The Municipality of Barili in the Province of Cebu is perhaps the only municipality in the country where the budget of the Office of the Vice Mayor is higher than that of the Office of the Mayor.
Embattled Municipal Mayor Teresito Paras Mariñas is now paying the price for his decision to leave the One Cebu Party to transfer to the Liberal Party. Nevertheless, it was something which the Mayor thinks he had to do. “It was a sound and logical decision for political survival. A strong political party is an advantage. One Cebu is a local party but Liberal is a National party” Mariñas reasons.
As the Chief Executive of the 4th biggest town in the province, Mariñas says that the lack of support from the Municipal Council is deliberate. “They are slashing the budget in an attempt to paralyze my administration” he says. “The numbers are 10-0; I have no councilor on my side.”
This can be disastrous. While the Mayor may be the municipality’s highest elected public official, it is the Vice Mayor who acts as presiding officer the Municipal Board. In turn, the Municipal Board controls the money of the municipality and, more significantly, its disbursements.
As can be seen in the case of the Municipality of Barili, the Vice Mayor, in connivance with the Municipal Board (or Sangguniang Pambayan) can indeed restrict the outflow of funds to the Office of the Mayor and its projects.
It is not to say that Mariñas simply accepted his fate and watched his administration becoming useless by the day. “We have tried to seek help from the Department of Interior and Local Government, but of course, they cannot impose on the Municipal Board, especially on matters like budgeting. They can only guide and cite” he explains. In order to survive, the Mayor has learned to maximize what is on-hand and available. “We may be short on budget and have had no improvements on infrastructure development, we have our ways. We are still operational” Mariñas says.
And then there are friends and allies he can count on. “There is financial help from the Liberal Party. Financial assistance were given by some Senators like Sotto, Legarda, Escudero and Zubiri” he says.
All is not sad though. When asked about his town, Mariñas proudly speaks of Barili’s tourist come-ons. “Tourism in Barili is rich. We have the Shrine of Sta. Ana, a pilgrimage site. Then we have the Mantayupan Falls which is also a source of hydro-electric power. Barili is also home to the Boloc-boloc Springs, which has the potential to be a health spa” he says. One can also find in Barili a number of old houses, like the ones that can still be seen in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. But unlike the old Vigan houses which have been turned into commercial places, the old houses in Barili stills serve their purpose — homes to its residents.
A brief drive around the small poblacion will allow you to see the Casa Pañares. Then there is the Delgado Mansion, the house of former Mayor Tomas Delgado. On the main street, the former Abad residence has become a popular suroy-suroy sa Sugbu stop. Built in the 1920s by then Mayor Miguel Abad, it is now known as Villa Eliton, named after its current owners Liz and Tony Yu.
Another interesting stop is the private museum of Azucena “Baby” Pace. It houses the family collection of old gadgets, equipment, moneys and clothes. Baby Pace is the daughter of Barili’s longest-serving and well-loved mayor, Librada Pace.
With all these assets within the municipality, it is of no wonder that Mariñas wanted to put to good use its tourism potential. “My administration wanted to develop our tourism industry to help us economically. But in order to attract visitors, we have to improve on facilities, infrastructure and transportation” he says. “However, our tourism plan was also disapproved by the Municipal Board” added Mariñas.
“There were investors who were interested to invest but due to this legislative and executive conflict, they have become hesitant. They simply want my administration to fail” discloses the Mayor.
Surrender has never been an option though. “Honestly, there were times when I felt like giving up. I realized it is not good to surrender. Acceptance means defeat” says Mariñas. “All my sacrifices have paid off, even against all the odds. Karon pa ba ko mo-surrender?”
With the determination and belief of one who has gone through the worst of times, Teresito Mariñas declares: “I am running again for Mayor and I will finish the battle.”
The current Vice Mayor of Barili, Marlon Garcia, is the younger brother of Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia. Garcia and Mariñas are closely related through their Paras Family lineage. Here we see another family torn apart by their respective differences in opinion.
Politics is indeed a strange, if not perverted, animal.
Could former Capitanes Municipales Don Agustin Paras (+), whose descendants include both the present Mayor and Vice Mayor of Barili, have imagined that the political dynasty he started would eventually see relatives fighting relatives?
In the end, it is the Barili constituency that suffers the brunt of this on-going feud. Why should the common Barilinians be deprived of their right to basic services?
Is the “One” Cebu Party, which the Garcia’s now dominate, living up to its name? Has it become a single entity serving the interest of a singular family or unit? While it can be excused that “One” is also characterized by unity, how can this claim be made when the very people who control the One Cebu Party has chosen to pawn, if not jeopardize, the very interests of the very people who least deserve to be its victims: the People of Barili?
Thank you to the One Cebu Party, the politics of revenge is once again alive and kicking.