“The ending of this issue should see the good triumph over evil.”
This young female mayor of a rural town decided to put in an afternoon’s work on a holiday. She has been mayor for only a few weeks. Her secretary also reported for work and soon, some of the town’s constituents came to visit. The mayor’s mother dropped by as well.
Then the telephone rang. It was one of the mayor’s supporters asking her to not go out because a regional power broker and his boys were at the plaza and they were armed. This power broker (otherwise also known as a warlord) was also a longtime associate of the recently deposed dictator. A guard looked out the window and confirmed the report. Around 50 men surrounded the town hall and at least 20 were openly carrying firearms.
The mayor’s mother would not calm down and the secretary hid in the bathroom, crying. A teacher who happened to be with them, read the Bible. The mayor bolted the door, posted her bodyguard at one window with an M-16 and she covered the other window carrying a .38 pistol. She handed her uncooperative mother a hand grenade.
But the balance of power soon changed. A priest came to the plaza with unarmed supporters of the mayor. The mayor’s elder brother also arrived with some friends. The warlord was forced to retreat, and a potential bloodbath was averted.
Since then, the young mayor had to carry a gun around for self-defense. If she was not carrying one, she would always have a bullet-proof vest on.
This could have very well been a scene in a movie. Only, this actually happened in 1987. The mayor was the then Cadiz town mayor, Rowena Guanzon, now Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Commissioner. She was only 28 years old and then the youngest mayor in the country.
Guanzon was appointed to the position by then President Corazon Aquino after several others begged off because being mayor meant taking on Armando Gustilo, the local warlord, power broker, and longtime ally of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. Marcos at that time was already deposed and has fled the country with his family. It was Gustilo and his men who surrounded the town plaza as recounted above.
This story was part of the The Gazette (Montreal) report on 22 August 1987 entitled, “Facing down warlord is part of job for young mayor.”
For full disclosure, I have known Commissioner Rowena “Bing” Guanzon for many years. We used to kid her as the “gun-toting mayor of Cadiz” because of her experience. She was my lawyer when I, and other women’s rights activists were sued by a big politician for libel in the course of our advocacy for the bill that has become the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children (Anti-VAWC) law. The cases against me and the others were dismissed. Bing has also lawyered for many women victims and survivors of violence and abuse.
Thus, I am familiar with Guanzon’s strong personality. As demonstrated in the story above, even from way back, she is not one to be easily intimidated, threatened, or coerced. She stands firmly for her convictions, and as people are now seeing, she is a fighter.
Comm. Guanzon is now at the center of the controversy over the disqualification cases filed against the dictator’s son and presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. She is the Presiding Officer of the COMELEC’s First Division wherein the cases are heard. Besides her, the other Commissioners in the Division are Marlon Casquejo and Aimee Ferolino-Ampoloquio. Commissioner Ferolino-Ampoloquio is the ponente or the one who will write the decision on the case.
The Division announced that the decision would be out by January 17. However, this was delayed because at first, the ponente went on quarantine because of close contact with a COVID-19 positive case.
Guanzon is due to retire on February 2 and understandably, she wants the Division’s decision to be promulgated. However, she said that despite follow-ups, Ferolino-Ampoloquio has not been responding to her. Guanzon then made public her vote on the case, and that is, to disqualify Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. on the ground of moral turpitude. She said that upon examination of evidence, the dictator’s son indeed did not pay taxes for four years while he was Governor of Ilocos Norte. Guanzon said that the Landbank receipt submitted by Marcos’ camp was for lease rentals, not for the penalties for taxes.
Guanzon suspects that a powerful politician is causing the delay of the Division’s promulgation of decision. She said that they want her to retire first so her vote will not be counted. She also said that she will release her separate opinion on the case already submitted to the COMELEC to the public.
Not surprisingly, Marcos’ camp, the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP) has issued a statement calling on the COMELEC to investigate Guanzon for alleged illegal disclosure of her vote on the case. The PFP also wants Guanzon to be disbarred. As expected and true to form, the feisty Guanzon is fighting back.
This issue remains unresolved as of this writing. People are getting anxious and agitated because of the delay of the Division’s decision. Just like how Guanzon battled the politics of guns, goons, and gold in Cadiz as the mayor, and just like in the movies, the ending of this issue should see the good triumph over evil. Justice should prevail and the Filipino people should win.
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