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Wednesday, August 21, 2019
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Seares: Doing an Isko Moreno in Cebu: Same resolve, with less hoopla

“Yung ginagawa ko ay normal na duties ng isang mayor.” --Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, on Dobol B sa News TV, July 25, 2019

HERE’S how Manila Mayor Franciso “Isko Moreno” Domagoso explains the line of thinking that has moved him to do what he has been doing since he assumed office last June 30.

To paraphrase Moreno:

[1] The things happening in Manila and many other cities and towns of the country are “abnormal” but have become “normal.” Traffic, clogged streets, uncollected garbage, corruption on the streets, inadequate public services and the like are abnormal. But because nothing was being done, people got used to all of it and they became normal.

[2] What he is doing as mayor may look abnormal, but it is the normal function of a public official.

What a change

A former movie actor who turned elective public official, Moreno beat in last May’s elections two much older and more experienced politicians, Joseph “Erap” Estrada and Alfredo Lim. Like many other challengers, he promised change.

But most Manilans and the rest of the country didn’t expect the massive changes he made in the first two weeks of his term.

The clearing operations on Manila’s congested main streets, notably the three Divisoria arteries and Plaza Miranda, were physical and highly visible. The images that he projected were those of a serious administrator and manager.

And the optics across the country were definitely good, impressing many people and prompting an ambassador to call him a “rock star.”

Spillover from Manila

Inevitably, residents of other cities, and towns as well, wondered if their own mayors could not do an Isko Moreno. Whatever is the rage at the national capital--be it food, fashion or style in governance--spills over to the rest of the country, specially urban centers like Cebu.

Not totally an Isko thing though. A local mayor cannot be a rash copycat of the Domagoso experiment, which is not certain yet of succeeding in the long haul. And the cost is exceedingly high, aside from the hard work and constant scrutiny, even as the mayor must do all that house-cleaning and house-keeping and tackle the other ills of his city.

Criticisms, threats

The price includes (1) criticisms of being anti-poor and not having a plan for those dislocated by the changes and (2) threats on Moreno’s safety and political career because of the anger among those he had hurt, including the “organizers” who had mulcted millions of pesos from thousands of Manila’s street hawkers and vendors.

Other city mayors face, albeit in smaller scale, similar problems spawned by the imbalance of industrial progress and poverty growth.

Frame of mind

What local chief executives may take a cue from Moreno is the frame of mind about doing what they are required to do under their oath of office.

Which in these times means ending the dysfunction, inefficiency and corruption of government. And stopping this abnormality, which many of us consider normal, and revert to the old normal.


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