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The 2019 gubernatorial race in Iloilo

Iloilo City politics would have turned out to be dull and unexciting had it not been for the falling out — or so it seems — between brothers-in-law Cong. Jerry P. Trenas and City Mayor Joe Espinosa III. But I will leave the topic momentarily as nothing is as yet definite; there are Herculean efforts going on behind the scenes to reconcile the two.

I will shift my attention to the provincial race: the 2019 gubernatorial elections.

Midway in 2018, a three-way fight was brewing, with 1st District Cong. Richard Garin, 3rd District Cong. Arthur “Toto” Defensor Jr., and 4th District Cong. Ferjenel Biron looming as the protagonists. However, the Dengvaxia scandal erupted, and this dragged Garin down with it. His wife, former DOH Secretary Janette Garin, is in the eye of the storm. That served as a TKO punch against Garin; his wife’s scandal knocked him down, and put out of contention.

Now, only Biron and Defensor are left on the ring. The 2019 race will unfurl as a grudge fight. In 2013, Toto’s father, the incumbent Arthur Defensor Sr., defeated Biron. Apparently, the senior Defensor wants to show that his popularity will carry Toto to victory and succeed him. He wants to retire seeing the Defensor brand continue to run the province.

As early as 2017, Biron had already started wooing municipal mayors outside his congressional district, taking them on short trips abroad for a get-to-know-each-other session. Specifically, he targeted the municipal mayors of the 5th district and the 2nd district. It’s a given that Defensor will harvest the votes in his home district. When Biron began his courtship of the mayors, Garin was still in the running. His math was simple: win the support of the mayors in the 2nd and 5th, and his running would be smooth and easy.

So who has the edge?

In terms of municipal mayors who have lined up in support, there is no question that Biron has the upperhand. But experience shows that the number of municipal mayors backing up a gubernatorial candidate is the biggest key to victory. In 2004, the late Gov. Niel Tupas Sr. scored a landslide victory over then 1st District Cong. Oscar Garin Sr. even though he only had a handful of incumbent mayors on his side. Not only was Tupas outnumbered in terms of municipal mayors; among the five congressmen then, only Boboy Syjuco threw his support for Gov. Niel.

In 1992, then incumbent Gov. Simplicio Grino pulled a surprise victory against Mrs. Olive Padilla, who was backed by four out of five congressmen.

The Ilonggo vote can be unpredictable. When it comes to choosing their Governor, Ilonggo voters pick their personal preference over the dictates of their congressmen. And neither can a hostile President affect a gubernatorial bet’s chances. In 2007, the late Gov. Tupas won in what is perhaps the biggest landslide victory in Iloilo political history against then Vice Governor Obet Armada despite the disfavor he earned from Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Clearly, victory for the governorship depends on the mass appeal, the charm, and the message of the candidates. The elections for governor is really a battle for the hearts and minds of the people, and not just plain political machinery. It is too early to say who will win. Both Toto Defensor and Ferj Biron haven’t started going on media yet to let the people scrutinize their personalities, ideas and platforms.

One thing is clear: the media, notably radio, will play a big role in the gubernatorial race. Social media is not yet that strong as to swing votes this way or that. But Facebook will have a strong influence among young voters.

 

 

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None of the above

In his latest radio and TV advertisement, Mar Roxas portrays himself as “hindi abusado”, “hindi ma-drama”, and most importantly “hindi magnanakaw”. This is a clear swipe at his front-running rivals in the presidential race. “Abusado” is Digong Duterte. “Ma-drama” is Grace Poe. And “Magnanakaw” is VP Jojo Binay.

He also tries to appeal to the Ilonggo vote by talking in Hiligaynon.

Mar Roxas claims that all he has to offer is his willingness to work. “Trabaho lang”.

Again, Roxas wants to highlight the perceived issues affecting his rivals. He is not like them, he says. He promises to bring sincere and honest attributes to the presidency and continue the “matuwid na daan” of his sponsor, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III.

Okay, let’s grant it to Mar Roxas: he’s none of the above.

He’s “none of the above” because he has never shown an ability to be a leader, to demonstrate a principle-based leadership, a man with a strong backbone.

He had five years to build that performance he wants to be known for. But he squandered it. In all those five years, first as secretary of DOTC and then as secretary of DILG, Roxas has nothing to show. He had everything at his disposal and yet he has no performance to boast about.

The incompetence of the man has reached legendary levels. He fumbled on every play and kept falling on his face. He simply isn’t cut to be a leader. Even his words cause him more trouble and embarrassment than anything else. He can’t be faulted for not trying hard enough. In fact, he is overdoing the things that he intended to show him as being close with the poor, to the point that he looks an idiot. How else do you describe a man who puts rice on a mug and drinks water from a plate? Even the poorest among the poor knows what a mug and a plate are for.

Roxas doesn’t also know that he is mouthing a disdained mantra — “matuwid na daan”.

The Aquino administration has presided over the biggest corruption machinery since martial law. If in the past the plunder was only by a few, this time it is robbery in band. Loyalty to the party is obtained by bribing the senators and congressmen and governors and mayors. Each is allowed a free rein to plunder in their own jurisdictions. It is not hard to understand why Franklin Drilon has become a fierce attack dog for the administration. With the billions and billions of pesos poured into Iloilo (all overpriced projects), he has every motivation to protect his masters.

By mouthing “matuwid na daan”, Mar Roxas has also embraced the label of the “ridiculous”. He is so overpowered by his belief in “matuwad” (that’s a deliberate one) that people could only laugh in private. There are now reports that Liberal Party candidates in the Visayas are beginning to abandon him. Before long, he will find himself alone.

Right, Mar Roxas is none of the above. That’s because he has never started to be anybody worth noticing.

NO “ZONA LIBRE” FOR VICE GOVERNOR?

The controversy over the “zona libre” issue for the position of Vice Governor of Iloilo will put Mar Roxas in a no-win situation. It will cause the “unity ticket” that he and Franklin Drilon put together in Iloilo province to crumble before the campaign period for the presidency could even start.
Here’s what happened:
Four years ago, Mar Roxas recruited into the Liberal Party the political clans that wielded power in each of the province’s 1st and 3rd districts. He welcomed into the LP fold Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. and former 1st district Congressman Oscar Garin Sr. In the process, Roxas dislodged the original LPs like the late Niel Tupas Sr., now vice governor Boboy Tupas, Gen. Gerry Flores and many more.
Rojas wanted the Iloilo vote to be solid for him in the 2016 presidential elections. It was a given that incumbent 2nd district Congressman Arcadio Gorriceta and 5th district Congressman Junjun Tupas would throw their support for him.
But that solid political front is about to disintegrate. Mar Roxas broke his word to the Garins that the race for vice governor would be “zona libre”, meaning the LP will consider the two candidates for the position, Junjun Tupas and Christine “Tintin” Garin, to be equals. The Garins didn’t expect Junjun to run, and thought Tintin had the position on a silver platter. To everybody’s surprise, Junjun filed his COC at the last minute.
The Garins brought the matter to Roxas as the LP standard bearer. According to the father and son Garins — Oca and Congressman Richard — Roxas assured them it was going to be “zona libre”. And that’s what the Garins told the people of Iloilo.
This claim was quickly disputed by Junjun. The Garins were lying, he said.
The controversy reached its peak when Roxas arrived in Iloilo City for the “Dinagyang” festival last Jan. 24. Pressed by media to comment on the issue, Roxas said there is no free zone: Junjun Tupas is the lone candidate recognized by the LP.
It is unlikely the Garins will accept this turn-around of Roxas just like that. It is a stab in the back for them. Oca Garin was heard over radio as saying that Roxas did not deserve to be President if he could break his word. That is short of saying Mar Roxas can kiss his ambition good-bye. The Garins will withdraw support from him at the last moment.
This situation will give Roxas a migraine. The last poll survey showed he could count on only 47% of the Iloilo vote. That’s bad by itself, because it means he could not build enough cushion to cover areas where he is expected to lose heavily. With the Garins junking him, Roxas can expect his voter base in Iloilo to precipitously drop as election day draws nearer.
Poor Mar. He is getting a dose of his own medicine.

The plot thickens

As far as I know, STL operators are granted franchises to operate in a province or city only after it has secured favorable endorsements from the local government unit. That’s the reason the local STL operator in Iloilo City never got to operate openly outside the territorial boundaries of Iloilo City since the numbers game was revived five years ago.

But in the case of Around D’ World Gaming Corp. owned by Eddie Gonzales and Iggy Arroyo, it pulled strings just as the Arroyo administration was about to step down and managed to obtain a PCSO board resolution granting the entity a franchise to operate in the Province of Iloilo on May 19, 2010.

This interesting discovery surfaced today when I was interviewed by anchorman Eric John Pamplona of DYSI Super Radyo on the issue of the pending “application” of the gambling company to operate in the province of Iloilo. The Sangguniang Panlalawigan has scheduled a public hearing on Friday, Oct. 22, supposedly to elicit the views and opinions of Ilonggos on whether or not STL will be allowed to operate in the province.

It is a classic case of putting the cart ahead of the horse. Around D’ World is seeking local endorsements AFTER it was given a franchise to operate. This discovery only bolstered my long-held view that Defensor, provincial administrator Raul Banias, Arroyo and Gonzales had already closed the deal even before the then governor-elect could assume office. If there are “midnight appointments,” then the franchise to Around D’ World is a “midnight deal” of the Arroyo administration with the incoming Defensor administration.

Arroyo, who is also known as “Jose Pidal”, pounced on the opportunity presented by the narrow victory of Defensor to bring jueteng to Iloilo province, considered a first-class market because of its size and economic status. He could not wait for Defensor to take his oath because by then, PCSO would have been under new management. So with the help of Dr. Raul Banias, Arroyo and Gonzales sealed the transaction with Defensor.

Interestingly, it was a press release from the hacker/plagiarist that exposed this missing link to the equation. I had not known about the PCSO franchise until today. Now I’m more than convinced that the so-called “consultation” is nothing more than a “zarzuela” being played out by Defensor and Banias to mislead the Ilonggo public that the transaction is transparent and above-board. Too bad for them, the evidence is pointing the other way.

An acid test for the “tuwid na landas”

As I write this, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III is delivering a report on the accomplishments of his administration during the first 100 days in office. A phrase that underlines the central message of his report is the commitment to walk on a straight path, “maglalakad sa matuwid na daan.” The President is reiterating that corruption will have no place in his administration, and in fact, the big work he has done during the traditional honeymoon period was to untangle the mess left behind by his predecessor.

But as the President talks about his efforts to combat corruption, Ilonggos couldn’t help but wonder how Oscar Garin Sr. continues to occupy the position as Chairman of the Philippine Coconut Auhority (PCA). Garin’s name has long been associated with corruption and patronage politics, and the prolonged stay in the agency is sending a wrong signal to the people of Iloilo, and even to the coconut industry, that President Aquino is also making concessions for political reasons. The word is that Garin’s appointment has been extended until December 2010 if only to give time for the Liberal Party leaders to decide on a possible alliance with the Garins.

The local leadership of the Liberal Party has loudly said “no” to any alliance with the Garin family. Will the President ignore this stand in favor of befriending the Garins? The LP Iloilo fears that this will be a betrayal of the principles that propelled President Aquino to the highest post of the land. And his decision on Oscar Garin will be an acid test for his vow to walk only on a straight path.

Changing complexion

A very popular product these days is glutathione, which supposedly helps individuals with dark complexion turn lighter. In the province of Iloilo, it’s not this product that is about to change its complexion. It’s a game called jueteng in the guise of small town lottery. And the initiative to change the complexion of Iloilo province is coming directly from the Iloilo capitol.

For nine years, the previous administration under Governor Niel Tupas Sr. blocked the entry of jueteng into the province despite the many tempting offers. Just before the 2004 local elections, a group claiming to represent Ilocos Sur Governor Chavit Singson approached him to secure his approval for the illegal numbers game to operate in the province. In exchange, the group promised a monthly share of P1 million, “just for a start”, and this amount could go higher should the operation reap bigger profits. Governor Tupas asked his guests to leave his house at once, never to ever come back.

Governor Tupas was passionate about his campaign to stop all illegal activities in the province, and illegal gambling was on top of his list. When the PCSO granted a franchise for a small town lottery (STL) company to set up shop in Iloilo City, he was again approached for his consent to allow its operations to extend to the province.  STL offered a fixed share of its earnings to the province of Iloilo to help the LGU look after its indigents. It was all legal. But then again, Governor Tupas was uncompromising about his stand against illegal gambling. He said “no”.

This was the reason Iloilo became known as a “jueteng-free” province during the years Governor Tupas ran the province. He was one of a handful governors given an award by the Krusadang Bayan Laban sa Jueteng headed by the anti-jueteng crusader, then Lingayen archbishop Oscar Cruz. Governor Tupas is a believer that gambling is bad for the people, and he stuck to this position until his third term ended on June 30, 2010.

But that is about to end. A few days after Governor Tupas left the capitol, two or three illegal gambling operators set up shop in Pototan, Iloilo, known to be the bailiwick of the new governor. The message was instantly clear. These jueteng (known in Iloilo as “daily double”) had the blessings of the capitol. Who would dare operate the illegal numbers game from Pototan if he didn’t have approval from the governor? And right in his own backyard?

This was followed by negotiations to allow a new company to operate STL in the province. Dr. Raul Banias, the provincial administrator, formed a partnership with Jose Pidal (a.k.a. Rep. Iggy Arroyo) and jueteng lord Eddie Gonzales to operate this business, which will be a front for jueteng, in the province. During an informal meeting with municipal mayors last July, Governor Art Defensor Sr. began soliciting the support of local chief executives and board members.

The move is now being readied for the final approval in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, but kinks have emerged when municipal mayors learned that the business would be monopolized by the Pidal-Gonzales-Banias combine.  The mayors had the impression there would be a “spirit of free enterprise” in the whole gambling business, in which they will be given a free hand to choose what company to operate in their jurisdictions. Defensor is caught in a bind, because he had already committed the business to Pidal and Gonzales through Banias.

Defensor, however, is confident the move to bring jueteng into the province will push through. He considers the kinks that slowed down the effort as minor irritants. He is determined to change the complexion of Iloilo province from “jueteng-free” to “jueteng country.”

Hacker attack

It was a month ago when my 4-year old “Point of View” blog was attacked by the hacker/plagiarist from the Iloilo capitol, known for his cyber demolition jobs and hacking activities, and deleted, just as great cities in the distant past were burned to the ground by vengeful conquerors. But I didn’t allow that loss to knock me out; I simply put up this new blog.

Last night (Sept. 23), the alarm bells rang me up at around midnight to alert me to another on-going attack by the hacker/plagiarist. It’s good that I have adopted the cold-war practices of the major powers whereby I sweep my laptop computer for viruses and worms regularly, occasionally even twice a day. This new blog is a target for elimination by the powers at the Iloilo capitol, as this has consistently fired issues that fell right on target. The masters of the hacker/plagiarist were not pleased apparently, and ordered a major assault.

Perhaps what irked the hacker/plagiarist’s masters at the capitol was the blog post about Aura Landar’s vindication when the DILG issued memorandum circular 2010-82, which set down in clear terms its policy regarding the status of Philippine Councilors League presidents as members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. It was a slap on the faces of Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr. and Vice Governor Oscar Richard Garin who blocked Aura’s legitimate claim to the board seat in the interregnum between the end of the last term for councilors and the election of the new PCL president. The label “ignoramus” stuck on their foreheads with the issuance of this MC.

That you are reading this post indicates this blog survived last night’s attack. But I am certain the hacker/plagiarist is not going to give up. I’ll just have to be more security conscious. These past two weeks, the hacker/plagiarist has been sending emails containing worms and viruses to get him the security gates. It’s reassuring that none of these creeping attacks made it through. I hope to repulse subsequent attacks.

This hacker attack makes clear the repugnance with which the hacker/plagiarist’s masters have for the truth. They want to live in a fiction that they are doing well at the capitol. That’s the reason that for them, the elimination of this blog is top priority.