Know Your Candidates: Baguio City’s vice mayoralty candidates

THE race for the city’s second top post and presiding officer will feature four incumbent councilors, one come backing former city official and a new comer.

With barely a few days leading to the May 13 2019 mid-term elections, SunStar Baguio will be coming out with stories on candidates seeking different positions in the local posts.

Rene Cortes

FORMER Baguio City OIC vice mayor Atty. Rene Cortes is once again running for the same position with the objective of serving the people providing legal services for those who have less in life.

The 76–year–old will focus on approving relative ordinances that would benefit the citizens of the city.

“Councilors who draft and pass ordinances should put into their minds that once elected councilors, they do not belong to any party anymore but to the people of Baguio City. If an ordinance is supposed to benefit the people of Baguio, then that should be the case and not the political party,” Cortes said.

Cortes said, as a presiding officer who legislates with the city council, these laws should anchor on lessening the impact on the continuing degradation of the city in terms of water resources, traffic, peace and order and over population.

“It has always been my position that our city has been overcrowded, over populated and it is about time that we adopt the BLISTT theory where we can expand to our neighboring municipalities. There is a need to look for additional supply of water, aside from contributing to the traffic, that is why we should formulate ordinances to somehow limit the number of business establishments and population if that can be done. We also need to discipline our people so that they will learn to love Baguio,” said Cortes.

He also believes the city’s major tourism activity has always been abused.

“I believe Panagbenga has been abused. We have invited so many people to a point that we are overpopulated. I also believe there is a need for more improvements in terms of tourism, and we want House involved in the Panagbenga to account to the people in terms of proper auditing,” Cortes stated.

Cortes is also keen on creating programs on the preservation of heritage sites in Baguio.

“We must keep in mind that Baguio City is a conglomeration of different cultures. We are practically the center of different cultures and I would find it very difficult to have a Baguio culture. I agree that we have to have a heritage program for the city that would ensure the preservation of our remaining heritage sites,” Cortes said.

He is vehemently against any moves by any sector to close Baguio City for rehabilitation and insists this should be critically studied and suggests if needed, must be done little by little.

Cortes also offers his possible solution in quelling illegal settlers within the city’s watershed.

“There is only one solution to preserve our watersheds. I think we should remove all informal settlers from our watersheds. We should find a relocation site for the illegal settlers, because if we allow their continuous stay in our watersheds, they will destroy our sources of water,” he laments.

The legal luminary stresses this election, it is important for the electorate of Baguio City to scrutinize the candidate’s track record.

“Nasa kamay ang tunay na pagbabago. I agree na ang eleksiyon po ay hindi laro, an election is not a joke. Ang eleksiyon po ay hindi popularity contest. Kayo po, the voters of Baguio, the fate of the city is in your hands by choosing and voting for the capable honest candidates. Ilang beses na po natin sinasabi na kailangan nating ng pagbabago, pero bakit hangang ngayon wala parin tayong pagbabago. Kasi tayo mismo, hindi nagbabago and kung sino ang popular dyan, we vote for the popular candidate,” Cortes added.

Elmer Datuin

INCUMBENT City Councilor Elmer Datuin have set his platform of governance through effective leadership.

Datuin has lined up several action plans to address priority concerns if elected as vice mayor.

“With your precious support and vote, our people can reliably count on me to give my utmost experience, competence, and character as a long-time servant-leader in making Baguio always a center of education, tourism and business worth handing over to the next generation of leaders and citizens working together for a commonly shared future,” the lawmaker explained.

Datuin chose to mount these action points under the umbrella of an Aksyon Agad platform, purposely to serve not just as a call for speedy government action, but a call to action on matters and concerns that have an impact on the life the city’s residents under a modernizing highly urbanized city like Baguio.

“In everything we plan, design, formulate, and act on, Aksyon Agad should motivate us to spare no minute in dealing with pending issues affecting the way we live,” Datuin said.

Among his specific action plan is an affective partnership between the executive and legislative departments.

“Aksyon Agad on major policy initiatives addressing concerns on environmental preservation and nourishment, remedial legislation on better traffic management, and new ordinances providing incentives for investments for new growth centers outside CBD on education, tourism, trade and business, and other environment-friendly development efforts,” the vice - mayoralty candidate stated.

“Aksyon Agad on timely and relevant policy moves to upgrade peace and order conditions, better designed infrastructure reforms on road projects, stronger mountain protection engineering systems, well-designed traffic management control, and increased government action on licensing and renewals,” added Datuin.

As an effective presiding officer of the Sangguniang Panlungsod, Datuin proposes Aksyon Agad for shorter time-bound system of filing, deliberating, and action process on proposed resolutions and ordinances.

“Aksyon Agad in forging consensus among councilors to require public hearing on all matters classified as urgent and categorized as policy concern; Aksyon Agad in setting stricter guidelines for the use of public funds on out-of-town work-related travel and the prudent use of government vehicle and service driver,” he said.

On remedial or new legislative initiatives, Datuin stresses an Aksyon Agad in enacting the Baguio City Master Development Plan, Aksyon Agad in enacting the Comprehensive Land Use Plan for Baguio City, Aksyon Agad in enacting the strategic master plan for development dispersal on education, tourism, trade and business for Baguio City and the neighboring towns of La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay under the BLIST Program on sharing resource and benefits.

Aksyon Agad in enacting the Baguio business opportunity plan for strategic growth, Aksyon Agad in enacting appropriate Resolution seeking to secure national government approval, by way of amendatory national legislation, for delegation to local governments of powers and authority on matters, issues and concerns well within LGU authority under the Local Government Code, through the exercise of the general welfare clause.

Datuin reiterated the Aksyon Agad in enacting urgent legislation authorizing development of a Master Plan for Market Modernization and Satellite Markets Development and Upgrade, Aksyon Agad in enacting urgent legislation funding the planting and sustainable care of One Million Trees per year in watershed areas and other protected zones, Aksyon Agad in enacting urgent legislation reviewing the budgetary allocations of the City Schools Board for possible re-alignment into strengthening the K to 12 learning and teaching process.

“Admittedly, alone, I cannot accomplish much. But with us staying together, standing shoulder to shoulder, we can accomplish the vital mission of endeavoring an envisioned better Baguio well ready to provide our children and theirs a future secured to serve succeeding generations of citizens and leaders,” Datuin said.

Peter Fianza

FORMER city administrator and now Councilor Peter Fianza runs on a simple platform to create a new comprehensive master development plan for the city which is the heart of legislation.

His legislative agenda is a systemization and efficient leadership in the collegial city council.

The simplicity of his platform hits the heart of city needs, in his view, the creation of new master development plan is key to guide the city in the development for all sectors with the present plan of the city set to expire in 2022.

“2019 is the last phase of the implementation of the comprehensive master development plan of the city, we will be having the opportunity to have a redirection for the City of Baguio,” Fianza said.

To do this, Fianza plans to enjoin a multi-sectoral group to create the new master development plan, bringing in voices of all sectors in its crafting, allowing participation from citizens with seminars, training and workshops will empower the citizenry to aid in the creation for the plan.

“We will gather ideas and collate them, classify them to be able make use of ideas of all,” he added.

For the business sector, Fianza plans to hasten the ease of doing business in the city for the 19,000 legitimate business in the city which is increasing yearly.

“We are now looking at an increase in business activities, we have to consider the permitting process, we have to shorten the process have more business operating legally and to attract more for the city,” Fianza quipped.

Fianza admitted the budget of city is very small and plans to increase resources by finding other sources of revenue of the city “so we can come up with a true prioritization of what the city needs.”

He was appointed as a city administrator in 2005 -2010 and was since tagged as an “action man” for his swift action on issues and his engagement with the public in resolving an impasse.

He was elected into office in 2010 and has completed his three terms as councilor.

Fianza is a lawyer by profession and took his schooling at the University of the Cordilleras and graduated Cum Luade in 1978 took and passed the bar the year after.

He is running as an independent candidate but is in alliance with Tony Boy Tabora and Peter Rey Bautista.

Felizardo Garcia

FELIZARDO Garcia a neophyte among seasoned politicians gunning for vice mayor in the city.

Taking his roots in disaster management and response, he intends to make this the heart of his platform saying response, rescue, first aid, relief operations and disaster management is key to making the city resilient.

Garcia has been a member of the Baguio–Benguet Public Information and Civic Action Group (BB-PICAG) since 1974 and has advocated for a safe and responsive community since. He has served as an operations chief for the civic group and has become president five times over.

His platform is based on good governance and an upgrade of disaster management with standards to be set in the local council to be complied with.

“There are a lot of laws created for the city and it is time to implement them, there are those who have been there for three decades now... we need new and fresh ideas, nawala na ang lakas ng loob nila, malakas lang ang loob nila pag nag kampanya,” Garcia lamented.

Garcia plans to involve the grassroots into his legislative agenda if given the chance to sit as vice mayor by holding office in each barangay on a schedule to be able to talk and listen to people in all areas.

“I think it is a way for me to see firsthand what is happening,” Garcia added.

Garcia is a Baguio boy who remembers his younger days at the market where their family had a store. He now takes his growing up years as a basis for wanting to make the market area better in management, sanitation and zoning, which is in his opinion, one of most overlooked areas in the city.

Garcia is also against the Uniwide deal and wants to implement a market zoning scheme to set into place order in the area as well as safety for all.

“The market was so clean before that if you drop you candy, you won’t be afraid to pick it up again. Now it’s a different case,” he added.

For the education sector, Garcia will push for a comprehensive disaster management course as well as basic life support, first aid, pre hospital care and incident command system for high schools to equip the youth with life skills they can use for themselves and the community.

Garcia is running as an independent candidate with little funds and manpower and has shunned most of donations offered to him as he wants to have no debt of gratitude towards anyone.

Michael Lee Lawana

INCUMBENT Liga ng mga Barangay Representative to the Baguio City Council, Engr. Michael Lawana hopes to be the next vice mayor come May 13.

His committee chairmanship on barangay affairs, youth welfare and sports development manifests his interest in supporting the grass roots levels.

During his incumbency, he was responsible for the passage and approval of the creation and establishment of the Baguio City Sports and Development Council and approval of the sports incentives ordinance to which he authored, aside from his organizing and support to various youth development programs of the Task Force Youth Development of the City from 2014 to 2018.

Lawana also assisted the 128 barangays in the enactment and approval of their respective barangay annual budgets and tax or revenue ordinances.

His support to the barangays led to the conduct and facilitation of training programs and seminars for capacity building of barangay officials who underwent the Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management training in Subic, Olongapo, the 1st Barangay Youth Leadership Summit, the Anti-Illegal drugs summit, the Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Summit, and the Assembly of the Liga ng mga Barangays.

Lawana assisted various umbrella association and organization of the Liga ng mga Barangays in Baguio City with their seminars and trainings like the Association of Barangay Kagawads, Secretaries, the Federation of Barangays Tanods, and the Barangay infrastructure Bids and Awards Federation aside from procuring equipment, furniture and vehicle for the barangays.

With his support to the 128 Barangays, Lawana sees a better action or response to the needs of the barangays once elected as Vice Mayor since he would be part of the legislative arm of government which may create barangay oriented ordinances relevant to their needs.

“I am honored, flattered and thankful. As we continue to campaign for the remaining days, I call the attention of my supporters, campaigners, friends and families to maintain what we have started for a clean, no mudslinging and no black propaganda campaign,” Lawana expressed.

Faustino Olowan

INCUMBENT councilor Faustino Olowan, a lawyer by profession, describes himself as a student leader, fighting in the streets in his university days, and was the youngest elected board of director of Beneco in 1998 and in 2001 the youngest councilor voted into office which started his political career.

Olowan also served as a barangay chairman at Lucnab and boasts of being a four termer councilor since.

Olowan’s vision statement is for an authentic humanist and democratic government that is responsive to the needs of the changing times particularly to the people of Baguio in their quest for self-realization, equal access to resources and opportunities for an improved way of life.

His objective is to be an effective government official encompassing transformation and development of Baguio City constituents and environment, and a government of transparency, consultative and pro –active governance.

Olowan was one of the co–author of the Sports Code of the City of Baguio, and with that eyes the city as a Sports Capital of the Philippines.

The vice mayoralty candidate said he will push for the codification of all ordinances and resolutions including barangay ordinances and resolutions to be displayed at the lobby of city hall and a restructuring the council rules and regulations to attune to the changing times

Olowan also wants to strengthen oversight committee functions of city council and continue the investigative functions of the body.

He see a sectoral and people empowerment by participation on crafting laws/ordinances and resolutions and sectoral representation in the Baguio city council to include senior citizens, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, LGBT’s and urban poor women.


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