By Leandro Milan
The biggest, most star-studded and spectacular circus is coming to town!
Consider some of the dramatis personae in the next House of Representatives: Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Imelda Marcos, Manny Pacquiao and Vilma Santos. It surely promises to be a controversy-laden and an action-filled chamber, where impeachment plots are hatched and the pork barrel is cut up and doled out.
The Senate is no less colorful and dazzling. Movie actors Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla and Lito Lapid, whose performances in the Upper House are definitely below Famas standards, are making a comeback. Other contenders include coup leaders Danilo Lim and Ariel Querubin, who are running on rival tickets; and militant Leftists Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza, and the late dictator’s son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., strange bedfellows in the Nacionalista Party. Two outgoing senators have tapped their children to continue their legacy – Ruffy, congressman-son of Rodolfo Biazon, and Gwendolyn, daughter of Aquilino Pimentel Jr.
It is in the local contests in the provinces where the political cauldron will reach blistering levels. It is here where electoral battles between families and clans are fiercest and often defined by the three G’s: guns, gold and goons. Most of the protagonists are familiar names that have become associated with political dynasties. In some cases it’s a free-for-all among clan members when there are not enough posts for everyone. Many of the contests are a replay of past encounters between the scions and dummies of the moneyed elite.
The biggest shocker of the electoral season, of course, is the declaration of President Arroyo that she is running for the congressional seat of the second district of Pampanga, which is currently held by her older son, Jose Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo. (Her youngest son, Diosdado Ignacio “Dato”, is gunning a second term as congressman of the first district of Camarines Sur. How he ended up in Bicol is another story.) Needless to say, it’s a walk in the park for Mrs. Arroyo, who said she would remain in her post until her term expires on June 30, 2010. She is up against three unknown opponents.
Mikey, who joked that he had been “eased” out of a reelection bid, has been named as the first nominee of the party-list Ang Galing Party (AGP). He said at least five party-list groups have offered him a slot as their nominee. Mikey’s party-list bid drew this reaction from Liberal Party senatorial candidate and Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros: “They’re elevating this shameless craving for political power to a different, legendary level. We might as well give it a name, and call it ‘Arroyotitis’.”
Hontiveros added: “Like mother, like son. Obviously, Arroyotitis is hereditary. Masyado naman silang naghahabol ng pwesto. Gusto nila kunin ang pagka-Prime Minister, President, Speaker, at limang seats sa Kongreso. Kulang na lang baguhin nila ang ating batas para makatakbo si Mikey ng SK (Sangguniang Kabatan).”
There are two other relatives in the House: the President’s brother-in-law, Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo, and sister-in-law Ang Kasangga party-list Rep. Lourdes Arroyo.
The fight for the Pampanga gubernatorial post will be a rematch between the Liberal Party (LP) bet, reformist priest-turned politician Gov. Ed Panlilio, and Lakas-Kampi candidate Lilia Pineda, wife of alleged jueteng lord Bong Pineda and a staunch ally of Mrs. Arroyo. In February, the Comelec’s Second Division nullified Panlilio’s 2007 victory and proclaimed Pineda as the rightful winner.
Solid North face-offs
Another sitting governor and LP candidate, Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca, was earlier ousted by the poll body’s Second Division earlier in December. The polio-stricken former radio broadcaster who ended the Dy’s 30-year reign in the province in 2004 when she trounced then governor Faustino Dy Jr., is facing in May another member of the Dy clan, Isabela Rep. Faustino Dy III. In 2007, Padaca, a Ramon Magsaysay awardee for government service in 2008, defeated another Dy clan member, former governor Benjamin Dy. Faustino Jr, Faustino III and Benjamin are brothers.
Over in Ilocos Norte, the Marcoses are once again flexing their political muscle. The former First Lady is seeking to take over the congressional post of the second district, now occupied by her son Bongbong, who is running for senator. Eldest daughter Imee Marcos-Manotoc is eyeing the top provincial post against her first cousin, incumbent Gov. Michael Keon. Two old hands – former governor Rodolfo Fariñas and former congressman Roquito Ablan Jr. — are slugging it out for the congressional post in the first district.
In the 2007 fight for Pangasinan’s fourth district congressional seat, then-Speaker Jose de Venecia trounced Dagupan City Mayor Benjamin Lim. This time, it will be the turn of their wives to face each other. Gina de Venecia and Celia Lim will re-ignite their husband’s rivalry that began in 2001.
In the Manila mayoralty race, incumbent Mayor Alfredo Lim is facing his old nemesis, former mayor Lito Atienza, who is currently secretary of natural resources. The two used to be allies; they won as a tandem in 1992 and 1995 (Lim was mayor and Atienza was vice mayor). Atienza took over when Lim unsuccessfully ran for the presidency in 1998. Later, the two parted ways and they tangled for the mayoral post in 2001, which Atienza won. In 2007, Lim resigned his Senate post and went on to regain his old post against Atienza’s son, Ali.
In Makati, long-time Mayor and vice presidential candidate Jojo Binay had a falling out with erstwhile allies Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado, ex-Rep. Butz Aquino and Rep. Teddy Boy Locsin. Mercado and Aquino are both running for mayor against Binay’s son, Junjun, a councilor. Locsin has sided with Mercado and fielded his wife Louie to take over his congressional seat.
In San Juan, the bailiwick of former President Joseph Estrada, the ousted president’s mistress, Guia Gomez, seeks to take over the mayoral post from incumbent Mayor JV Ejercito, her son by Estrada. JV, in turn, is running for the lone congressional seat to be vacated by erstwhile Estrada ally Ronaldo Zamora.
In Parañaque, actor and former mayor Joey Marquez is making a comeback at city hall. He is facing incumbent Mayor Jun Bernabe and outgoing congressman Eduardo Zialcita. His estranged wife, Alma Moreno, is returning as councilor but under a rival group.
Free-for-all in Cebu
In Cebu, there are two simultaneous wars going on – one, between the Garcia and Osmeña clans and the other one is between Osmeña family members. Over the last several years, the Garcias have eclipsed the dominance of the Osmeñas in Cebu. Incumbent Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, the province’s first woman governor, was first elected in 2004 and got reelected in 2007. She is favored to win a third term in May 2010 against allies of the Osmeñas. The Garcia patriarch, Pablo, is seeking reelection as congressman of the second district. His son Pablo John is also running for another term as congressman of the third district. Former Cebu City Mayor Alvin Garcia, a cousin of the Cebu governor, is seeking to reclaim his old seat but under a rival party.
Outgoing Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña is fielding Vice Mayor Michael Rama to succeed him. The mayor’s wife, Margot, was endorsed by various groups to replace her husband but decided to run for a council seat instead. But Tomas’ younger sister, Georgia, could not be stopped in her mayoral bid.
The Osmeña internecine feud has spilled over to the national arena. Cousins Sergio III (Serge), a former senator, and Emilio Jr. (Lito), a former governor, are both running for senator. This could prove disastrous to both because a vote for “Osmeña” will be will not be counted as there are two candidates with the same surname.
The protagonists are third generation members of the Osmeña clan, whose patriarch was the former president, Sergio Osmeña. Two of Sergio’s sons are Emilio and Sergio Jr. (Serging), who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1969 against Ferdinand Marcos. John and Lito are sons of Emilio; Serge, Tomas and Georgia are children of Serging.
Duel in Davao
A bitter electoral battle is also shaping up down in Davao City between City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and House of Representatives Speaker Prospero Nograles Jr. Duterte, dubbed “The Punisher” by Time magazine for his tough stance against crime, is on his third and last term. His daughter, Sara – the incumbent vice mayor – is running to replace her father; the elder Duterte will run for vice mayor.
Nograles, who is also on his last term as congressman of Davao City, is challenging the younger Durete for the mayoral seat. His running mate is former mayor Benjamin de Guzman, who used to be a protégé of Duterte. Nograles’ son Karlo, meanwhile is eyeing to take over his father’s congressional seat.
Over in Saranggani province, boxing idol Manny Pacquiao isn’t content being just the world’s best pound-for-pound boxer, he wants also to be known as “The Gentleman from Saranggani.” He is running for the province’s lone congressional seat against incumbent Rep. Roy Chiongbian, who belongs to a wealthy clan in the province. Whether Pacman’s latest string of victories will be enough to propel him to Congress this time is another story. In his first congressional bid in 2007 in General Santos City, he lost to the incumbent, Darlene Antonino-Custodio.
Vilma, Chavit, Jocjoc
Other prominent movie celebrities in the fray include reelectionist Governor Vilma Santos in Batangas; Cesar Montano, who is running for governor in Bohol; and Christopher de Leon, who is seeking a board member seat in Batangas. Actor Richard Gomez has appealed his disqualification by the Comelec from his candidacy for the congressional seat of Ormoc City on account of his being a resident of Greenhills, San Juan, Metro Manila. Ormoc City is hometown of his wife Lucy.
Broadcaster Jay Sonza and former Jukebox Queen Imelda Papin are running for vice president and senator, respectively, under the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, the party founded by Ferdinand Marcos. The pair refers to themselves as Mel and Jay, which was the title of the defunct TV show that featured Jay and GMA-7 news anchor Mel Tiangco.
Former Ilocos Sur Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson is out to reclaim his old post which he last held from 1992 to 2001. His son, Ronald, is running for reelection as congressman of the first district of the province.
With their boss’ imminent departure from Malacanang, several Cabinet members are seeking congressional posts: Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita in Batangas, Justice Secretary Agnes Devenadera in Quezon, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap in Bohol and Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. in Camarines Sur.
Other Palace officials in the electoral fray are Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, for president, MMDA chair Bayani Fernando for vice president, Secretary of Public Works Hermogenes Ebdane for Zambales governor, Tesda director general Augusto Syjuco for congressman in Iloilo, and PNR chair Michael Defensor for mayor of Quezon City.
Rounding off the cast of characters are personalities who are known more for their notoriety than for integrity or nobility. There is former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante, the alleged architect of the P728-million fertilizer scam, who is running for governor of Capiz. It will be recalled that the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee had conducted an inquiry into the anomaly and recommended the filing of plunder charges against Bolante, a close friend of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo.
And in Maguindanao, 10 members of the Ampatuan clan implicated in the Maguindanao massacre, are candidates for various local positions. According to Comelec records, 68 Ampatuans are running in this year’s election – 50 of them carry the surname and 18 others use Ampatuan as middle name. Of the 50, at least 23 candidates are directly related to Andal Ampatuan, Sr., the former governor of Maguindanao who is alleged to the brains behind the Maguindanao massacre.