their environment and the people.

What for you is San Fernando’s most pressing problem, and how do you plan to manage it?

Our pressing problem is the presence of people like Mr. Feliciano and his group because they destroy the image of San Fernando. If not because of them, we could have moved forward and soared high. So far, we are competitive and at par with other local government units.

What are your aspirations for San Fernando, and how do you plan to achieve these?

My aspiration is for San Fernando to continue to SHINE (Sustainable, Holistic, Inclusive, Nurturing, Empowering and Service Excellence). We want our projects and programs to SHINE through intensified people’s participation. The people have started to become involved in the planning and the implementation of projects and programs. Through this, we are creating a sense of co-ownership of the projects and programs.

How do you see San Fernando 10 years from now?

I see it as the new frontier of development and progress.

What is your edge over your opponents?

My integrity. I have the time, intellectual capability and manners.

What is your advocacy?

People empowerment—that our people become skilled, educated and empowered.

What are your programs for peace and order, jobs and livelihood, revenue generation and infrastructure development?

Peace and order. I plan to establish a municipal civil security unit to complement our police force. Its members will come from the barangay tanods and Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team. We also bought a property that we donated to the PNP for the construction of a new police station.

Jobs and livelihood. We are assisting our farmers by developing river fishery industries like tilapia production, among others. We allocated P10,000 per purok as seed money for their livelihood. We are also developing our human capital by developing future citizens from birth to early childhood. We notice that most of our exports are often laborers. I hope to change that by producing more professionals.

Revenue generation. We are trying to improve our public market as it is not earning enough. We are also in the process of reviewing our Revenue Code that would ask large industries like Taiheiyo and Mabuhay Cement for environmental fees.

Infrastructure development. We are currently developing alternative routes to address the traffic problem in our town. We have an ongoing road concreting project on a 38-kilometer stretch from San Fernando to Pinamungajan. This will connect southwestern Cebu to the eastern seaboard. If the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) proposed ro-ro (roll-on, roll-off) port in San Fernando would be realized, goods being delivered from Toledo City could be easily transported to the port through the San Fernando-Pinamungajan road. We are still awaiting word from the DOTr on the implementation of the P357-million ro-ro port. One big dream of mine is that we have to develop a reclamation project that will complement the DOTr’s port project.

Who are the leaders you look up to?

Former congressman and Talisay City Mayor Eduardo Gullas because he devoted his life to public service and his background is not tainted with corruption. Also, Samsam Gullas (Eddiegul’s grandson). Young as he is, he is dynamic and flexible.

ADMITTING that he is a “neophyte” when it comes to politics, businessman Ruben Feliciano said he never had plans to meddle in local politics until he met Mayor Reluya and her late husband.

Feliciano alleged that the Reluya couple double-crossed him and blocked his multi-billion-peso international port project.

The Zamboanga City native vowed, in his own words, to “restore morality” in San Fernando by giving the voters a leader who does not tolerate illegal drug use and corruption.

Obstacles that kept you from implementing your port project drove you to run for mayor. What are its actual benefits for the people of San Fernando?

It could have given the people job opportunities and additional revenue. It could have funded scholarships for deserving students to uplift the economic condition of young residents in San Fernando. With my project, the people have the opportunity to escape poverty.

What is your leadership style?

Should I become mayor, I would like to emulate the leadership style of President Digong (Duterte). He has done well in his campaign to rid our country of illegal drugs. If I become mayor, I assure you that illegal drugs in San Fernando will be eradicated in my time. I assure you it will be a bloody war.

What for you is San Fernando’s pressing problem, and how do you plan to manage it?

San Fernando’s pressing problem has always been its corrupt leadership and rampant illegal drugs. I plan to manage it by eradicating the roots of the illegal drug trade. If there are officials involved in the illegal drug trade, they better withdraw or die. I will restore discipline, law and order.

What are your aspirations for San Fernando, and how do you plan to achieve these?

I hope for San Fernando’s reputation to be restored, for discipline and law and order to be upheld and for illegal drugs and corruption to be eradicated.

How do you see San Fernando 10 years from now?

I see it as a potential city and for our people to become more empowered and become self-sustaining; and that it is illegal drug-free.

What is your edge over your opponent?

My edge is that I don’t take b****** from anybody. The people want a strong-willed mayor. I will give them that. The people want change. I will bring change.

What are your programs for peace and order, jobs and livelihood, revenue generation and infrastructure development?

Peace and order. I consider this a top priority because I want to restore order and discipline in San Fernando. I want to destroy illegal drugs. I want to follow Digong’s war on drugs and implement it in San Fernando. For me, there is no peace and order in San Fernando because of illegal drugs and the narcopoliticians. It is my duty to protect the people of San Fernando against criminality and illegal drugs. But I also want to spare the addicts. I plan to put up a rehabilitation center for recovering drug addicts. But the drug pushers and drug lords, they don’t deserve to be rehabilitated. They better evaporate or else they’ll die here.

Jobs and livelihood. My plan is to build my international port first because when that is done, the jobs will follow. The international port can provide additional opportunities and could provide scholarship programs for deserving students. It will also help attract more business owners to invest in San Fernando.

Revenue generation. San Fernando is losing revenue because of corruption. I promise to rid San Fernando of corruption and promote better governance. I believe that my dream of putting up an international port can bring more revenues. I can tap foreign investors to support this project. It’s 151 hectares with a reclamation project. It will have commercial and industrial areas and an international seaport.

Infrastructure development. For the longest time, San Fernando does not have a hospital. I plan to transfer the old municipal hall to a new building and convert the old one into a hospital. To solve the traffic problem, especially in the main highway, I plan to construct a flyover in Barangay Pitalo.

Who are the leaders you look up to?

President Rodrigo Duterte.