BAGUIO CITY — He is not a politician, nor a celebrity. But his name rings a bell, since he headed the investigative body that probed the bloody massacre of 44 policemen in duty in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in January 2015. Fourteen of the slain cops were Cordillerans.
Retired Police Director General Benjamin Magalong said he is offering a "breath of fresh air" to Baguio City, alternately known as the country's Summer Capital because of its cool climate and the City of Pines.
He said that just like in the Mamasapano Massacre verdict, he offers his birthplace a "truthful, honest, result-oriented, and integrity-driven leadership."
“I am not a politician, but you have seen me work. I deliver results, bounded by personal core values that I never let go in any work I do,” Magalong said in an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Thursday.
The retired police general filed his certificate of candidacy last week, on the last day set by the Commission on Elections for those vying for posts in next year's mid-term elections.
Running for mayor, he is pitted against three other political neophytes (former city tourism officer Benny Alhambra, Apugan-Loakan village watchman Labio Calingayan, and Jeffrey Pinic, who tried his luck as vice mayor in the past polls) and six experienced politicians (incumbent vice mayor Edison Bilog, former vice mayor Antonio Tabora, incumbent councilor and former youth representative Edgar Avila, former councilor Jose Molintas, and incumbent councilor Leandro Yangot Jr.).
The mayoral post will soon be up for grabs, with the exiting of Mayor Mauricio Domogan, who is now in his last term as mayor of the city. Domogan had first served three terms as mayor way back, then a congressman for three terms, then three terms again as mayor. He is again running for congressman next year.
As of Dec. 18, 2017, Baguio has a total of 154,914 registered voters. Those who registered during the special registration that ended in September—numbering about 12,000—are still being validated until the final list is out this October.
Magalong said he intends to focus on environment preservation, finding the solution to the mounting road traffic in Baguio, and peace and order.
"Traffic is a major problem in urban areas like Baguio, but it has to be addressed,” he said.
He added he would also like to solve the decade-long garbage woe of this mountain resort city.
Magalong served the Philippine National Police in various capacities—operational and management—for over 38 years. He said he is bound by the four core values of transparency, accountability, ethics, and integrity.
He said he wants to give back to Baguio, where he intends to continue living with his family.
"There's no better place to live in for my family than Baguio. I am from Baguio and I will always be a Baguio boy, and I want to give back to the city after serving the nation," he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Born and raised in Baguio, Magalong completed his education from Saint Louis University and the Philippine Military Academy, graduating magna cum laude in 1982.
After retiring from the service in December 2016, he served as senior vice president for operations of Steel Asia Corp., a major firm in the Philippines. (PNA)