Incumbents face “token” foes?

Province, City, Congress unite; towns have free zone. HOW CAN YOU BEAT THAT: They may not get a perfect win but a sure majority will be expected. LR: Cong. Manuel Sagarbarria, Bayawan City Mayor Pryde Henry Teves, Gov. Roel Degamo, Cong. Abet Benitez convenor, Cong. Arnulfo Teves Jr.; CITY COALITION: Councilors Chacko Sagarbarria, Karissa Maxino, Lani Ramon, Tenchu Perdices, Cong. Sagarbarria, Vice Mayor JJesmena, Mayor Ipe Remollo, Joe Ken Arbas, Edgar Lentorio, Tony Rems, and Michael Bandal.

Because of the formed coalition among the major incumbent posts of governor, mayors, and congressional representatives in Negros Oriental, their opponents down the line are branded as token challengers as indicated by their opponents’ independence from traditional political parties.

But the catch is, wittingly or unwittingly, those “token” opponents are mostly “connected” somehow with major re-electionists, meaning, they could just have been planted there just to present a semblance of challengers.

But not in Dumaguete city where there is a real three-cornered fight for mayor and vice mayor. Opponents say they have a claim that as new challengers they are not token opponents but they claim they are serious, capable, experienced formidable and strong opponents of the incumbents.

WHY COALITION?

Impartial quarters believe that the coalition is formed in anticipation of a possible federal government under a federal constitution, thus the Visayas block is being built up in the form of coalitions so that they can easily solidify into one region or a Visayas block if it becomes necessary in the future. This will be their counterpart for the Luzon and Mindanao blocks.

The coalition among big political leaders in Negros Oriental are determined to hold on up to election day, even as Gov. Roel Degamo is already being challenged by a protégée of his known political rival in 1st Dist. Rep. Jocelyn Limkaichong who is fielding three-termer board member Jessica Jane “Ikay” Villanueva for governor. Records will show that one of the graft cases filed before against the governor is being lodged by Ikay Villanueva.

Likewise, Vice Gov. Eduard Mark Macias also has an opponent in the person of Glib Estrella, brother in-law of Gov. Degamo, who is running for vice governor under the Nacionalista Party.

The third vice gov bet is the usual runner every election Sammy Torres. The only difference is that Villanueva cannot be substituted as an independent candidate while Estrella can still be substituted “with a stronger opponent until Nov. 29” because he has a certificate of nomination (CONA) from the Nacionalista Party.

Immediately, Macias’ camp sent a representative to the provincial COMELEC office upon knowing that the governor’s brother-in-law was the last to file his COC as vice governor.

Board Member Rommel Erames has confirmed that Vice Gov. Macias sent him for a confirmation and requested provincial election officer Edi Aba for a certified true copy of Estrella’s COC, including the time it was filed to determine if there are no violations on the rules.

He was told that anybody who arrived at the premises on or before 4:45 in the afternoon can still file their COC even after 5:00 o’clock in the afternoon. Estrella’s COC was officially filed at 5:26 in the afternoon, according to the Comelec records.

In spite of the explanation, Erames said they will make a study of the rules and will make recommendations to the vice governor.

Based on official records, Degamo has two challengers, namely, radioman Dindo Generoso (independent) and Villanueva who also runs as an independent candidate for governor.

Several days ago, 13 mayors mostly coming from the third district of the south have gathered in an undisclosed place to push for Cong. Limkaichong to run for governor against Degamo inspite of the coalition. But the first district representative did not take on the challenge. It was the sentiment of the first district mayors that they were not part of the failed strategy from the third district.

In the first district, Limkaichong has two challengers namely, Danilo Roble as an independent candidate and Pancracio Siares Paras who also took on the same moniker as former three-termer congressman of the 1st district Jacinto “Jing” Paras. Since Paras has a CONA coming from Lakas-CMD, he can still be substituted possibly by ex-Cong Jing Paras, currently the USEC for Labor who has to resign if he has to run for congress.

Likewise for the 2nd district, incumbent Cong. Manuel Sagarbarria who is an NPC, is being challenged by two independent candidates namely, Ryan Ybanez and Jimmy Merto virtual unknowns as described by political veterans.

Only Cong. Arnulfo “Arnie” Teves Jr. of the third district runs uncontested.

Both city election officer Atty Gildu Agoncillo and provincial election officer Atty. Edi Aba spelled out the pertinent provisions in caes of substitution.

Agoncillo said from now up to November 29, anyone of the COC filers who wish to withdraw can be substituted by another person provided he or she belongs to the same political party and with a CONA so his or her name can be included in the printing of the official ballots. Another instance where substitution is possible up to November 29 is for reasons of death or disqualification but strictly no substitution for independents.

However, after the November 29 cut-off, substitution can only be availed in case of the candidate’s disqualification or for reasons of death, provided they belong to the same political party with a CONA and have the same surname with that of the disqualified or dead candidate even up to mid-day on election day.

Meanwhile, it will be a three-cornered fight for the mayoral and vice mayoralty positions in Dumaguete City with 17 individuals running for city councilor, seven of whom are independents.

Dumaguete fight

For mayor in Dumaguete, incumbent City Mayor Felipe Remollo is strongly favored against challenger William Ablong (IND), and Quirino Ramirez (IND) . Ablong was included in the councilor list of his former boss Cong.Sagarbaria who vehemently denied giving Ablong a blessing to breakaway from the coalition.

Sagarbarria, in a CHRONICLE interview, said that Ablong broke away without his permission, knowledge, or approval. Ablong has yet to explain his lone breakaway.

For vice mayor, the official candidates include the coalition bet, the incumbent City Vice Mayor JJ Esmena (NPC), challenger city councilor Atty. Alan Cordova (IND), and Nelson Layague (IND) . No. 1 councilor Cordova told Mayor Remollo that now is the time for him to tackle the vice mayorship instead of running for councilor.

Both Ablong and Cordova are veteran public officials. They took exceptions that they are token opponents. They claim that they are serious, capable, experienced and formidable worthy opponents of the incumbents.

Official candidates for councilors in Dumaguete as per Comelec official list in alphabetical order are:

Joe Kenneth Arbas, Atty Michael Bandal, Peter Catan, Noel de Jesus, Bernice Anne Elmaco, Rosel Erames, Dennis Futalan, mediaman Juancho “Choy” Gallarde, Atty. Edgar Lentorio, Dan Leon, Roy Lumjod, Nelson Patrimonio, Agustin Miguel Perdices, Lilani Ramon, Antonio Remollo, Manuel Sagarbarria and Karissa Faye Tolentino-Maxino.