HomeGovernmentThe Chief ExecutiveFormer MayorsHon. Vitaliano O. Agan

Hon. Vitaliano D. Agan (1987-1998)

Vitaliano Duhaylungsod Agan was born on January 27, 1935, in Kulambugan, Lanao del Norte to Dionisio Agan from Baliangas, Misamis Occidental, and Francisca Duhaylungsod of Siquijor, Negros Oriental.  He had two brothers, Frigido and Edilfonso, and an only sister Lorita.

Vit, as he is called by his friends, was a self-made man.  He became an orphan at the age of 13, and he had to work for his education.  An uncle employed him as a “sota” or stable boy.  He took care of his uncle’s calesa horses.  According to Agan, he became the success that he is through determination.  He said that what made him an achiever in spite of all the odds, were “patience” and the stamina for survival.”

He started his elementary education at the Siquijor Primary School.  Later he transferred to the Zamboanga Central School where he graduated with honor in 1955.

He took up his secondary education at the Zamboanga City High School and after graduation enrolled at the Zamboanga A.E. Colleges and finished his Associate in Arts degree in 1957.  He later proceeded to take up law in the same school.  In 1962, he passed the bar and became a lawyer.

On November 11, 1971, Agan was elected as city councilor.  This was to be his debut in politics.  On January 30, 1980, Agan was re-elected for a second term.  Agan’s political career rose to a higher level when he was appointed officer-in-charge of the City Mayor’s Office on May 28, 1987.  He assumed office on June 2, 1987, when Mayor Rini Climaco, then the appointive mayor under the Interim Revolutionary Government of Pres. Corazon Aquino, resigned to begin his campaign for congressional seat.  This was to be the turning point in Agan’s political career, giving him the opportunity to run for the mayoralty as the incumbent.  On January 18, 1988, Agan ran against former Mayor Manuel Dalipe, who in 1986 was removed from office following the Edsa revolution.

Agan had the advantage as he was being supported by the Cory Administration.  Meanwhile, Dalipe had to carry the burden of being closely identified with Marcos regime.  All Agan had to do was to capitalize on the past administration’s excesses to gain the voters’ nod.  He assumed office on February 2, 1988.  Agan’s victory at the polls would also be a watershed in Zamboanga’s political history because it was the first time a non-chavacano would be mayor.  It was significant because it marked a change in the attitude of the electoral majority who normally voted for the traditional native Zamboangueño candidates.

Agan’s administration would be innovative in the sense that he would introduce programs for poverty alleviation, and began implementing a policy of human resource development program in government.  Under his administration he made it a policy to bring education to the barangays.  It became his priority program to construct high schools in the major barangays of the city.

Other impressive projects of Mayor Agan were the completion of the concreting of all major roads, street lighting and traffic lights.

Agan would adopt the same strategy of undertaking infrastructure projects by using private contractors, a method of which he had strongly criticized the Dalipe administration during the election campaign.  Yet all these accomplishments were to impress the electorate in Zamboanga that Agan was re-elected in 1992, and then again in 1995.

However, a significant event in Mindanao’s history would gravely affect Agan’s political career.  The Philippine government, this time under the helm of President Fidel Ramos, was so bent on solving the MNLF problem in the south that it had initiated several peace accords with the MNLF in Zamboanga City.  The MNLF was insisting that Zamboanga be made part of the projected autonomous region, but the national government could not accede to this, considering that an earlier referendum signified that 99% of the Zamboangueños opted to be out of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao. As a compromise, President Ramos, through a presidential decree, created the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development, with Chairman Misuari of the MNLF as its head following the signing of a peace agreement. This act would get the ire of the Zamboangueños when the Ramos government decided to include Zamboanga under the SPCPD.

When the people of Zamboanga City were expecting the mayor to speak for their cause, Mayor Agan instead supported the Ramos decision, an act which would turn public opinion against him. It would also turn Congresswoman Maria Clara L. Lobregat against Mayor Agan despite the fact that they were signatories to a compact of peace and development. Lobregat was strongly against the city’s inclusion in the autonomy scheme and SPCPD coverage.

The anti-SPCPD movement staged several massive protests in the city and initiated the recall of Mayor Agan that failed when the majority of the barangay captains remained loyal to the mayor.

Mayor Agan tried to regain his popularity through revitalized infrastructure program for the city, including the street lighting projects and several concreting projects, including the controversial Quiniput-Licomo road. However, the projects backfired on him of overspending and overpricing. Celso, the son of Congresswoman Lobregat, brought the matter to congress for investigation. This would be the first time in Zamboanga’s history that a city executive and several members of the city council would be summoned by congress for questioning in connection with graft and corruption. It devastated Agan’s political career. Before the end of his term, Mayor Agan stepped down from office in favor of Vice-Mayor Afren Arañez to file his candidacy for a congressional seat against Celso Lobregat. Agan lost, the first time he was to savor defeat in his political career. He had served the people of Zamboanga for ten years, nine months and twenty-five days, a term almost as long as Joaquin F. Enriquez, Jr.

Perhaps only history will judge the administration of Mayor Vitaliano Agan, but no one can deny that it was during his term that so many things had been accomplished for Zamboanga. No one can deny also that he was a leader who served the city the best he can.

It was during his term that Zamboanga was given due recognition by the national government under the Ramos administration. He had served as Chairman of the Regional Peace and Order Council and chairman of the Regional Development Council. He headed the local Lakas NUCD chapter and the City Reconciliation and Development Council. He became the Vice-President for the Confederation of Mindanao Leaders, the Mindanao League of Mayors of the Philippines.

Mayor Agan likewise gained for Zamboanga economic recognition nationally and internationally when he represented the city in various seminars and conferences like the Pacific Congress of municipalities held in Taiwan, and the 4th Ministerial Meeting of the BIMP-EAGA held in Brunei. He went to Germany as a DSE scholar.

Agan said that he wanted the people of Zamboanga to remember him as the only orphan who became a mayor. He would always stay true to his favorite maxim, “Think global, act local for global excellence.”