IT is not unusual for men raised in adjacent towns to compete in big-time politics in the same election cycle. Lubao-born and Lubao-raised Diosdado Macapagal ran and won the presidency in 1961, while Gil J. Puyat ran and lost in the vice presidential race that same year. When your surname is Puyat, you can trace your roots to only one town, Guagua, Pampanga. Lubao and Guagua not only share physical boundaries. They are two of the most two most intertwined towns in the country.
In the previous election cycle – 1957 – Macapagal won the vice presidency while Puyat topped the senatorial elections. Which paved the way for Puyat getting drafted as the NP VP candidate in 1961. It was painful for the people of the two towns, that have existed in amity through centuries, to see their most promising national leaders run under competing parties and slam each other. Macapagal was a die-hard LP and Puyat was NP all the way. Never the twain shall meet.
But that episode in the political lives of Lubao and Guagua, the outsized role of two towns in national elections, is about to exit from the record. In the 2015 presidential elections, Bicol Region will have three sons and a daughter competing for the vice presidency, a historic high, and definitely a source of pride for the Bicol region. Nothing of this sort has ever happened to any region of the country in any election cycle.
Let us make a headcount. Senator Chiz Escudero of the Grace-Chiz team. Rep. Leni Robredo of the LP, the ruling political coalition. Senator Greg Honasan of the main opposition coalition, the UNA. And independent candidate Senator Antonio Trillanes 1V. Is it true that the ancestors of the three – Honasan, Trillanes and Robredo – all came from Sorsogon ? The Escuderos have never left Sorsogon.
The Bicol-centric vice presidential competition takes a more interesting turn once you consider this : the wife of Senator Alan Peter Cayetano is from Albay, a province in the same region.
“A Bicolano is not far from the presidency,” waxed former Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman. Mr. Lagman has the fervor for Bicol that is typical of a migrant’s son. If your surname is Lagman – there is a 100 percent certainty that your ancestors came from only one town – Guagua, Pampanga. “ This is the age of Bicolanos,” said Honasan.
Aggregating the poll numbers of the Bicolano VP candidates, there is an 85 percent chance that, indeed, we will have a Bicolano leader who will be a heartbeat away from the presidency in 2016. At no time in our political history is Bicol’s role in Philippine politics this marked and this prominent. but then, this is not the only story of Bicil rising.
The interesting Bicol-centric VP race segues into another interesting development in Bicol politics, an NGO rising up against one of the deeply – entrenched political dynasties in the region, the Fuentebellas of Camarines Sur. The NGO ZeroTolerance.Org, an anti-corruption group, has filed a plunder case against the family patriarch, former Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella and his wife Evelyn, now the mayor of Sagnay town, CamSur. The NGO filed the plunder case in the midst of the current election fever before the Ombudsman probably in a tit for tat move against the political dynasty. An alleged accomplish, Fidelis Apalisok, was also included in the plunder sheet.
The Fuentebella patriarch and former House Speaker is now running for his old congressional seat in Camsur’s 4th district, now being held by his son Felix William “ Wimpy ” Fuentebella, who narrowly won in a controversial congressional contest against actor Aga Mullach in the last election. The 4th district of CamSur has been under the polit6ical grip of the family from time immemorial.
ZeroTolerance.Org used the 2010 SALN as basis for the plunder complaint. In that SALN, the Fuentebellas declared ownership of nine properties with a value of P23.6 million. The NGO claimed otherwise. It claimed that the Fuentebellas should be held accountable “ for amassing wealth and for the plunder of public funds “ worth P186.6 million, all of which did not appear in their 2010 SALN.. ZeroTolerance.Org said these properties were registered under the name of Apalisok, an alleged dummy of the Fuentebellas.
The alleged properties not declared in the 2010 SALN included 20 lots with a total value of more than P83 million located in the towns of Goa, San Jose, Tigaon and Sagnay. Sagnay’s mayor is Evelyn, Tigaon’s mayor is her son, Arnulf Bryant. Nine government projects built within properties privately owned by the Fuentebellas, with a combined worth of P45 million, were not included in the 2010 SALN, according to ZergoTolerance.Org.
Alleged proceeds from unaccounted PDAF outlays and eight vehicles that included a BMW car were also identified by the NGO as part of the properties allegedly owned by the Fuentebellas that did not appear in their 2010 SALN.
The NGO’s Ombudsman case changes the election dynamic in that part of CamSur, where all previous and loosely-organized causes to topple the Fuentebellas from political power had failed. Even popular actor Mullach and his beauty-queen wife had failed to translate their star power into winning votes against the Fuentebellas. Can an anti-graft watchdog succeed where the Mullachs have failed?
The previous efforts of regional NGOs to topple down regional political dynasties through court cases and propaganda had been characterized by flawed research and inadequate court filings. ZeroTolerance.Org definitely prepared well for this fight against the Fuentebellas as it did thorough research. Its filing with the Ombudsman, done during the election season, was probably intended to make the plunder case a major election issues in the district.
Even if it fails, the NGO should get credit for audacity and perfect timing.