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2017
Panagbenga Flower Festival
 
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The legacy of Mauricio G. Domogan: From Barefoot Child to Father of Baguio
by Ryan Dale Mangusan

An ardent advocate of regional autonomy and the preservation of the cultural heritage of the ethno-linguistic groups in the Cordillera, Mayor Domogan is one of the few Cordilleran leaders who have made the wearing of the Igorot costume as popular as it is today.
-- Harley Palangchao

 
What does it take to be a mayor for six terms or 18 years? What did it take a boy orphaned to a mother at a young age and a barefoot son from the wilderness of the Cordillera and Ilocos Sur to rise above life’s challenges and take on the city’s top post?

Mayor Mauricio Gamsao Domogan’s fate in politics must have been written in the stars. From a supposed mere campaign manager and eventually chosen by the highland bloc to run for councilor in the 1987 post-EDSA elections, he threw his luck for the vice mayoralty position after just one term at the august body for the 1992 national and local elections. He was elected vice mayor but never held the gable as just 15 minutes after he took his oath, he was asked to take his oath as acting mayor, and after six months as regular mayor due to a disqualification case filed against then elected mayor Jun Labo, who was declared by the Supreme Court as a stateless person. His entry to politics also opened the floodgates for Igorots to serve Baguio.

The rehabilitation of the city after the killer earthquake in July 1990 was his first assignment when he became mayor. It was a herculean task that needed everybody’s cooperation. When Baguio was about to be erased in the map and businesses were about to shut down, he led the call for the private sector and government to join forces to rehabilitate the city and uplift the morale of every citizen of Baguio.

Not only did he lead the engineering of the city’s rise from the ruins, he also steered it to greater heights through significant accomplishments and achievements.

Just about five years after the earthquake, the city won its first Cleanest and Greenest Highly Urbanized City in the Country award for its impressive cleaning and regreening programs spearheaded by the multi-sectoral Alay sa Kalinisan Inc. (ASKI). The feat was duplicated in the next two years, earning the city the Hall of Fame honor in the prestigious national awards program with a total accompanying cash award of P5 million. To this day, the ASKI is still active in the promotion and supervision of cleanliness programs all over the city and evaluation is done in a meeting of its members every second Friday of the month. Domogan co-spearheaded in 1995 and gave the name Panagbenga to the now internationally renowned Baguio Flower Festival, which is one of the programs that is aimed at bringing back the grandeur of Baguio.

Noteworthy also is the Eco-Walk children’s environmental awareness program, one of Baguio’s best practices that gained the city the Galing Pook Award. Eco-Walk instills awareness on the importance of trees and the environment among children and its implementation is being supported by the mayor to preserve Busol Watershed.

The city also earned the Gawad Pamana ng Lahi Award, the highest among all awards given by the national government to a performing local government unit that earned the city a P4M cash award. This was added to the P5M from the Cleanest and Greenest Highly Urbanized City award, and the bulk of it was used to purchase garbage trucks from Japan to intensify and improve the city’s garbage collection.

From the time Domogan became mayor and up to the present, the city government never incurred any loan or debt from any institution in the implementation of its programs and projects. He believes that the city can sustain its programs without going beyond its means. Despite this, the city has been able to sustain its financial status with continually increasing working budget each year.

Behind the success of Mayor Domogan in politics is his wife, Becky, to whom he has three careered children namely Janice, a lawyer; Jillian, a U.S. Air Force; and Joy, a registered nurse. -- Harley Palangchao

 
One thing that is appreciated of the mayor is his work ethics. His punctuality in almost all events and meetings and finishing the workload of the day at the office even beyond working time, including entertaining visitors and guests, whether in the office or at home, are traits worthy of emulation by future leaders.

The public market is the face of the city. It has been a subject of criticism and once a source of income to private individuals who lord it over until the cleaning and clearing operations were ordered by the mayor. For decades, the public market had been in a cluttered state likened to a slum area. That every street and alley is occupied by ambulant vendors, as well as a venue for robbery and theft, was a normal entry in the daily report of the police. Through political will and unmindful that he might lose in his bid for re-election, the mayor implemented the demolition order issued by former mayor Peter Rey Bautista for structures at Block 3 of the public market.

To continue the market’s facelift, Domogan issued the demolition order for illegal structures in the vicinity of Block 4 and later the implementation of the construction of a temporary structure to accommodate legitimate vendors. He also issued an order to clear the streets and alleys of the public market and pedestrian lanes of the central business district of illegal vendors and remove stall extensions of legal vendors that occupy pedestrian pathways.

“This is long overdue. Good to see the market street pavement once again in its original uncluttered state,” says a comment on Facebook in appreciation of the result of the clearing operations. “I went to Baguio yesterday to do my weekly veggies marketing and wow, I can swing to and fro my buri bag along the way,” says another.

This is not the end of the rehabilitation of the public market as it is everyone’s wish to have a clean, orderly, and wide marketplace with a provision for parking spaces.

Topping Domogan’s priority in coming back as city mayor in 2010 is to solve the garbage problem of the city. He left in 2001 as he was sent by the people to be their messenger in Congress with no much issues or problems on garbage. He left as mayor with operational garbage trucks purchased from the city’s budget and cash prizes of being the Hall of Fame awardee in the Cleanest and Greenest Highly Urbanized City in the Philippines and Gawad Pamana ng Lahi award.

He came back with the same operational garbage trucks but with a serious garbage problem. Efforts were exerted to identify the best possible solution to put an end to the issue.

The city purchased an environmental recycling system machine that processes biodegradable wastes to fertilizer but residuals still need to be hauled out. It is now on the stage of exploring for a potential site for the Integrated Solid Waste Disposal System and the inspection of one of the two identified possible sites was done last Aug. 8 by the technical working committee created for the purpose.

The city hopes for the cooperation and understanding of everybody for their own good.

Domogan plays an active role as chairman of BLISTT (Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan-Tuba-Tublay) development council which main purpose during its inception is to rehabilitate the City and its neighboring municipalities from the rubbles of the 1990 earthquake. At present, BLISTT has become a planning and development body to boost tourism, economic and infrastructure projects and programs among the six local government units. Notable project is the circumferential bypass road connecting the city and the adjoining municipalities.

The mayor always championed the establishment of an autonomous region in the Cordillera to finally establish a permanent regional identity where it will have the freedom to manage its people and natural resources, have access to more financial benefits from the national government while retaining the existing benefits and powers presently being enjoyed. Mayor Domogan sees the positive side beyond politics. As he always say at the end of his lectures, “Autonomy is the future for the Cordillerans. It is not for us but for our children and our children’s children.”

Good governance is and will always be in the mayor’s agenda. He adheres and supports President Rodrigo Duterte’s call for change. Indeed, change has started in the national government and it follows in the local government. The mayor has always been vocal in the fight against drugs and illegal gambling, evident in numerous administrative orders and memoranda issued relative to these.

He is known to be brutally frank in reminding employees of the city government to seriously perform their duties and serve the people with utmost sincerity and honesty. He encourages complainants against erring city government employees to submit their complaints under oath to the City Mayor’s Office for formal investigation and appropriate action.

Every mayor’s term ends, and every end of term, every mayor wishes to have satisfied and fulfilled the wants of his constituents. But there is always the element of balance, need, and appropriateness in the implementation of a project or program and the delivery of services that has to be considered. While it has been strongly objected and a complaint was filed but later on dismissed, the fencing of the City Hall parameter and the construction of a stage has been completed. It is not to enclose City Hall from whoever wants to enter but to protect it in the same way that Burnham Park was fenced for security.

One of the legacies of Mayor Domogan is the major rehabilitation and clean up of the Baguio City Public Market. Here, he made a surprise inspection in 2013. -- Harley Palangchao

 
The Office of the City Mayor receives brilliant ideas and suggestions to upgrade facilities and beautify the city and provide the basic needs of indigent constituents. In as much as it would like to accomplish a lot of these programs and projects, the city is tied with its limited budget. It is for this reason that Domogan is firm in asking the city council to pass the Revised Tax Ordinance of the city.

The city’s real property tax schedule was last revised in 1996 while business tax was last adjusted in 2001. In short, the city has a 20-year-old real property tax and 15-year-old business tax rates. The Local Government Code provides that the revision of real property tax takes place every three years and business tax every five years.

From the public consultations that had been done, and other consultations if necessary, the city is doing its best to come out with a reasonable and just increase of taxes to improve the delivery of services. Understanding is therefore asked from its constituents.

Being a mayor of this highly urbanized city was neither easy or fun but is always challenging to Domogan. He admits his faults in the same way that he admits he had close friends who turned their backs on him due to politics. As it is said, “You cannot please everybody.”

Domogan’s way of running the city for 18 years as mayor has been guided by resiliency, sustainability, and competitiveness. His success in government was grounded on teamwork beyond politics, sacrifice, and the determination to move on even on the roads less travelled. These made him elected and re-elected in whatever elective position he tried his luck on.
Other news
:: First wave: Assessing K to 12 in CAR’s premier educational hub
:: Tax reform key to sustaining Baguio’s improved services
:: Bringing back the scent, charm of the old Baguio
:: Hurdling garbage woes as attainable goal for Baguio
:: REV–BLOOM: Redefining a tourism story of RP’s Summer Capital
:: View from the sidelines:
Barangays share their vision for Baguio
:: The daunting task of providing decent shelter in a bustling city
:: The Duterte peace & order agenda: The road to achieving ‘crime–free’ Baguio
:: Rebuilding Baguio communities through urban agriculture
:: Revisiting Baguio’s traffic and transportation system for the future

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Congressman Mark O. Go
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Department of Agriculture – CAR
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Philex Mining Corporation
Philippine Veterans Bank
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