"Politics is not just local; it’s personal."
In the next 30 days, the senatorial candidates will seek to fortify their “carrying” strength with the local candidates seeking election or re-election.
There are areas where the local elections have been decided from Day One. In Davao City, the President’s home turf, it is no contest for the Dutertes and their allies. Mayor Inday Sara will be reelected; Sebastian or Baste will be her vice mayor, and Paolo Duterte will be congressman for the district where the Dutertes and the Nograleses used to quarrel. Since they have smoked the peace pipe in 2016, it’s a Duterte show.
The real battle is in Davao del Norte, where the “war” between the former Speaker of the HoR, Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez and the Floirendo family, mainly with Antonio Floirendo Jr., now once again allied with his uncle, the long-time congressman and governor Rodolfo del Rosario. Previous family quarrels were resolved against a common “enemy.”
My sources say Alvarez will be reelected easily as congressman, and so will Tony in each other’s district. But what is interesting is the fight for governor, with a Del Rosario pitted against Edwin Jubahib, Bebot’s protégé. It is a classic timawa versus datu battle, meaning poor versus rich, except that Edwin is the fighting challenger hand-picked by Alvarez, who has both the powers of an incumbent congressman and the resources to boot.
Another colorful battle royale in Mindanao is in Agusan del Norte, where the once monolithic Amante family has been sundered by sibling rivalry like no other. Just when they were no longer contesting the province and even the regional capital with the other dynasty, the Plazas who have since retreated to Agusan del Sur, the family now quarrels.
The patriarch, Manong Edel Amante, long-time congressman and even a short-time executive secretary to President Fidel V. Ramos, died years ago, and so has the matriarch, Cabadbaran Mayor Rosario, fondly called Nanay Sayong.
Simmering rivalry between brother and sister came to full boiling point, and now both are locking horns against each other. Erlpe Amante served three full terms as governor, while sister Angel was congresswoman for the second district. In 2016, they swapped posts, even as they were no longer on speaking terms. It was a no-contest for both positions.
Governor Angel, with no real opponent, and Congressman Erlpe both won handily, except in the presidential derby where Angel campaigned for Mindanao’s favorite son, Digong Duterte, while Erlpe, wearing the colors of the Liberal Party still, just didn’t care. Officially he was for the LP’s Mar Roxas, but observers say he also played footsies with Grace and even Jojo.
Oh well, “all politics is local,” said the legendary Tip O’Neill of Boston.
Of course Angel’s Digong won overwhelmingly in Agusan del Norte, as he did in the entire Caraga Region, except in Agusan del Sur where the Plazas led by Gov. Eddie Bong delivered a marginal victory to Mar.
Now Angel on her first “new” term as governor is running for Congress against brother Erlpe. It’s a no holds barred contest. In their hometown of Cabadbaran, Angel is supporting her brother’s wife, Judy Amante, in the mayoralty fight against, hold your horses…Erlpe’s girlfriend, Katrina Marie Mortola! De papeles contra inamorata.
Tip O’Neill must be squirming in his grave. In the Philippines, “all politics is [not] local.” It’s “all politics is personal.”
Personal, remember the term. It’s not about public service; it’s not about visions; it’s not about programs of government. It’s not even about family. It is personal.
In Butuan City though, there is no “viable” opponent against first-term Mayor Ron Vic Lagnada, the construction magnate who is gunning for his first re-election. There is a serious contender, Nonong Balanon, a brilliant lawyer who was once vice-mayor of the city. But Nonong is in his seventies, and cannot match the resources of Lagnada. And in the city where vote-buying was born as far back as the fifties, it’s what the voters get on E-Day that counts.
In Negros Oriental, which I visited recently, there is no gubernatorial contest. Freddie Maranon is serving his third term as governor, and under his leadership, a “no contest” was brokered in favor of his vice-governor, Eugenio Jose Lacson. But for six or seven municipalities in the vote-rich province, all the incumbents are also sin contra.
But not in Bacolod City, the highlyurbanized capital where incumbent Bing Leonardia is facing a tough battle against a councilwoman and another.
In neighboring Iloilo City it is “bilas contra bilas.” The incumbent by virtue of Jed Mabilog’s “exile,” Joe Espinosa is running for his first election, against three-term congressman and former three-term mayor Gerry Trenas. Similar in a way to Agusan’s Amantes, Trenas and Espinosa are married to sisters, the Sarabias who used to own Iloilo’s grand old hotel, Sarabia Manor, now renamed The Mansion by its new owners.
See what I told you about all politics being personal?
In Cebu City, Mayor Tomas Osmeña is being challenged by his vice-mayor, Edgardo Labella, and so is Osmeña cousin Raul del Mar being challenged. Raul who for the umpteenth time and since Marcos fell, controlled the north district is facing opposition from Cebuano movie and television actor Richard Yap, the “Ser Chief” of Jodi Santamaria. Old wine versus new spirit.
As in Manila, the nation’s capital, where forty-something Isko Moreno, former councilor and vice mayor, is challenging eighty-something former president and now incumbent Mayor Erap. Adding spice to the contest is ninety-something former Mayor Fred Lim, who believes he can replicate Mahathir’s comeback legend.
But for the senatorial candidates, the issue of local fights or no-fights matters a lot.
If there are no local fights, such as in vote-rich Negros Occidental, the tendency for many voters is not to cast a vote at all. That would not bode well for Mar Roxas, a favorite son of Region 6, whose mother Judy Araneta is sugar baroness in Negros.
In Batangas and Rizal, where Dodo Mandanas and Nini Ynares face no credible opponents, those who rely on their vaunted vote-delivery machine might not reap the hefty two million vote total of these Calabarzon provinces.
On the other side of the equation, from the “no contest” candidates, the expectation is high from the administration side of the equation. Since the President will still be around for the next three years, a good “report card” becomes a “ticket” to Malacanang. This favors Bong Go most of all, Bato and Francis Tolentino as well.
Anyway it’s now less than 30 days before E-Day, when we will discover once again that “all politics is personal,” especially in the Philippines.