(Conclusion, continued from Thursday)
Cotabato City Mayor Frances Cynthia Guiani was thrust into the political arena when her brother, Japal, died of a lingering illness in September 2016 a few months after winning the mayoralty.
Guiani continued Japal’s vision and made her own strides, and Cotabato has since been touted as the Most Competitive City in Region 12.
She cites that her greatest achievement is creating a stable atmosphere. Cotabato City reported the highest downtrend in crime rate in the whole country, with only 17 percent incidences in 2018.
Every night, the police make their nightly rounds called RONDA (Revitalized Operations and Neutralization of Drug Addiction). Guiani says these regular patrols are one of the city’s best practices. She takes pride that the city has the best Peace and Order Council in the region.
“It started as a composite group that roved around the city at night to ensure the strict implementation of the curfew for minors. Two years later, it was very instrumental in the incredible drop in crime rate in Cotabato City. What was once named as the kidnap capital of Central Mindanao now holds the record of having the lowest crime incidence in the whole country,” she said.
The improved peace and order situation reflects in the increased revenues, new investments and more jobs for the Cotabateño, the mayor adds.
Guiani envisions her city to be one of the best places to live in the Philippines. Aside from being child-friendly, Cotabato City has the highest literacy rate in Region 12, and there are no out-of-school youths.
The mayor fondly recalls childhood memories of strolling along the city plaza with her parents. “There was nothing to be scared about and there was no traffic. Everything was accessible. Everybody knew each other. Even if there were less places to visit and less activities, people were content with the simple life,” she said.
Her father taught her to stand up for her principles and never compromise her values.
“Although my father was not a politician all his life, he was loved by people because he fought for their rights and was very passionate about helping others. I was inspired to continue his legacy. In my job, I have to be brave yet selfless to put the interest of my fellow Cotabateños first,” she said.
Guiani cites an incident in 2017 when she had to placate a shootout in one barangay. Two families from Maguindanao, who had homes in Cotabato City, were settling a long-standing feud. Despite being discouraged by her family, the mayor bravely mediated the hostility.
“I made them sign an agreement that both families must leave the city, or I will personally arrest them,” she said. “The negotiations ended peacefully. Both parties went on their separate ways.”
As a reelectionist, Guiani hopes to see the city achieve its full potential as an urban center. “In the past decade, the city has soared, and the economy has grown exponentially. What’s left for us is to continue working together in unity so we can achieve our aspirations,” the mayor said.
Asked how she balances work and family life, Guiani says her husband, Umbra Sayadi, who works for a national government agency, understands the demands of her job.
“My job is not confined to one room. I go to places where I am needed. My family has been accustomed that. Still, I always check on my children and ask how they are going along in school and in their lives,” she ended.