Roxas City Mayor Alan Celino

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Mayor Celino: Getting things done his own way
Wednesday, October 27 2010

Mayor Angel Alan CelinoWhen a David slew a Goliath

After being in office for 100 days, Mayor Alan Celino's case is still being talked about and his rise to "political stardom" remains the favorite topic in local coffee shops. Even the mayor himself considers his win over then Mayor Vicente Bermejo in the last election a "sweet victory."

It was a case of a David slaying a Goliath.

Backed by the powerful machinery of the Liberal Party, Celino, who exuded much confidence and lots of energy during the campaign season, won the hotly-contested mayoral race over Bermejo by a slight margin of 691 votes. Celino garnered 33,122 votes while Bermejo of the Ugyon Kita Capiz chalked up 32,431 votes.

Celino shed "tears of joy" shortly after his proclamation. He practically ended Bermejo's more than two decades stint in local politics and put a halt to his continuous winning streak during elections.

Indeed, why did the then formidable Bermejo lose to Celino?

We can cite a number of reasons to explain this political debacle. But first, we must consider the Roxas factor, which is about the political clout and influence wielded by former Sen. Mar Roxas and his mother, Judy Araneta-Roxas.

Bermejo, after all, is seen as the creation of the Roxases. A case of spring cannot be higher than its source?

To better understand this political reality, we must go back to the time (1998 elections) when Bermejo, at the end of his term as Panay mayor, was fielded by the Roxases to run against the charismatic and popular reelectionist Capiz Gov. Esteban Contreras, who dropped the LP in favor of Lakas.

The Roxases went all out for Bermejo, with Mrs. Roxas reportedly spending a night in Dumarao just to convince Victor Tanco Sr. (now governor) to be Bermejo’s running-mate. Because of the persuasive powers of Mrs. Roxas and Mar, Tanco eventually agreed even though, he would explain later, he had prior commitment with Contreras.

In short, the Bermejo-Tanco tandem won over the Contreras ticket. And the rest, as they say, is history.

While the Bermejo camp projected much confidence during the campaign period, the LP practically left no stone unturned in its “media offensive” against Bermejo. The LP camp even succeeded in having the mayor’s close relative talk publicly about the alleged anomalous land deal of Bermejo when he was still steering the Capitol.

That Bermejo did not pay much attention to what he considered as “black propaganda” launched against him did not in any way help maintain the political momentum he enjoyed since the start of the campaign. In fact, in only made people to believe more that there could have been some grain of truth to the allegations.
That the LP critics also used the internet to spew venoms at the Roxases and their allies did not help either because only few people (compared to those who listen to the radio) had access to the said information technology.

Despite Bermejo’s image as a popular leader, the recent polls proved that this was not enough to propel him to victory.

Hounded by such issues as the one-way traffic along Roxas Avenue, collecting a three-month advance rental fees from stallholders of Teodoro Arcenas Trade Center, changing the plate numbers of tricycles with his photo, clearing sidewalks of vendors and other illegal structures, alleged corruption issues, his being “elite,” Bermejo’s political machinery crumbled at the last hour.

But more than these, Bermejo’s defeat is seen more as a political matter, something of which he is accountable to his political masters. His case can be likened to that of a water which can never rise above its source.

What is an ordinary day like for Mayor Angel Alan Celino?

The mayor would usually wake up early, surf the internet, go to Church, pass by the Teodoro Arcenas Trade Center (TATC) and interact with the market employees and market-goers before returning home and reporting to City Hall.

While at the TATC, the mayor would assess the problems besetting the city’s premier market and discuss ways and means on how to solve them.

This has apparently borne fruit because after his 100 days in office, things have greatly improved at the TATC. There is now order on what used to be a messy system and that cleanliness is now very much evident around the market. Of course, the mayor –along with market administrator Nilo Araque -- has succeeded in instilling discipline among market occupants. Which is really a tall order considering that old habits die hard at the TATC.

By 8 a.m., the mayor would already be at his office at City Hall to entertain his constituents.

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The mayor doesn’t tolerate "ghost employees." Everybody at City Hall under his watch should be a working employee. He does not want to see them reporting to City Hall only every 15th and 30th of the month just to claim their salaries.

This could be the rationale behind his Pagbag-o (Change) battle cry. He wants to change things as he deems it fit and proper and, yes, to hell with his critics. As far as he’s doing the right thing, the mayor has nothing to worry about or explain to his critics.

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The mayor is also very much aware of the criticisms thrown against him and his administration, particularly with the way he allegedly deals with his political enemies.

The mayor pointed to the case of Ali Salvio Albaña, who was earlier relieved as head of the city civil registrar by then Mayor and now Congressman Antonio del Rosario. Despite the Order from the Court of Appeals reinstating Albaña to the post, the mayor said he could still have opted –with all his powers –to block his re –assumption to the position in deference to the feelings of a party-mate. But Celino said many would be affected, especially those whose requests for change or corrections of names, needed quick action. In this case, public interest would be sacrificed . And so he set aside any political action on Albaña's case.

Also, he explained, if he was really playing politics, he could also have removed Glenn Amane as City General Services Officer on account of his being identified with former Mayor Vicente Bermejo.

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The mayor is very much aware of the fact that he can’t really please everybody. As long as what he is doing is right and within the scope of his authority …as long as it is for the best of the city …then he really has nothing to worry.

You may not agree with what he does but, certainly, he would defend his right to do things his own way. In this case, it’s either you’ll hate or love Mayor Angel Alan Celino.

Quest for clean governance

What is so far the most important thing that Mayor Angel Alan Celino has done for the city?

Former city councilor Julius Abela provided the answer when he quipped: “ I think the most important achievement of Mayor Celino was restoring the faith, trust and confidence of people in government.”

Well said, Councilor Abela. The mayor, after all, has been misconstrued as having engaged in “too much “ politicking as he tries to put order in City Hall affairs and fix certain problems there that have, for years, taken roots and appeared hard to lick. But lo and behold! Even some of the officials and employees now realize that they won’t have much problems dealing with the mayor as long as they conform to what is right, proper and ethical.

As the mayor had put it, his moves of instituting reforms should not be taken personally.

This is not to say, however, that the mayor is a sacred cow. He, too, like anyone of us, is human and is, therefore, prone to commit mistakes. But the efforts of the mayor in straightening crooked ways at the city’s center of governance should be commended. If the mayor continues to live up to his "pagbag-o (change)" battle cry, then we can say there is indeed hope in the fight against corruption.

It’s too early, however, to judge Mayor Celino’s performance. What is heartening though is that he has already made some inroads in his quest for clean governance.
May this lead towards the realization of other worthwhile activities and endeavors -- with the mayor always keeping in mind the welfare and interest of the people as his primary consideration.

Towards achieving our dreams

The mayor, time and again, has stressed the need to change certain things if we want to move forward and accomplish our dreams for the city.

We all want a better city for us, for our children and our children’s children, right? But the mayor alone and the whole City Hall workforce cannot do it without us, the residents, doing our active participation. We all want a green and clean city? A gambling-free city? A drug-free city? Then we must complement the efforts of the mayor and other officials in making all these possible.

While the mayor tries to faithfully lead us, we the people must rally behind him on matters that affect our day-to-day affairs. The mayor himself welcomes criticisms and negative feedbacks as these would eventually guide him towards effective governance. But at the end of the day, let us give him also the prerogative as to which of these criticisms he would consider and which he would discard. One thing is sure though: Mayor Celino won’t do things that would prejudice or sacrifice the welfare of the city and its residents.