CABANATUAN CITY—In the political history of Nueva Ecija, no other name but Joson wove what seemed like a magical spell among the electorate for the last 50 years.
The patriarch, Eduardo, a guerrilla leader during World War II, who figured prominently in helping the American soldiers in the daring rescue of more than 500 prisoners of war in Camp Pangatian here, was elected governor in 1959 and had ruled the province until his death in 1990.
So big was the Joson name in local politics that in one election, a campaign billboard proclaiming a “Joson-Joson-Joson-Joson” lineup was seen. The Josons fielded candidates for governor, vice governor, representative and town mayor. All of them won.
When the patriarch died, two of his sons became governor in succession. Tomas III served as acting governor in 1990. He was elected governor in 1992 and served until 1995. Tomas III was running for reelection when days before the elections, he and his brother, Mariano Cristino, were implicated in the killing of then Cabanatuan City Mayor Honorato Perez, who was running for governor.
Tomas III’s brother, Eduardo Nonato, replaced him as candidate and became governor from 1995 to 1998.
In the 1998 elections, while detained in Camp Crame, Tomas III ran for governor and won handily. He was reelected twice and ended his term in 2007.
He and Mariano Cristino, who was elected Quezon mayor while in detention, were freed after the court cleared them of murder charges.
At one time or another, Tomas III’s brothers, Mariano Cristino and Eduardo IV, and son, Edward Thomas, were elected vice governor of the province.
The attempts, however, of Mariano Cristino and Edward Thomas to continue the Josons’ hold of the gubernatorial post proved disastrous in the 2007 and 2010 elections.
Running on a platform of change for Nueva Ecija in 2007, then Rep. Aurelio Umali of the third district dashed the hope of Mariano Cristino, then vice governor, to continue the Joson
rule in the province. With his victory, Umali earned the distinction of being the Joson’s “political slayer.”
Umali proved that his mastery over a Joson was no fluke. He defeated Edward Thomas, eldest son of Tomas III, in his reelection bid in 2010.
With successive defeats, are the Josons now buried in political oblivion?
“Of course not. Although we are not there (provincial capitol), we continue serving our province mates,” said Mariano Cristino, the incumbent mayor of Quezon town.
When the Inquirer interviewed him recently, Mariano Cristino’s office was teeming with people asking for assistance.
“I always try my best in providing the assistance they need,” he said. “Kahit paano, walang umaalis na malungkot (Nobody goes home unhappy).”
That time, he approved the local government assistance in the formation of a public school drum and lyre corps, the payment for the bill of materials for the repair of a barangay hall, a request for medicine and others.
“I am continuing the basic social services started by my father and continued by my brother, Tommy (Tomas III). We have not stopped giving services to our province mates,” said Mariano Cristino.
Asked about the chances of a Joson regaining the gubernatorial post, he said: “We have a big chance now. I can sense that the voters have assessed that our giving services to them is better compared to what has been happening in the province now.”
He said the political party formed by his father, Bagong Lakas ng Nueva Ecija (Balane), has fielded his wife, Nueva Ecija Rep. Josefina Manuel-Joson, to challenge Umali. Josefina is teaming up with Eduardo Joson IV, her brother-in-law.
Mariano Cristino said Balane, which is allied with the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), has fielded an almost complete lineup in the congressional and local government races.
Although Josefina is the party’s incumbent chair, many believe that Mariano Cristino has a big hand in running its affairs.
Mariano Cristino is running for representative of the first district. His son, Dean, will run for mayor of Quezon while his nephew, Rey, son of Eduardo Nonato, will run for reelection as board member.
Tomas III said he and Edward Thomas are not seeking elective posts but will actively campaign for Josefina and Eduardo IV and the rest of the candidates of the NPC-Balane coalition.
Eduardo Nonato, who is engaged in farming in Guimba town, is expected to join the campaign sorties of the party, Tomas III said.
“We are not buried yet politically. We are giving them a clean and good fight this coming election,” Mariano Cristino said.
Umali, on the other hand, is building a formidable name in Nueva Ecija politics.
His wife, Czarina, is running for reelection as representative of the third district and his brother, Anthony, a provincial board member, is running for mayor of Cabanatuan City against reelectionist Mayor Julius Cesar Vergara.
Political observers, however, are predicting that vote-rich Cabanatuan City, with 216,480 registered voters, will not support the Umalis this time. Their reason: Umali had opposed the campaign of Vergara to elevate Cabanatuan into a highly urbanized city.
Vergara supported Umali in 2010 against a Joson. This time, Vergara is allied with the Josons.
PHOTOS BY ANSELMO ROQUE/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON