Malilong: There’s no more fire in Val’s belly

Frank Malilong

NAGA City Mayor Val Chiong resigned because, according to him, he is getting old and his body can no longer take the rigors of being chief executive of his rapidly growing city.

In a field where age, even physical disability, is a non-factor, Val’s case stands out as an oddity. No one is ever past his prime in Philippine politics. The Filipino politician may not be able to walk on his own accord, may have recurring episodes of memory lapses or may have continence issues, but to him quitting is out of the question.

Chiong is still relatively young and physically fit. He plays tennis almost every day and can outfox much younger opponents. So why is he saying that there is no more fire in his belly?

When we interviewed Val on “Frankahay Ta” yesterday morning, he basically repeated what he has already told the media. He is tired and wants to rest and give way to the younger generation.

But when did he start getting tired, I asked him. After all, it was only six months ago that he sought and earned another term as mayor. Why the sudden change of heart?

It was late last year, he revealed. That must have been the time that he was serving a preventive suspension in connection with a criminal case filed against him for granting a provisional business permit to a competitor of a gas company. Although he refused to say that the case made him decide to quit, he admitted to feeling frustrated because he did nothing wrong.

Naga City is one of the fastest growing cities in the Visayas, and it was Val who presided over this growth, creating the environment that made it easy for investors to do business in his city. It would be ironic if the efforts to make Naga business-friendly would turn out to be the aggravation that made him decide to resign.

If it’s any consolation, Val’s resignation will not take effect until March 16. Who knows if between now and then he will change his mind or will be persuaded by a higher authority to do so. The incumbent vice mayor is his daughter Kristine Vanessa, who has already served one term as a mayor. She is a lawyer and will no doubt be as good as Val, perhaps even better, but it is he who has a contract with the people of Naga who elected him mayor last year.

He has to honor that contract unless it is really physically or legally impossible for him to do so. Being tired is not enough.

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Last Sunday’s column was a wish list. I thank Cebu City Mayor Edgar Labella for granting almost all of them. He talked about the things that I and, I’m sure, so many other Cebuanos wanted to hear during the city’s Charter Day Anniversary awards night at the Waterfront Hotel: Traffic, education, housing, poverty alleviation, garbage disposal, the environment and water, among others.

In a night full of platitudes (because politicians are loath not to give them), the mayor’s address stood out. It was both a report card and a lesson plan. I hope we will see more of them in future Charter Day celebrations. We need to see the vision, the strategy and the gap, if any, in the execution. We also want to know the specific timelines.

This year’s charter day celebration was made even more memorable by the city’s conferment of the Order of Rajah Humabon Award on Dr. Resil Mojares. All the awardees were deserving but none more so than the recipient of the highest honor that the city can confer. Resil’s recognition was long overdue.