Friday, October 11, 2013

Defending Domogan, Mayor of a quarter of Baguio City

*My column in the Oct. 13 issue of Cordillera Today 

A meme floated around social networking websites showed a signage at Burnham Park purportedly warning park-goers that a permit is necessary when exercising at and taking pictures of Burnham Park. This altered photograph was shared around online and that’s how I got to know about it. For those who don’t know what a meme is, defines it as "an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture." In this case, it was an altered image of an actual signage located at the newly-built fountain of what was once known as the Rose Garden. That photo of the actual signage was shared around too online too, and that’s how I got to know about it.

The first photo is an expression of a sentiment: Burnham Park must remain free and open to the public. It came about after people learned of the charges being imposed by the City Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO) on exercise groups that use various areas of the park every morning. They are led by volunteer fitness instructors who, in turn, get a little compensation for their effort from donations from mothers, fathers, senior citizens, in fact people of all ages who attend these exercise sessions. A great alternative to enrolling in any of the swanky expensive fitness gyms in the city that charge an arm and a leg for one to get toned arms and legs. At Burnham Park, one gets to exercise amidst the scent of pine and warmed by the bright Baguio sun rise, for a song, really.

They are making money, and they should pay, was basically how CEPMO summed up their defense of the charges imposed on the groups. Otherwise, individuals who wish to jog around the park or do any other exercise, or hobbyists who wish to take photos of Burnham Park, are free to do so.

Former local media man Jogin Tamayo, now based in Canada, but whose continued advocacy of relevant issues in Baguio makes it seem like he never left, is among the loudest voices protesting this move by the city government. Ryan Olat Mangusan, the Mayor’s “punong-abala” did not take this sitting down, and now the words “libel” and “politically motivated” are being thrown about between the two.

Mangusan’s defense of Domogan was shared around online too, “BURNHAM PARK IS FREE FOR ALL, except those who use the premises for commercial purpose or simply those activities that require paying of fees,” his online announcement claimed. That makes sense, except that the exercise groups do not “require fees,” and thrive on voluntary donations. Besides, we’re not talking about millions of pesos for ERS machines here, nor tens of thousands for a failed fake snow show on Session Road – now these are the things that should merit a charge, a court charge that is.

And who are “these people?” They are citizens of Baguio City, of which Mauricio Domogan is the Mayor, also considered as the so-called “Father of the City.” But the words coming out of City Hall are all but those coming from a father. Mangusan must remember that his boss isn’t only the Mayor of those who voted for him, but of every single citizen of Baguio. Go ahead and enjoy the praises being heaped by your minions, but it is your responsibility to address the issues of everyone else in the city. Remember that only roughly a quarter of the city’s voting population chose our current Mayor, three quarters either chose someone else or did not bother to choose. I remember the barbed words that came out of the Mayor’s office, and family, when people criticized the move of Domogan to unilaterally remove Baguio geographically from Benguet and defied Malacanang’s suspension of classes due to heavy rains not so long ago – these “children” were called “bobo” and “tanga” for looking up to their father for guidance.

Mangusan took offense when the altered photo of the signage at the park spread like meningococcemia online. But really, how different is it from the signs that City Hall put all over the city labelling Baguio as “clean and green?”

So Mangusan, on Domogan’s behalf, launches an attack – against his own boss’ “children.” This just reinforces the belief that our current Mayor is only the Mayor of those who voted for him, those who always agree with him, those who toe his line. And those who show a hint of dissent? They are considered the enemy.

That is not leadership. That is dictatorship.

Oh, and by the way, referring to it, as I did earlier in this article, as “what was once known as the Rose Garden” was not a mistake. It really is hardly a Rose Garden anymore. But that’s another story, but one that’s not too different.

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