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‘Kaabagism’

Bencyrus Ellorin .

THE leadership of Mayor Oscar Moreno is best manifested by his ability to mobilize the people to support his development agenda.

Mobilizing this mass support was hard to come by. If took the bitter experience with the babag city council for the message Kaabag vs Babag to coagulate in the consciousness of Cagayanons. The “kaabag” message is backed by solid performance.

In 2017, when I was asked to join the team to craft the city’s entry to the Galing Pook Award, I had second thoughts about the Bottom-up Budgeting project as the core of the city’s entry. I was looking at figures and was unimpressed. I asked, why not education with all the classrooms built? Why not the city hospital which had sprung up from the dead?

In one of our several meetings, the draft narrative we had made was rejected, ignored, not accepted. Mayor Moreno told us: Mao nang init akong ulo kay di mo pakasabot.

The mayor then was emphatic. He said the process of empowering the people is the central narrative, not the output of the project. It was an education for me on the differences and nuances of output, outcome and impact.

People empowerment, people’s participation, the mayor was hammering out. There I was, who worked over 10 years in an NGO, organizing farmer and fisherfolk communities to empower them and help them participate in governance, getting a lecture from the mayor.

It was an enriching experience.

Mayor Moreno knows empowerment and participation like no other. He believes that aside from the delegated powers to elected officials, the people need to be engaged in all aspects of governance all the time.

While you do not hear the words “kabus,” “dinaugdaug” in his speeches, what he does is almost exclusively for them.

The same framework of empowerment propeled the city to its second Galing Pook Awards in Mayor Moreno’s term in 2018. The winning entry No Vote Ibot, No More empowers informal settlers from political patronage. By giving land titles to former “piso-piso” beneficiaries who were used as pawns of Padayon, he also freed them from possible patronage for him. Their votes, so to speak, are no longer under duress.

The beauty of the kaabag narrative is its empowering, participative and inclusive nature. Because it is inclusive, those who have been in the journey of Mayor Moreno as kaabag have a stake, ownership in the city’s governance.

Of course, this stake, ownership necessarily welcomes critical collaboration and constructive fiscalizing.

(The author is a former journalist with experience in managing and editing online news portals here and abroad. He is now a public relations consultant and political campaigner. One of the social media groups he co-administered was a finalist in Globe’s Tatt award in 2012.)

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