Antonio J. Montalván II .
DONGKOY Emano lived as though he was immortal whose political lights would never fade. This was one narcissist who went about public office as though he was God’s gift to the world. Public accountability and reproach were not his best qualities.
In deference to some sensibilities over his recent death, I waited a period of time to say this piece. Dongkoy Emano was a man who believed he was infallible. He loathed being criticized, intensely disliked being told what to do and abhorred counsel.
He was a creation of the era of dynastic traditional politics that came after 1986. Initially packaging himself as an alternative politician, the newbie in the post-Marcos age of Misamis Oriental politics was a novelty. The image staled soon after. In the standard fashion of how power corrupts, Emano later built his own dynasty and political base which at one time included six family members and a coterie of obeisant footmen until his death.
What was his political formula? I recall a conversation with a newly elected barangay chair who was an avid supporter of the city administration prior to Emano. Just a few months after taking office, the barangay chair evolved into an ardent Emano devotee. I had the temerity to ask why. She said, “Our barangay is now awash with projects.” I understood the euphemism.
Emano never attacked media. Instead, he corrupted media. He turned an entire radio station into his attack dogs. I asked a high school classmate who was a municipal mayor, later a provincial board member who was a close Emano party mate, what the secret was of the media transformation. His answer: “ATM cards.”
City opposition candidates who faced defeat by Emano’s party would later switch to him. Comporting themselves as genuine opposition on the campaign stage, they would turncoat for Emano next election. They would finally win. This worked easily before automated elections when grease money can tamper manual election results.
Emano never had ties to Cagayan de Oro, although his estranged wife was from CdO where he never had residency. His circle of friends revolved around Tagoloan where he had the repute of a “kanto boy.” He was in CdO for convenience because his term in the province had run out. That is the long and short of it. Besides, the province needed to be apportioned to dynastic heirs.
As city mayor, he was so guardedly jealous of power that his city councilors were not free to exercise their legislative ideas. His Monday morning breakfasts were designed for his perorations and instructions on what laws to pass. Even after he had lost in 2013, the breakfasts continued in a posh uptown country club.
Emano had queer flights of fancy. His office had tinted windows so he can view who were about to see him. Screening visitors not to his liking, he would entertain you late in the afternoon after having to twiddle your thumb for hours. He relished the sadism.
His ego quirks included exempting himself from laws. When the city council passed an anti-smoking ordinance, he never followed it. When it contemplated a ban on tinted vehicles, he said he would support it but that the ban should exempt him.
He designed his own city seal even if heraldry experts, a peculiar function delegated to the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, can only design such.
Under his administration, heretofore-unknown Chinese businessmen flourished, their construction firms consistently bagging city hall bids and awards, as if by serendipity. This was already the era of the 20% ++.
In the end, the traditional politician was caught with his pants down: he fiddled with online gambling while the city was ravaged by super typhoon “Sendong.” Cold-hearted as he was, his own security man (one of many; Emano travelled with two or three vehicles in a naked show of egotistic power) was said to have begged the mayor that he be allowed to check on his family. Sendong was the Deus-ex-machina of a tsunami that annihilated the faux Emano magic. Political recovery was impossible. Any association with him was a kiss of death.
Dongkoy Emano goes down in history as how not to run Cagayan de Oro as, figuratively, the city’s filthiest mayor who literally made the city a filthy piece of urban squalor that mirrored the deep abyss of corruption city hall had become.
In the end, the bloated ego turned into the perishable ashes of an ordinary mortal who faces the judgment of God but also of history.