By Jigger J. Jerusalem
PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte made good on his promise to City councilor-elect Joyleen Mercedes “Girlie” Balaba, a former TV personality and a known friend of Duterte and members of the First Family to lead the oath-taking if the latter wins.
Balaba said the President promised her during the campaign period that if she wins in the midterm elections, he will administer the oath-taking himself.
It was the former television journalist’s first try at politics but she topped the May 13 election results.
Based on the Commission on Elections’ final and official tally, Balaba garnered 74,568 votes, making her the number one city councilor in the 2nd district.
Balaba belongs to the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), Duterte’s political party. Incumbent city mayor Oscar Moreno is also a member.
Duterte’s promise will be a momentous move for the President and the newly elected legislators and local chief executive, Balaba said.
“This is historic because this will be the first time for a President to swear in local elected officials outside of Malacañang,” she said, adding that it will also be a first for the city officials to be sworn in by the chief executive.
Duterte’s appearance, Balaba said, is an “indication that Cagayan de Oro is nearer to the national government.”
She said it was Duterte who suggested that the oath-taking be held on June 12 as he has a prior engagement in Malabang, Lanao del Sur, for the hoisting of the Philippine flag in time for the 121st Independence Day commemoration on Tuesday.
“After the event in Malabang, he said he will be dropping by in Cagayan de Oro, to officiate the oathtaking,” Balaba added.
Taking an oath before Duterte was Moreno, Vice-Mayor Raineir Joaquin Uy, 1st District Rep. Rolando Uy, and 13 of the 16 city councilors, most of the incumbent officials.
Moreno said he was grateful that Duterte has administered the swearing-in despite the President’s hectic schedule.
“We know how busy he is, we know how many [local government units] in the country who would want their oath to be administered by the president. But on this very special day, June 12, the president is here and we are grateful for that,” Moreno told reporters on the sideline of the oathtaking ceremony.
The mayor added they have arranged another oathtaking on June 30, with former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. officiating.
Pimentel, Moreno said, has been his inducting officer for his first two terms as city mayor.
Absent during the oathtaking were city councilors-elect Lordan Suan and Jocelyn Rodriguez, and 2nd District representative-elect Rufus Rodriguez.
Suan belongs to the Padayon Pilipino regional party, while the Rodriguezes are officers of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP).
Together with the Sara Duterte-led Hugpong ng Pagbabago, Padayon Pilipino and CDP has formed an alliance in the previous elections.
City councilor-elect Zaldy Ocon’s absence in the ceremony was also noticed, although Moreno said the lawmaker has taken a low profile in the wake of the controversial spat between him and former mayor Reuben Canoy, whom he allegedly berated inside a hotel last week.
It can be recalled that Moreno has been accused as the “most anti-Duterte mayor in the country” by his political rival Jose Gabriel “Pompee” La Viña during the midterm electoral campaign.