OLONGAPO CITY: A battle between a politician seeking a return to power and an incumbent looking to extend his stay in office will make the local polls in this city an intense one.
James “Bong” Gordon Jr., who is a three-term congressman, a three-term mayor and a member of the Gordon political clan that dominated politics in this city for decades, is seeking a return to City Hall after losing his congressional bid in 2013.
He said members of the Gordon family have resolved their differences that caused their political debacle in the last election.
Gordon is running against Rolen Paulino, the incumbent city mayor, who defeated his wife Anne Marie Gordon and nephew Bugsy Gordon Delos Reyes in the 2013 mayoral race.
“What exacerbated the situation then was other members of the family [Gordon] went too personal and even accused me of stealing money from the PUD,” Gordon told The Manila Times in an interview.
Public Utilities Department or PUD is the department running the city’s power utility operations here, which before its privatization in 2013 amassed a huge debt amounting to P5.1 billion.
“Paulino had an easy time echoing the negative things my relatives said about me during the 2013 campaign period,” Gordon said.
Paulino, a member of the opposition, was Gordon’s vice mayor in 2010-2013.
Brian Patrick Gordon, the son of Gordon’s older brother, Richard Dick Gordon, also ran and lost as vice mayor under a different political party.
Two other nephews, defeated mayoral candidate Bugsy Delos Reyes and John Carlos Delos Reyes, who made unsuccessful attempts as presidential candidate in 2010 and senatorial candidate in 2013, are former city councilors.
The Gordon family has dominated local politics here since the 1960s, starting with James Leonard Gordon, who was the city’s first mayor, followed by his wife Amelia Juico Gordon, who served as city mayor and later as assemblywoman.
Richard Dick Gordon, who rose from being the youngest delegate to the 1971 Constitutional Convention, to city mayor, to first chairman and administrator of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, to Tourism Secretary and elected Senator in 2004–2010, took over and continued the political reign of the family along with wife, Kate Gordon, who also served as city mayor and was elected First District congresswoman.
He is currently chairman of the Philippine Red Cross and one of the 2016 senatorial aspirants after failing in his 2010 presidential bid and narrowly losing in the 2013 senatorial elections.
The family’s hold on local politics was later continued by Gordon, who enjoyed nine years as congressman and another nine years as city mayor from 1995 to 2013.
His wife, Anne Marie, won as vice governor of Zambales in 2007-2010. Gordon believes they did not fail in the last election as reflected in a survey conducted for them by Pulse Asia.
“If all the votes garnered by Gordon candidates were added during last election, you can see a Gordon win,” Gordon said.
Gordon said a new mandate by the people of Olongapo will see him continuing his vision for the city—working to expand the Freeport to include the city and pushing for the return of the US troops in Subic Bay, among others.
He said expanding the Freeport to include Olongapo, Bataan and up to San Antonio in Zambales, will mean a bigger area that is easier to sell to the world.
Paulino, on the other hand, is banking on his growing popularity as a friendly, easy to approach city mayor and his slogan “Transparency and Good Governance” to extend his stay as the city’s chief executive.
In his first month in office, Paulino said he faced the threat of a city-wide power disconnection due to accumulated and unpaid power debt that already amounted to more than P5 billion.
Paulino added he was able to negotiate with officials of the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management on the restructuring of the payment scheme and averted what was then a looming blackout for the city.
A few months later he had to deal with the problem of record flooding in the city in the aftermath of a typhoon, he said, adding his administration made sure dredging and desilting of the city’s rivers and canals were immediately undertaken and continued.