A polarized Dagupan

By Farah G. Decano


DAGUPAN residents nowadays are polarized, but not in the way the Liberal and the Nacionalista Dagupeños were so divided decades ago.

As per information from older generations, the split among city residents based on party affiliations lasted only during elections and during appointments to public office. Other than that, Dagupeños could generally relax after casting their votes because they knew then that their political choices won’t haunt and trail them in the markets, churches and in barangay fiestas.

Presently, the denizens of Dagupan are no longer distinguished by the political parties they support. They are either known as Maka-Belen or Maka-Lim.  These identities still persist beyond the electoral process and permeate in many aspects of their lives.

A known civic leader and self-confessed Maka-Lim confided that he was questioned by some of his friends for having been seen in an engaging conversation with this writer who happens to be Mayor Belen’s former City Administrator.  He cannot believe that he got several messages from the opposite camp about our innocent exchange which was anything but political. His loyalty was put into doubt.

A similar incident happened to a city government employee who is known to be Maka-Belen. Her closeness with friends who are identified with the other side was painted with malice by the present dispensation’s rabid followers.  She felt that she had to be on her toes all the time.  Another Maka-Belen elected official also admitted that he was once not allowed to park in front of the gate of his friend because the latter did not want to be similarly identified.

“These are the times we cannot be neutral,” said that councilor.  “They (Fernandez and Lim) have been the powerful families in the past decade and a half. They are the ones who have the capacity to help when we find ourselves in need or under attack by the other camp.”

This is an unfortunate reality.

Should every Dagupeño be dragged in this apparently very acrimonious rivalry between the Fernandezes and the Lims whose mutual hostility started about four decades ago due to business competition?   Should we choose one over the other so we could endure this bitter cold war between two influential and wealthy Filipino-Chinese families?    Are we returning to the days similar to that of feudalism when survival and all sorts of possible assistance only came from the feudal lords?

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In fairness to Mayor Belen, unlike a feudal lord, she has always made sure that the interests of ordinary people such as fisherfolks, sidewalk vendors and other small traders and businessmen, are protected and promoted.  Her projects economically empower those who belong to the lower strata.                     

A perceived silver lining for having two strong opposing clans in politics is that possible excesses and abuses are minimized.  The presence of the other is like the pilapil that keeps the fishpond of power from overflowing. (The aforesaid visuals used herein as figures of speech were culled from US Associate Justice Benjamin Cardozo’s discussion on valid delegation of power).    

It may seem that Dagupan City’s situation is much better than those of other localities in the Philippines where only one family seems to have control over the territory for many decades.  In Dagupan, no single family can claim power exclusively.   

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A strong opposition, they say, is good for democracy.  However, the present situation in Dagupan City (having an inoperative annual budget due to alleged “fiscalizing”) proves the maxim inapplicable. A solid opposition does not necessarily assure the protection of rights.

If we want to thwart the possible excesses of the governing authority, we must have a strong and REASONABLE opposition.

It is catastrophic that the conduct of the so-called Magic 7 councilors as regards the annual budget is anything but reasonable.  The impression conveyed is that they disagree with the City Mayor only for the sake of disagreeing.  If the preceding statement is true, then what we have is not a reasonable opposition.

It is obstructionism.

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