Ombion: Last frontier of freedom, liberalism and pluralism

April 17, 2022 by No Comments

More than being a highly urbanized city (HUC) and a vital corridor of growth in the province and region; center of politics and economics; center of culture; center of modern urban life’s amenities; and where local governance demonstrates exemplary efficiency and innovations, Bacolod City exudes features of a modern republic where freedom, liberalism and pluralism thrive.In any concept of modern republic, be it of bourgeois model or Marxist model, there are elements that differentiate it from autocracy of the feudal times such as people are sovereign, enjoy freedom, freedom to organize, free assembly and free speech, people as source of political authority and officials as their mere political representatives, and their sovereign will is express through suffrage and other democratic means.In the highly urbanized city of Bacolod, systems, infrastructures and amenities do contribute to improving people’s quality of life. But the city’s adherence to the values of freedom, free-thinking, sovereign will, peaceful co-existence, and cooperation are what make its people more humane, and therefore have greater chances of living and sustaining a life of prosperity with dignity.In sharp contrast, the landed feudal elites and political dynasties that still dominate many towns and cities dependent on monocrop sugar-based economy, do not share much of the freedom and democracy of modern republicanism. Many still exercise some forms of autocratic rule or “benevolent despotism.” Their representatives in the local government unit run the territory like the lord of lords, and their chief executive has practically imposed “L’etat c’est moi” or “I am the state,” or “where everything comes from and through me.”In this environment, it is common knowledge that legislative authority is just ceremonial because the real executive-legislative powers are arrogated by the local chief executive, in cahoots with the dynasty’s chieftain, and whoever is recognized as the political kingpin.All officials in and out of the executive branch, including those elected and those with constitutionally guaranteed tenures, can stay in office at the pleasure of the powers that be despite Constitutional rules and codal foundations of civil service.In places where this power reigns, they are hardly challenged because they are feared, thus real participatory democracy and inclusive development are stunted. For Bacolod City, where a progressive shift has taken place over the past two decades, its present economic and political configuration is the result of a significant defeat of the landed elite political dynasties that once ruled the city and their reduction to a subordinate position by the middle-class intelligentsia representatives who were trained in liberal universities and colleges around the country.The middle-class intelligentsia — the enlightened and struggling teachers, lawyers, engineers and scientists, doctors and nurses, journalists and other low-income professionals — worked in tandem with various working-class and democratic organizations and leaders, thus, fusing and producing the most progressive ideas in the province and region, propel the city to what it is now – a highly urbanized, liberal and pluralist city.It is thus fitting and timely to give credit to where it is due — the city’s present Mayor Evelio Leonardia, a lawyer and business management by professional discipline, considered as one of the most astute, courageous and visionary political figures to rise from the ranks of the city’s middle-class intelligentsia in recent times.Backed by a few others of his class in the city leadership, he has been leading the city’s growth and development, anchoring its governance and leadership methods and style of work from the fusion of European boldness, Japanese innovation, American efficiency, Chinese patience, and Filipino ingenuity and humor. Mayor Leonardia has steadily strived to advance the city’s economic development to meet the growing needs of its people and the province being its center while ensuring the City’s strong adherence to and protection and enrichment of human freedom, sovereignty and democracy.The recently unveiled new development agenda and governance platform of Mayor Leonardia and his team put forward his administration’s core strategies for invigorating and moving the City through the challenges of the new normality brought by the pandemic.In all aspects, it is apparent that the present Bacolod remains a continuing collective project of the city government and its people, still incomplete and imperfect, but stronger and resolute to realize its hopes and aspirations.What is important, its leaders and people do not rest on defending the city as the last frontier of freedom and democracy from all attempts at restoring the old dynastic, autocratic, moribund and anarcho-syndicalist rule.