Sunday, July 5, 2015

Golden Epal

We in Laoag celebrated our golden anniversary as a city on June 19, and I am glad the activities were modest. Overall, the occasion was meaningful, and for good reason.

Indeed, there are a lot of reasons to be grateful for. Laoag today stands as one of the finest cities in the country, having reaped various distinctions including those on, but not limited to, the environment, peace and order, governance, literacy, and the arts. All these were achieved not due to one person or two, but on account of our collective good work as a people.

However, a few weeks before the celebration, tarpaulin posters of a former politician have dotted the city’s public spaces. The posters bear the name and face of ex-councilor Melvin de la Cuesta (yes, that guy who could not make up his mind on who he really witnessed was the killer of Laoag City Vice Mayor Jimmy Chua in 2005) and in big print, “Thank you so much for your research!”

Almost all who see the posters are puzzled. What research? And who is thanking him?

Let me give a background. The contentious tarpaulin posters proclaim Mr. De la Cuesta as “author of the Laoag City Charter Day Celebration,” a claim clearly belied by official records at the Office of the Sangguniang Panlungsod. True, he sponsored Draft City Resolution 2006-013 setting June 19 for the 41st Laoag Charter Day Celebration in 2006 and only for that year, but that resolution was junked by the city council with a vote of only 2 in favor and six against. The resolution was disapproved by most councilors, including lawyer Toto Lazo, because while Laoag City’s charter (RA 4584) was signed on June 19, 1965 by President Diosdado Macapagal, the same law stipulated January 1, 1966 as effectivity date after its approval by the people through a plebiscite.

Mr. De la Cuesta, therefore, is no author of the Laoag City Charter Day Celebration, not in 2006, not this year, and, hopefully, not in all of eternity.

The research being referred to here is Mr. De la Cuesta’s very simple effort of going to the National Library, and maybe the Senate archives, to find details about Laoag’s Charter. In the advent of the Internet, that is something even grade school pupils can do. Only real “researchers,” especially those who immensely contribute to society—for instance, scientists who successfully discover cure for cancer or HIV/AIDS, develop a machine producing free and sufficient electricity, or invent an equipment swiftly detecting and exterminating epal politicians–deserve such grand show of gratitude, but this is something Mr. De la Cuesta does not realize.

So, who is thanking him?

It is very obvious that the tarpaulin posters are self-advertisements. It is Mr. De la Cuesta thanking himself. The city government could not have propagated those tarpaulins because, according to well-placed sources, the top city officials ordered the removal of those posters in the downtown. Those hung in the barangays are still abound.

At least four of the incumbent city councilors are barred by term limits to run again next year, probably a golden opportunity seen by Mr. De la Cuesta—who, after ruining his credibility due to a controversial murder case that rocked Laoag, has perennially lost in elections in Laoag and Sarrat.

Mr. De la Cuesta made confusing testimonies on the said issue, flip-flopping on his testimonies before the Department of Justice dismissed the case for lack of probable cause.

If there is anyone we should be thankful to hence, it is our beloved city Laoag who has nurtured us in the past 50 years and more—not some flip-flopping, self-aggrandizing politician. But if indeed we are in the mood to thank individuals, how can we forget Congressman Simeon Valdez, who sponsored the bill for Laoag’s cityhood? And how about Eulalio Siazon, our city’s first mayor, who earnestly campaigned for a yes vote in the plebiscite?

Today, there are no tarpaulin posters in their honor, but they deserve to be remembered by a grateful people.

In an interview with Jopo Guerrero, Mr. De la Cuesta responded to this “epal” issue:

Ang masasabi ko lang, tayo pa na nagsakripisyo sa bayan at sa lungsod, tayo pa ang nakakatikim ng ganyang puna.”

Nice try at argumentum ad misericordiam, but these questions remain:

Who is thanking who?

What sacrifice is he talking about?

Is it appropriate to plaster one’s face all around the city when our focus should be dear Mother Laoag herself?

How big is his research to deserve such grand tarpaulins all around the city?

Why are our people, and it’s not just me, irritated with those posters?

And, why does he still miss the point: we hate epal politicians.

Mr. De la Cuesta went on to say:

Siguro mag-aral pa sila siguro. Hindi siguro nila alam ang ating nagawa kaya du’n na lang sila na nagcricriticize sa taong may nagawa.”

On the other hand, it’s precisely this reason why the people are aghast with those posters: They know, and thankfully they have not forgotten, what Melvin De la Cuesta has done and not done during one of Laoag City’s darkest times.

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