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THE MAYORS AND THE PANDEMIC

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

April 29, 2020

Mayor Madeleine Yorobe Alfelor-Gazmen initiated the use of a digital quarantine pass (unified Q-Pass) they are now using in Iriga City. Using mobile phones, the App provides a QR code and deploys cloud technology to monitor constituent movement during the pandemic; and to simplify contact tracing.

She has also focused, correctly, on disease prevention in a city without a big hospital. Mayor Madel is clearly working with the bare facts about the city she is governing—reckoning relative preparedness for health care as a pandemic blows through, relative food security and supply chain flows, relative tech savvy that can be mobilized, and so forth — to secure collective survival.

In this sense, Iriga City in Bicol connects with the Pasig City of Mayor Vico Sotto, the Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte of Mayor Rommel Arnado, the Marikina City of Mayor Marcy Teodoro, the Iloilo City of Mayor Jerry Treñas, the Baguio City of Mayor Benjamin Magalong, and a number of other significantly performing cities, in constellating a pattern of LGU strength and importance.

Under the present dire circumstances, it seems very much the case that the towns and cities of the Philippines are the theaters where the pandemic will be.

Mayor Vico Sotto has not made a single misstep since the Enhanced Community Quarantine was imposed; in fact, not since the 30-year old mayor assumed power in 2019. Mayor Marcelino “Marcy” Teodoro was ahead of most municipalities in setting up a local testing center. Widely appreciated for his pro-active stance, the mayor has been able to deploy goodwill into raised discipline.

Iloilo City is now nicknamed “Wakanda”—not exactly as a joke. It does indeed exude a glow from excellent management with visible, quantifiable results. Mayor Treñas established 240 community kitchens, and a number of dormintories for frontliners; and as early as January, worked with his provincial governor to cancel direct flights to and from Hongkong.

Progressive politics can find opportunities in local contexts, and some can be sweet and surprising. Mayor Treñas, responding to disturbing news that frontliners have been refused return to homes because they are shunned as contagious, worked to amend the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance. He expanded it to include strictures against business ostracizing frontliners.

There are more accounts of LGU’s coming paradoxical coming-of-age during the direst of times.

Is this happening because the national government has vacated the space of leadership? Is the LGU suddenly the center of gravity, during the greatest challenge of the fabric of society since the Second World War, because it has 𝘢𝘭𝘸𝘢𝘺𝘴 been the center of gravity in the Philippine archipelago?

In other words, is the centrality of the mayor in the Philippine scheme of things a circa pandemic or an old cultural form?

The answer would have to be: both and more. This is an archaic cultural proclivity in a Philippine archipelago where polity has been, in large measure for thousands of years, village-centric. This archaic cultural bent happens to still be existing at a time when the Mayor-President is obviously way in over his head.

But this simultaneously ancient-and-new turn to mayors does not explain everything. Not the slowness of superstars like Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso of Manila to govern with aplomb. Certainly not the paralysis of the Mayor-President in the face of a catastrophe so unbelievably immense, he is reduced to whining.

Prehistory and current events together provide quick, strong answers that are inadequate. 𝘗𝘢𝘭𝘢𝘪𝘴𝘪𝘱𝘢𝘯. 𝘗𝘦𝘳𝘰 𝘪𝘪𝘴𝘪𝘱𝘪𝘯. 𝘈𝘣𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘢𝘯.

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