By Susan Palmes-Dennis
Rockingham, North Carolina—As I write this, it’s only a few hours before we all ring in 2023 and for what it’s worth, 2022 was a real humdinger. But if anything, 2022 was a breakthrough year in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and after two years of restricted movement, it seems there will be more freedom for people to resume their pace of life and it’s about time we shrug off this albatross weighing heavily down our backs.
2022 was also an election year and from top to bottom, there was more or less a seismic change in leadership. From President Bongbong Marcos down to the local leaders, the voters have spoken and while all of us will have reservations about the new leaders, we will have to deal with the consequences of the collective choices of fellow Filipinos. This particularly also applies to Misamis Oriental province.
But first things first. Along with the change in leadership come the expected entry of new people in the bureaucracy of both Cagayan de Oro City Hall and the Provincial Capitol. I still have to collect info from the province but thanks to some friends/connections, I’ve learned that Mayor Rolando ‘Klarex’ Uy made good on his promise to effect a bottoms up revamp of the City Hall bureaucracy which took effect at the end of Dec. 31 or the first few seconds of New Year’s Day Jan. 1.
The revamp didn’t come overnight of course. Based on what I gathered from my sources, there was a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ of sorts between incumbent Mayor Klarex and his predecessor, former mayor Oscar Moreno in which Moreno supposedly asked Mayor Klarex to retain the employees hired during his nine-year tenure for at least six months starting June 30, when Moreno stepped down from office.
Aside from the casuals and job order employees, also affected were the department chiefs and assistant department chiefs who served during the nine-year Moreno administration and are co-terminus with him. Among those who departed is close friend and former protégé Maricel Casiño-Rivera. But to be accurate, she did resign from her post as city information officer to run for a Provincial Board (PB) seat in Misamis Oriental’s second district under the ‘One CDO-One MisOr’ banner of Moreno and his running mate Ayi Hernandez.
As fate would have it, she and Moreno lost their respective bids despite a gallant province-wide campaign. Still, I’m glad that Maricel is still quite active in the local media scene through the ‘Overtime’ program that she hosts with Moreno.
But there are some department ‘managers’ as Mayor Klarex calls them whose tour of duty during the Moreno administration was extended courtesy of Mayor Klarex under his administration. Their extension is evidence of the quality of work and service they delivered to the public. But the twin memos issued by Mayor Klarex may mean they either remain in service a few more months, or assume a lower rank in favor of a new appointee or dropped out altogether.
But that’s political reality in the Philippines where political alliances are forged only to be broken apart later at the drop of a hat or, in the case between Moreno–who lost his gubernatorial bid last May–and Mayor Klarex, who finally won the mayoral seat that he sought for over a decade, due to intrigues sown by the people around them. I won’t mince words, that appears to be what happened between them.
I saw the Bombo Radyo-CDO video that went viral on Facebook in which Moreno voiced his disappointment over what he described as his loss of direct access to Mayor Klarex during a Christmas party he hosted for the local media. When Mayor Klarex listened/watched the Bombo Radyo-CDO video, I must say that I admired his self-control as he thanked Moreno for helping him in a lot of things.
But the negative undercurrent seething beneath that self-control maintained by Mayor Klarex can be sensed and I didn’t actually finish watching the video out of fatigue and a pained sense of realization that it may, just may, signal the end of what I maintain to be a fruitful partnership of two leaders that benefitted and sustained Cagayan de Oro City in its brightest days—the awards, the modernization of the city-owned JR Borja General Hospital, the professionalization of City Hall’s bureaucracy etc.–and its darkest nights i.e the COVID-19 pandemic.
Again, that’s political reality and I recognize that. I also recognize that there are those who stand to benefit from the split and I can only question whether they have the best interests of Cagayan de Oro City in mind or their own self-interest. Anyway they’re big boys and whatever they decide they can live with it. And I’ve read some of the comments posted by netizens during that Dec. 23 episode of Mayor Klarex’s program and unsurprisingly, they were supportive of Mayor Klarex.
Civilian life may take some getting used to for Moreno and that’s understandable. And I don’t doubt that he can still serve in government in some capacity or another—a congressional seat maybe based on what my sources told me—but it’s perhaps definite that it won’t be anywhere near Cagayan de Oro City Hall in the immediate future.
And whether Moreno likes it or not, even he must realize that Mayor Klarex is now his own man and he is now the city’s local chief executive. Whatever decisions Mayor Klarex makes now and in the near future, his administration will stand or fall on them. I also want Mayor Klarex to succeed—I have a family living in Cagayan de Oro City–and one can only imagine what he can bring to Cagayan de Oro City if he is given two more terms. But again, it’s now Mayor Klarex’s turn to serve the City of Golden Friendship and it’s the Kagay-anons who will decide if he can serve them for an additional six more years.