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Four big guns make return to city council; Molintas comes back after 12 years

After the “new” elected officials took their oath for their respective positions last Thursday, some of the recently cleared offices vacated by the graduating councilors have new signages above the door indicating the new occupants.

Councilor Fred Bagbagen has moved from his right wing office to a much bigger and “sunnier” one that was occupied by former councilor Elaine Sembrano, who Monday made her adieu, with her daughter Bernadette, to City Hall employees so she can enjoy her “retirement”.

Bagbagen is only on his second term on the second three-term allowed for a councilor, meaning his 13th year non-straight.

His old office is now up for grabs for any of the four returning councilors who whipped up their respective storms during the May 9 elections.

The highest placed of them at second spot, lawyer Jose Molintas, returns after 12 years of absence and has since ended his crusade to run against, and hopefully beat,  former Mayor and Rep. Mauricio Domogan.

That aspiration may have finally ended after two resounding defeats for the longest serving elected public official, a monolith not just in Baguio but in the Cordilleras, in the past two elections – the latest, apparently, a nail to his coffin.

He was lodged once at the office now occupied by councilor Vladimir Cayabas, on the right wing, wedged between the one occupied by Sangguniang Kabataan chairman Levy Lloyd Orcales and the City Council records section.

Last April, Molintas actually formed an alliance with mayor Benjamin Magalong, who routed the once “janitor of the City.”

Molintas, a FLAG lawyer, led three other returning powerhouses in the local races for a council seat with former top notcher (two-time) Leandro Yangot, Jr., former two three term councilor Elmer Datuin and former three term and city administrator Peter Fianza. The last two landed eighth and ninth places.

After assuming office last Friday, Molintas vowed that he will find a way to cancel the Uniwide contract. Uniwide took over the development of the public market in 1995 but works never took off as it reported bankruptcy.

Molintas, an Ibaloy, will also find a way to convert the Busol watershed and Mount Santo Tomas as NIPAS (National Integrates Protected Areas System) areas. 

NIPAS, “refers to the classification and administration of all designated protected areas to maintain essential ecological processes and life-support, systems to preserve genetic diversity, to ensure sustainable use of resources found therein, and to maintain their natural conditions to the greatest extent possible.”

Busol is the city’s biggest source of water but is in danger of being overrun by illegal settlers. Mount Santo Tomas has been the subject of Temporary Environmental Protective Order due to the rapid development there – tree clearing for residential and agricultural purposes.

The third mission for Molintas is to have the city charter amended. The city charter has been recently amended and has lapsed into a law after former President Rodrigo Duterte failed to sign it. Majority of the councilors have opposed same.

At one time, councilor Leandro Yangot Jr. occupied the biggest office at the city council, the first one right of the mayor’s office but has now been included as part of the chief executive’s domain.

In winning last May, Yangot may have figuratively painted, sang, raised vegetables and cooked his way back to the city council where he hopes to once again prove that he is the “hardest working” alderman there is by authoring and passing the most number of measures.

After losing his bid for mayor, like Molintas in the 2019 polls, Yangot found a reason to be more “artistic”. During the lockdown due to Covid-19, he found more time to paint which he did while on vacation in Switzerland to be with his wife, lawyer and labor attache, Cheryl.

Coming back to Baguio late last year, he established a free art lessons at the park (Sunshine) with help from local artists like Jordan Mangusan and the husband and wife tandem of Hermie and Cara Bruno. As the number increased, the lectures were done at the Baguio athletic bowl, either at the grandstand or at the bleachers of the swimming pool.

Then music was included – guitars and blues harp or harmonica. Growing up in the 70s and 80s, Yangot was a typical boy from that era who found playing the guitar a good way to pass one’s time – or means to impress a girl.

He also launched a cooking lesson using garden or home grown vegetables and later held a competition among residents from different barangays.

The result of his “artistic” efforts did not only win him a seat but land among the upper six, number five to be exact.

Datuin returns as one of the more veteran councilors.

Elected first in 1998, he served until 2007, took a break and returned in 2010 when Domogan, with whom he ran with, and graduated in 2019 where he served as a consultant to Sen. Imee Marcos for Cordillera affairs.

Datuin said that he will yet first see what committee he will be assigned to before he could set his agenda and priority measures.

Fianza was neck and neck with Datuin for the eighth place but settled at ninth. They both ran for vice mayor in the 2019 elections and lost to the incumbent Faustino Olowan. 

He might occupy the one vacated by Philian Weygan-Allan, which was his until 2019. Allan finished 15th and the only incumbent to lose.

Allan is the daughter of the late Galo Weygan, an accountant, and who last Monday was given a farewell ceremony by City Hall employees along with Sembrano, Joel Alangsab, the two ran for vice mayor, and Francisco Roberto Ortega. The young Ortega, who took over the position left by his late father Roberto who died in 2018, gave way to his mother Len, who, however, placed 13th and behind third termer Lilia Farinas – marking an end to the “Bungo” legacy. The late Ortega, a ranking cop and chief of police here, was known for that moniker or skull.

Also taking their oath last Thursday were Magalong for mayor, Go for congressman, Olowan for vice mayor. The other councilors who took their oaths were: Benny Bomogao, Arthur Alad-iw, Betty Lourdes Tabanda, Isabelo Cosalan, Jr., Mylen Yaranon and Vladimir Cayabas, who finished first, third, fourth, sixth, seventh and 10th, in that order, last May 9.

The four returning councilors joined their eight new colleagues for a caucus last Friday in the preparation for the first regular session on Monday – the first for three of them and the first for Molintas after 12 long years. Pigeon Lobien

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