Teachers prevent rival pols from coming to blowsBy Delfin T. Mallari Jr. |Inquirer Southern Luzon
LUCENA CITY, Philippines—The newly installed mayor of Lucena, Rhoderick Alcala, and former Mayor Ramon Talaga Jr. might have come to blows in front of local public school teachers on Thursday if not for the intervention of cooler heads.
Witnesses interviewed by the Inquirer said that Alcala, who was formally installed mayor earlier in the day, showed up uninvited to the Lucena Teachers and Employees Convention being held at the Quezon Convention Center in the company of his wife and his Liberal Party councilor candidates.
Tension rose after Talaga and his wife, Barbara Ruby, the recently ousted mayor of Lucena, who were invited guests, arrived an hour later, said the sources, who all asked not to be named for fear of retaliation from both politicians.
Earlier in the day, Alcala took his oath as mayor and formally replaced Barbara Ruby who lost an appeal to the Supreme Court against an earlier ruling that unseated her as mayor due to the invalidity of her candidacy.
Her husband, a member of the United Nationalist alliance (UNA), and Alcala (LP) are now both gunning for the mayoral post here in next year’s elections.
“We all became uneasy,” said one teacher.
“Both camps tried to be civil despite moves not to bump into each other while table-hopping,” said another. “But it was obvious that the teachers were having more fun with ex-Mayor Talaga because he was throwing money bills for us to grab and sponsoring games with cash prizes.”
Trouble erupted later in the afternoon when Alcala and his wife were dancing together with some teachers. At this juncture, Talaga spoke before the microphone and announced a dance contest among the four school districts.
“While ex-Mayor Talaga was making the announcement, the band stopped playing, which was wrongly interpreted by Mayor Alcala as ordered by his political foe,” said one teacher.
The teacher said Alcala grabbed a microphone and angrily told the Talaga couple to keep off city government affairs because they were already ousted and Barbara was not elected.
The two nearly came to blows, the teachers said.
A still fuming Alcala told the Inquirer as he was leaving the convention center on Thursday that he felt insulted when Talaga ordered the music to stop while they were dancing.
Alcala claimed Ramon tried to assault him but was stopped by some teachers.
Talaga denied the assault allegation. “Why would I do that in front of the teachers? I only attempted to get his microphone to answer his tirades that my wife was not elected. He was the one who was not elected,” Talaga said by phone Friday.
The teachers said some of them ducked for cover for fear shooting would erupt between the armed security escorts of both politicians.
Alcala was not on the list of guest speakers at the convention. The listed speakers included Quezon Gov. David Suarez, the Talaga couple and Dr. Aniano Ogayon, city schools superintendent.
“The affair was actually an advance Christmas party and farewell by (Barbara) Talaga. It was supposed to be a happy occasion but was dampened by the intrusion of Mayor Alcala and his candidates,” said a teacher.
Alcala maintained he had a right to attend to the occasion being the incumbent city mayor and head of the city school board. “The event is a city government affair,” he said.
After the incident, the Talaga couple left the center, leaving Alcala and his companions behind. Alcala granted the Inquirer a short interview before he made his exit as the teachers were wrapping up the activities.