The political landscape in Ilocos Norte is no stranger to wrangling between members of a political clan or to a circus of former allies becoming fierce enemies.
It happened once with the Marcos family in 2010, when Imee Marcos faced and trounced her cousin Michael Keon’s bid for a second term in the gubernatorial post.
The on-again, off-again alliance between the Marcoses and the province’s next most influential clan, the Fariñases, has been amusing to both political observers and ordinary voters.
“We are used to their odd union. There’s always LQ (lovers’ quarrel),” a city government official, who requested anonymity, said.
The two families have been alternately allies and rivals since 1998 when the Marcoses returned to Ilocos Norte and reclaimed their old political turf after being politically dormant following the exile and death of patriarch Ferdinand Marcos in Hawaii in 1989.
Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who was then running on his first term as governor, relied for support on his long-time friend and ally, Rodolfo “Rudy” Fariñas, who had completed his full term as governor in 1998.
The alliance would be short-lived as the erstwhile friends became rivals early in their terms—Bongbong as governor, Rudy as representative—over frivolous disputes.
Rudy’s supposed tendency to become overbearing did not sit well with Bongbong; Rudy, on the other hand, found Bongbong’s leadership style wanting.
The Marcoses and the Fariñases returned to being allies in the 2010 elections, which also saw the birth of the so-called One-Ilocos Norte team.
Backed by mother Imelda and brother Bongbong, Imee Marcos created One-Ilocos Norte, which was both a platform and a concept to unify the province’s political leaders. Rudy, who ran as representative, completed the Marcos ticket.
This time, the unified Ilocos Norte is, yet again, set to collapse, including the Marcos-Fariñas alliance, all because of infighting within the Fariñas clan.
Former Laoag Mayor Roger Fariñas, who served from 1995 to 2004, wants to get back his old seat, a promise he once made to city government employees before completing his term.
“During my last flag raising ceremony as mayor, I told them I shall return,” Roger said in public forums. “I told them I will wait until my nephew (outgoing Laoag Mayor Michael Fariñas) finishes his term and I will return to continue my service.”
Roger, however, would have to run for the mayoral post against his nephew’s wife, Chevylle, who has endeared herself not just to city employees but also to leaders of villages where she carved her political clout, having been elected president of the Association of Barangay Captains in Laoag.
Michael himself is running for vice mayor and is up against his cousin Carlos, eldest son of Rudy, resulting in a baffling, bordering on the absurd, Fariñas-Fariñas-Fariñas-Fariñas race.
What made the match-ups complicated is that Imee Marcos has endorsed Chevylle’s candidacy, giving Rudy a reason to make himself scarce from the Marcos camp.
The lawmaker was noticeably absent during the proclamation of Imee’s One-Ilocos Norte ticket on April 2 at the capitol stage. Bongbong provided support for his sister and her provincial and local lineups that included the Fariñas couple, Michael and Chevylle.
Rudy’s absence was not lost on rally spectators. “Awanen Ilocos Norte (‘No More Ilocos Norte’ in Ilocano and a word play on the One-Ilocos Norte ticket),” a rally observer said.
The last time Rudy was seen working with the team was on the day they filed their certificates of candidacy (COC) on Oct. 3.
On Oct. 1, the first day of filing of COC, Michael pulled a surprise by fielding his wife to the mayoral post, a move that upset Rudy as he was then in the middle of negotiating who among the family members would run for the Laoag seat. Rudy wanted to prevent Roger and Chevylle from slugging it out for the seat.
Roger later filed his COC on Oct. 5. Keon, who saw an opportunity behind the relatives’ conflict, filed his own. Keon would later withdraw his candidacy, reminding himself of a lesson he learned the hard way when he faced a relative in a heads-up battle.
“It is in the interest of the family. I do not wish to be the source of dissent among the Marcoses,” Keon said after he pulled out of the mayoral race.
When he faced reporters on Dec. 3, Michael said his uncle, Rudy, presented three options for the former to consider during their meeting on Nov. 6.
“First, Carlos will run as mayor with me as vice mayor. Second, Carlos runs as mayor with my son Jamie as his vice mayor. The last option was for Chevylle to run as mayor with Carlos as her vice mayor,” he said.
Michael said the meeting went on for hours from 5:30 p.m. until early the next day without them arriving at a common understanding. “I wanted to cut him short and tell him the first two proposals are not options,” he said.
Michael said the decision to field his wife was not merely a family agreement but a party decision, referring to the province’s Liberal Party-Nacionalista Party alliance. Michael belongs to the LP while the Marcoses have coalesced with the NP.
Chevylle’s candidacy also got Imee’s approval as leader of the One-Ilocos Norte ticket.
“[That it has come to this] is not anybody’s fault. No one did this intentionally,” Michael said.
Whether the Fariñases will sort themselves eventually or stick to their guns before the May 13 elections is anybody’s guess. As the campaign heats up, so is the fierce bickering between members of the once-solid Fariñas clan.
“The Fariñas clan has always been solid. The family has crumbled because the couple (Michael and Chevylle) no longer wants to let go of their seats,” Roger said.
Michael, on the other hand, said his tiff with his uncle began the day he assumed his seat at City Hall. “During my first day in office, my uncle stormed the office of the mayor and censured me,” he said.
Roger, he said, appeared to be upset that his wife was not allowed to continue serving as the city government’s tourism officer, a position that Roger’s wife held while he was mayor.
“I have yet to hear a nice word from him,” Michael said.
Michael was aware that his uncle had been dishing out stories of supposed corruption in his administration in various avenues.
Speaking before their supporters during the One-Ilocos Norte proclamation rally, Michael said he did not wish to answer back “out of respect to an elder.”