I have featured and attended several times the death commemoration of our great Zamboanga City Mayor Cesar Cortez-Climaco in the past. And admittedly, this year I got stuck what angle of his life story should I write about. The 31st Dia de Cesar (November 13 and 14) this year was covered already by City Hall press releases. I want to write interesting insights about him.
Cesar was assassinated at the age of 68 in 1984 while overseeing a fire scene at Governor Alvarez. A staunch critic of Martial Law, he refused to cut his long haywire long hair to protest the corruption practices of the Marcos Regime. Unfortunately, his case remains unresolved until now (something that is still happening in our city – high crimes don’t get solved easily).
He entered politics as a Councilor in 1951 and became the City Mayor in 1956 at the age of 37. He held this position in two more separate period of time. Read on why I admire him.
Struggling school days.
Do you know that he worked as a family driver to finance his studies as a pre-law student at theUniversity of Santo Tomas in Manila? To support his law school at the University of the PhilippinesCollege of Law-Diliman, he worked as a janitor at the Court of Appeals. He became a full pledge lawyer after passing the Philippine Bar exam.
Unlike politicians today who enriched themselves in office, Cesar lived a simple life.
As a Jaycee.
Last November 13, the international civic organization, Jaycee, together with Mayor Beng Climaco led a wreath-laying and candle lightning ceremony at the assassination site. I didn’t know Cesar was a Jaycee until now. This group is well known for their local, national, and international community services and for training good leaders.
Cesar became President of Jaycee Zamboanga in 1951 and 1953. In 1954, he joined the Jaycee Operation Brotherhood as Project Manager and Field Coordinator in Vietnam. His group provided medical and relief needs in this war-torn country. He earned the gratitude of South VietnamesePresident Ngo Dinh Diem and was prominently featured in Life magazine.
The First “Duterte” of Mindanao.
I guess Cesar Climaco was the “First Duterte of Mindanao” without the mercenary killing. But he will “kill you with shame.” There is no monkey business with him. He was known for his personal courage and outrage.
Like the Mayor of Manila at that time, Arsenio Lacson, known for his toughness and good governance, Cesar soon earned the nickname "Arsenio Lacson of the South." Lacson remarked that at the rate Cesar was going, the Manila mayor would soon be known as the "Climaco of the North.”
Cesar bravely raided gambling dens and confront criminals alone with threats of imprisonment. What happened after? They packed up.
Policemen were always in alert during his time. Cesar would make surprise visits in police outposts. One time, he sneaked and took away the typewriter of the police station while the policeman on desk was sleeping.
During his governance too, Zamboanga City earned the reputation as the cleanest city in the Philippines. He was strict in keeping the streets clean. He roamed the city around riding his motorcycle and manned traffics if there are no police around.
Like Mayor Rudy Duterte of Davao City, Cesar maintained a harmonious relationship with Christians, Muslims, and Lumads. He posted a scoreboard in front of the city hall running a tally of unsolved violent crimes in the city. Upon outbreak of violent incidents, he would rush to the crime scene. Despite the threats against him, Climaco never carried a gun or surrounded himself with bodyguards.
by Dante Corteza
Romans 15:1-2 “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.”