THE race for Talisay City mayor in the May 9, 2022 polls is between the top two officials of the southern Cebu city.

First-term Mayor Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas Jr. of the Alayon Party is running for reelection against erstwhile ally Vice Mayor Alan Bucao, who broke away from the group after what he alleged was a string of failed promises to field him as Alayon’s mayoral candidate that culminated in Gullas’ wife, Rhea Mae, being made the 2022 official bet, only to later switch places with Gullas.

What can reelectionist mayor Gullas and three-term vice mayor Bucao offer Talisaynons?

Name of candidate: Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas Jr.

Age: 37

Highest educational attainment: Master’s degree in Business Administration

Previous work experience: Assistant vice president for finance and administration for University of the Visayas (UV), manager of UV’s official college basketball team, congressman of Cebu’s first district from 2013 to 2019

1. What are the three most urgent problems in your city? If elected, how would you address them?

IMPROVE SOCIAL SERVICES. During my first three years, we were able to provide free hospital services and initiate a free “womb to tomb” program. I want to expand our social services. We are now working on establishing our own dialysis center in Talisay City to provide free services for dialysis patients, among others.

STREAMLINE TAX ASSESSMENT, COLLECTION & PAYMENT SERVICES. For the convenience of our taxpayers and faster and more efficient revenue collection, we have completed our first phase automation of our one-stop shop offices: the treasurer’s office, business and licensing office and assessor’s office. Phase 2 of the program will soon be implemented for other offices issuing other permits and licenses. We are also looking into outsourcing tax payment to authorized payment centers like banks and bayad centers.

RECOVER LOCAL ECONOMY AFTER COVID-19 AND TYPHOON ODETTE. I will focus on improving small and medium enterprises (SMEs). When our city was placed on general community quarantine, I tapped our Talisay City Chamber of Commerce and Industry to help promote our SMEs and train them to become more resilient. On my own level, I provided support to SMEs by promoting their business through my social media platform.

(City Hall) has done its part in promoting the ease of doing business to help budding businesses grow. For tourism, we initially reopened Liberation Park in Barangay Poblacion and improved its amenities. We also provided additional buildings where local businesses like our famous lechon sellers can do business and help promote our local tourism. Our famous Talisay lechon is central to my tourism plans.

2. What’s your leadership style?

Consultative and “Aksyon Agad.” I often ask the opinions of my constituents on what we should prioritize in my agenda. Once we have listened to their concerns, we act on them swiftly. I consult my leaders in the barangay level because everyone has a different problem. Different problems require different approaches to solving them.

3. How do you see Talisay 10 years from now?

More resilient. Earlier this year, the Province approved our Comprehensive City Development Plan that contains our vision for the city in the next couple of years. We hope to see our city as environmentally sustainable, disaster resilient, climate change adaptive, a tourism gateway and a destination to the south of Cebu.

4. Your opponent is using the fact that you were not born in Talisay as a primary issue against your reelection. Your response?

I apologize if I was not born here in Talisay, but I will not apologize for helping, serving and loving Talisay City and the Talisaynons. Whether you are a “lumad” or not, if you can provide better services to your constituents, I don’t think it will matter.

5. Eyeing any big-ticket projects?

I dream of setting up our own sports center where we can host big sports events. Another project in the works is to create a recreational park at City Hall. Aside from our Plaza Talisay, we want to put up other amenities such as exercise areas and playgrounds for the kids. I also want to develop an Olympic quality skate park. I also want to improve our local health care system, arming our barangay health units to be more responsive to emergency health crises.

Name of candidate: Alan Genson Bucao

Age: 62

Highest educational attainment: Doctorate in Human Resource Management

Work experience: 20 years as human resource practitioner of various companies in Cebu, including as former human resource head of San Miguel Corp.; currently managing director of a business owned by the family; Talisay vice mayor (2010 to 2013, 2016 to 2019, 2019 to 2022)

(Bucao’s answers, delivered predominantly in Cebuano, have been translated into English.)

1. What are the three most urgent problems in your city? If elected, how would you address them?

The most important is transparency. We should show the public how much Talisay’s budget is and what it has been allocated for. Second is still transparency! We should inform residents of all contracts entered into by Talisay City, especially long-term contracts involving large sums. Third is to put the right persons in the right jobs in City Hall because it is common here that there are people not functioning according to their position.

I will also focus on our education, because we see Talisay City College being used for politics. Our scholars have been used for politics. Even the president is already being used as the campaign manager of our opponent. Our focus should be to give our youth the right education so they can build a strong foundation for employment.

In the past, the teachers of our Talisay City College were topnotchers. But nowadays, you can no longer find topnotchers, so there’s something wrong with the school’s management. We should also give support to our public school teachers because they only earn so much. For teachers assigned in remote barangays who can’t go to work when it rains or return home after dark because they have no vehicle, our plan is to provide a dormitory.

The main focus of Barug Lumad Talisaynon would be health services and security, social services, infrastructure development, skills training and livelihood, business and economy, environment and aquatic resources, peace and order and traffic management, and tourism development.

2. What’s your leadership style?

We will adopt situational leadership, which is a combination of authoritative and democratic. Whatever the situation of Talisay at the moment, we will use the kind of leadership we want to implement for that.

3. How do you see Talisay 10 years from now?

I believe ang 20 years nga nawagtang sa Talisay makita nato within 10 years. We will see a bright and prosperous Talisay City.

4. How do you explain your changing political affiliations?

I was the Number 1 opposition in the past due to my loyalty to the (now ruling) Gullas family. They used me; they gave me issues that I could throw against my opponents.

Then I became part of the administration when I became councilor and vice mayor. Now, I’m back to being in the opposition because they broke their promise (to field me as mayor) and it seems it’s just been forgotten that once upon a time, I also had a big contribution to the Alayon party.

In 2007, I ran under the opposition because the lineup was already full. I sought the permission of former mayor, now congressman Eduardo Gullas, saying that if I won, I’d return and take my oath before him. When I won as first councilor and Lani Abarquez as vice mayor, we both went to UV. We took our oath before Congressman.

In 2004, I was also not included in the lineup, so I told Sir Eddie to let me run as an independent city councilor. After I won, I still went to Sir Eddie to take my oath. That’s what I mean when I say I made sacrifices and that there were promises.

When the agreement was not upheld, I just learned from others that there were already plans against me. I had not yet even decided to run against them, but I was already destroyed on social media. I’m only human. Even a humble person would reach the end of his rope. Maybe I have another mission: This is a very big opportunity for a lumad Talisaynon to stand up for Talisay. I’ll know how to solve problems because I’m here in Talisay and I’m a Talisaynon.