Results of the city of Manila's electoral race provided more excitement.
Exactly a year after he took over as the new mayor of Pasig City, Vico Sotto made a comprehensive report on his first 365 days in office.
His first state of the city address fell on the 447th foundation anniversary of the city on July 2.
Pasig -- which became a city only in 1993 courtesy of Congressman Rufino Javier -- was a totally idyllic place when it was founded on July 2,1573 when it received its first bell as a new mission parish named after Our Lady of Visitation. The population then was only a little over 2,000. (As of 2015 census, Pasig has a population of 755,300 with some 440,856 voters.)
Many years later, the town turned to Our Lady of Immaculate Concepcion for its patron saint.
According to local history book, Pasig was originally a small kingdom around the river called Bitukang Manok under Dayang Kalangitan, wife of Gat Lontok whose illustrious son included the original Raha Soliman I of Manila.
Mass murder of the Spaniards was what Gat Andres Bonifacio literally ordered from a revolutionary house in Pasig in 1892 when he founded the Sangguniang Bayang Nagbangon as a prelude to the revolution against Spain.
It was at the present Pasig town church across Plaza Rizal and Pasig Museum that the American Commission headed by William Howard Taft met on June 11, 1901 creating the new province of Rizal and made Pasig its capital.
Across what used to be the glorietta is the mansion of the first pharmacist of Pasig (and later town mayor), Don Fortunato Concepcion whose daughter Vina, became the wife of actor Luis Gonzales.
His house built in 1937 was where President Quezon used to make political visits. It is the same mansion where Pavarotti’s first teacher from Modena Italy, Arrigo Pola, used to stay before fulfilling his engagement at the town glorietta.
In the late 40s and into the early 50s, the pride of Pasig and the entire country was Pasig-born tenor Octavio Cruz who sang Verdi and Donizetti operas at the Manila Metropolitan Theater, the Manila Grand Opera House and the equally historic FEU Auditorium.
The first and last Filipino prizewinner of the 1956 and 1961 Paganini International Violin Competition in Italy was won by a lady violinist from Pasig, Carmencita Lozada.
On July 2 at the Teatro Pasigueno with some 30 barangay captains and members of the city council in the audience, Sotto -- in his 325-page report – outlined the emergence of a new Pasig City no longer tied to patronage politics.
He said he wanted city hall employees to know he will not be part of the old ways.
He said city hall employees need not establish “political ties” with him to get noticed. “All that they have to do is work hard -- not for the power of his position -- but to see a better Pasig City.”
Early into his first 100 days, the mayor said there were visitors blatantly offering him P2 million in hard cash to facilitate business permits. “Imagine they have the gall to tell me I will earn a lot if only I will cooperate. I told them you will get your business permits by going through the official way without help of the office of the mayor.I told them to keep their money or add them to their business budget.”
The city mayor reported over 1400 contractual employees getting permanent status after many years of serving the city.
In 2019, the city has a projected income of P8.22 billion but actually earned P9.9 billion according to the Commission on Audit.
A month before the city address, he took time to inspect sites of possible housing projects especially for the city’s informal settlers. “I don’t promise everyone will have access to this housing project. That is not quite possible. What I can promise is that there will be no relocation, no demolition until we can find a decent place for them. I will not encourage ‘palakasan’ system in choosing beneficiaries. The socialized housing project will continue even in time of the pandemic.”
A month before his state of the city address, he advised friends and city hall employees not to give him surprise birthday parties. “Convert your birthday treats into food packs for the poor in Pasig City,” he earlier announced on FB.
Sotto ended the almost three-decade reign of the Eusebio family who all took over as city mayor starting with Vicente Eusebio, the wife Soledad, the daughter in law Maribel Andaya Eusebio and back to son Bobby Eusebio.
On the whole, the year was one of fighting for good reforms in the local government. “There were so many trials and difficult challenges almost every day. But let’s not forget where we came from. I took over not to fight for this position but to end the culture of intimidation and panic. Let’s not be afraid of being seen talking with people of different political persuasions. I did not fight just to get this position. I worked hard to get the mandate to fight for an honest and innovative local government. I am here to offer hope amidst the difficult challenges of the pandemic. I will no longer tolerate return to old corrupt practices. We owe it to the new generation of Pasiguenos to give them good governance.”
Pasig Representative Roman Romulo also said it was a big change of image for Pasig City when Sotto took over. "I hear of residents of other cities wanting to live in Pasig because of its brand of leadership. On our 447th year, we surely are on the right track."