By Cong Corrales
MEMBERS of the Montalvan family have accused Councilor Alvin Calingin of trying to win the favor of the influential Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) as part of an alleged plan for him to replace embattled Rep. Jose Benjamin Benaldo of the city’s 1st District at the expense of a local war hero.
The Montalvans have gone ballistic and have launched a campaign to stop city hall from renaming a street in honor of the late Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) founder Felix Manalo. The move was seen as an attempt to strip a local war hero, Dr. Antonio Montalvan, of his honor in an apparent effort to win the INC, a religious group known for its big voting bloc.
The family’s spokesperson, Eduardo Montalvan, said Calingin was trying to score political points with the INC at the expense of his late uncle.
Montalvan Street was named after Montalvan’s uncle who was executed by the Japanese Imperial Army during the war. A physician, Dr. Montalvan, was caught by the Japanese in Quezon, brought to Fort Bonifacio and was subsequently beheaded for serving as an intelligence officer of the guerrilla movement.
Calingin’s proposal to rename the street has struck a sensitive chord even among residents not related to the Montalvans.
“Alvin (Calingin) wants to run for congressman. He wants to replace Benjo (Rep. Benaldo). He’s doing this so he can win the INC votes,” said the spokesperson of the Montalvans.
Calingin and Benaldo are both members of Mayor Vicente Emano’s Padayon Pilipino party. Benaldo has recently been caught in a controversy over his frequent travels abroad, spendings and lifestyle.
Montalvan said his family would go to court if the city council votes in favor of Calingin’s proposal despite the growing opposition.
“It’s illegal,” said Montalvan as he cited Republic Act 10066, otherwise known as the National Cultural Heritage Act, that provides that renaming a historical street requires the green light of the National Historical Commission (NHC).
Montalvan added, “Based on the law, even the local and national legislative bodies cannot change the name of streets without the approval of the NHC… We will fight it out in the courts. My uncle was not only a local hero but a recognized national wartime martyr.”
The citizens’ group Bangon Kagay-an, through its president Nixon Baban, vowed to oppose Calingin’s proposals. The group currently counts some 21,190 members.
“To deprive a war hero of the honor he richly deserves for the flimsiest of reasons is not acceptable and forgivable. The city council should call for a public hearing on this. And we will come in (throngs) to oppose this move to change the name of Montalvan St. and denounce in the strongest terms this (irresponsible) act of approving on first reading the proposed resolution,” reads part of the statement released by Baban.
During the city council’s regular session last Tuesday, Calingin filed three proposals––first, to rename Dr. Antonio Montalvan St. to Felix Manalo St.; second, to declare July 27 of every year as INC Day in Cagayan de Oro; and third, to name a long stretch of road from the junction of Concordio Diel St. and Villarin St. in Barangay Carmen to the landfill in upper Dagong up the boundary of Barangay Canitoan as “Eraño Manalo Street” in honor of INC’s former executive minister.
With only a few councilors opposing Calingin’s resolutions, city council approved on the first reading the three resolutions and scheduled it for second reading next week.
Residents and civic-political groups have vowed to stage a protest rally to denounce Calingin’s proposals, calling these “a cheap political stunt, at best.”
“The readable scheme is for the proponent to catch the council by surprise and elicit reactions from opposition councilors that would send negative signals to the INC, thus portraying Calingin as the ‘good boy.’ I don’t think the INC has not seen this (sic) and I believe the INC flock does not want to be insulted by any politician by cheap publicity gimmicks,” reads a Facebook post by lawyer Jose Edgardo Uy.
In a radio interview yesterday, Calingin scoffed at the negative reactions over his proposals.
“It’s not a big deal, really. Members of the INC, who come from other places, have a hard time locating their big church here. So why not name the street adjacent to their church after their founder for better recall?” Calingin told Magnum Radio.
Calingin said city streets get renamed all the time.
The late Dr. Montalvan was the third in his family to fight during World War II. His older brothers Jesus, the eldest, served as intelligence officer of Col. Wendell Fertig in the guerrilla movement. Another sibling, Jose, served as the first camp commander of then Philippine Auxillary Tactical Air Group (Patag). It is now Camp Edilberto Evangelista, the seat of army’s 4th Infantry Division.
Like his older brother, Dr. Montalvan served with the intelligence group where his assignments included information gathering against the Japanese in Manila and delivering this to Col. Fertig who was then based in Oroquieta, Misamis Occidental, using a banca.
The Japanese Imperial Army captured Montalvan at his wife’s ancestral home in Tayabas, Quezon, and he was beheaded together with other captured guerrillas. A monument honoring the group still stands at the North Cemetery.
Noel “Tito” Mora, erstwhile president of the Save CDO Movement, posted on his Facebook wall that his group would join in any protest action to denounce Calingin’s proposals.
“We join the Montalvan family, the residents of Montalvan St., the Iglesia ni Cristo and civil society groups to protest and denounce the renaming of war hero Antonio Montalvan St. to Felix Manalo St to buy the voting support of the INC by Councilor Calingin and the line-up of… (City Mayor Vicente) Emano for the May 2013 elections,” reads Mora’s post.