Ilocos Sur politics still under spell of Chavit SingsonBy Frank Cimatu
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The first rule in the campaign of “Team Ryan,” led by Ilocos Sur gubernatorial candidate Ryan Luis Singson, is: No one speaks for more than two minutes.
The team moves in two groups—one, composed of candidates in the municipality, goes first and then leaves when the other, composed of candidates for board members and higher posts, arrives.
There are two main reasons behind this arrangement. First, they have to cover at least eight caucuses a day and their cars use up so much space in the venues, which are usually basketball courts or barangay halls.
For those in the first group, the routines are easy. They would talk about their programs and exit. For the second, the program host would be—as usual—Vice Gov. Deogracias Savellano, who is seeking reelection against former Board Member Efren Rafanan.
The congressional candidates are former Rep. Ronald Singson (first district), who did not serve his term starting 2010 when he was jailed and convicted for illegal drugs possession in Hong Kong, and Deputy Speaker Eric Singson (second district). Ryan, the incumbent congressman in the first district, is running for governor this time.
Ronald and Ryan are sons of political kingpin Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson, while Eric is the latter’s cousin. Ronald’s opponent is lawyer Bertrand Baterina, while Ryan’s is Mayor Roque Verzosa Jr. of Tagudin town. Of the three, Eric would have the easiest ride, running against neophyte Henry Capela.
As part of the Team Ryan routine, the board members would speak first. Then, Savellano would have old women shout, “Ryaaaaan!” The one who shouted the longest would get a prize. The “Ryan Dancers” would perform a hip-hop number while displaying the gubernatorial candidate’s banners.
After this, Savellano would call out to the audience, mostly housewives and bored teenagers, to tell him who could be missing. They would shout “Dina, Dina, Dina!” and that would be a cue for movie actress Dina Bonnevie, who recently married the vice governor, to come out of the official’s car.
Bonnevie would dish out her memorized spiel about voting for her husband and the rest of Team Ryan. Eric would then have a little comic banter with Bonnevie. After that, Savellano and Ryan would deliver their speeches.
Exit Team Ryan. The villagers would then have packed lunch or merienda of miki (noodle soup with achuete and minced longganiza or bagnet).
Actually it is not actress Bonnevie who is missing in the program but Chavit Singson. He has decided to take a leave from politics although Ilocos Sur politics still revolves around him.
Rafanan, his fiercest critic, used to be his apologist until the late 1990s when the former tricycle driver-turned-Bombo Radyo commentator-turned-board member ran against Chavit. Verzosa, the LP candidate, is a former friend and ally of Chavit’s.
Even months before the filing of candidacy, Chavit and Eric would be holding meetings with the mayors and their rivals to get their consensus so there would be fewer competitions in the province, if possible. Which is why Ilocos Sur, which has 32 towns and two cities, has the biggest number of unopposed mayoral candidates at 18 in the Ilocos region.
The unopposed candidates are Eva Marie Medina (Chavit’s niece) of Vigan City, Dr. Ericson Singson (Eric’s son) of Candon City, Mar Ruel Sumabat of Alilem, Sammy Boy Parilla of Bantay, Germelina Goulart (Chavit’s sister) of Caoayan, Benjamin Maggay of Cervantes, Jessie Balingsat of Galimuyod, Clifford Patil-ao of Quirino, Leopoldo Gironella Jr. of Salcedo, Chester Elaydo of San Esteban, JJ Bueno of Santa, Mark Purisima of San Ildefonso, Teresita Valle of Sta. Cruz, Joseph Tabanda III of San Vicente, Amado Tadena of Sto. Domingo, Josefino Miranda of Santiago, Aries Gaerlan of Sigay and Fernando Quiton of Sugpon.
In Candon, reelectionist Vice Mayor Alfonso Singson (Eric’s brother) and all city councilors are unopposed. This is also the same case in San Vicente.
While those outside the province view this large number of unopposed as a failure of democracy, the mayoral candidates see it as a sign of peace and unity, so much so that when the Commission on Elections declared Ilocos Sur an area of concern, almost all mayors signed a resolution against the move.
Almost all races in Ilocos Sur are all over but the counting, but pundits see the Savellano-Rafanan battle as the only race worth watching.
Will it be the star power of Dina or the start of Rambo’s tour of duty?