By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – This city’s new elected mayor, veteran councillor cum media practitioner Mohammad-Ali “Bruce” Matabalao, has named deputy mayors aptly representing the four major sectors coexisting here for centuries.
The designation of deputy mayors for Muslims, Christians, Chinese and indigenous people (IP) was part of the major platforms of government Matabalao had advocated in the campaign period of the May 9, 2022 mayoral race.
In a recent interview by a local news network, Mayor Matabalao announced his impending issuance of an executive order forming a council of leaders that will be led by Deputy Mayors Abdullah Andang for Muslims, Tom Kalingasan for Christians, Junalad for IP, and Ongpin Yu Ekey for Filipino Chinese.
Matabalao explained that issues and concerns from the four sectors will be directly handled by the four deputies, who in turn shall relay to him with corresponding recommended solutions.
He pledged to heed the advice of the council through his deputies in pursuit of his avowed participative stewardship of this city.
“While I am desirous to oversee all our constituents and directly interact with them, I must admit that I cannot do it all alone,” Matabalao said in Filipino, in underscoring the essence of designating four deputy mayors.
In the recent electoral campaign days, Matabalao – a former three-term councillor and part-time journalist, vowed to do away with discriminatory and authoritarian style of leadership.
In the same interview by the Kutangbato news team, Matabalao cited a recent police report about the absence of all forms of violence or crime in the first week of his mayoralty reign. He officially assumed the mayor’s office last July 1 sans the traditional turnover of assets and responsibilities by the preceding administration.
News about absence of violence or crime even in a single day would come as “great relief” in this city where cases of life-taking incidents were commonly reported in the media almost daily, delighted residents said.
Matabalao attributed the feat to an increased “visibility” of police elements streets and corners of this city, which now forms part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao territory and is the official seat of BARMM bureaucracy.
He succeeded Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, who has consistently opposed the supervision authority of the BARMM governance and rejected all forms of services and assistance from the regional bureaucracy.
Matabalao ran for mayor in the May 9 polls and won under the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP), alongside his team-mate for vice mayor and majority members of their slate for the city council seats. UBJP is the political party of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and incumbent top BARMM officials.
Upon the succession of the Matabalao administration, the city police office has reportedly changed its guard. Residents including journalists deemed the past city police chiefs as “extremely bias” for the sitting mayor.
The new mayor has assured that his administration will see to it that the city police command would faithfully abide by their mandate as “protector” of the general public, regardless of politics, tribes and religion. (AGM)