Ex-Zambales governor, priest in near fistfight

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OLONGAPO CITY—A leader of Zambales’ Magsaysay clan almost came to blows with a priest during an election forum organized by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) on Saturday for candidates in this city and in the province’s first congressional district.

Former Zambales Gov. Vicente Magsaysay confronted  Fr. John Mara onstage at the city’s Rizal Triangle when the priest took away the microphone from his grandson, first district congressional candidate Jesus Vicente “Jobo” Magsaysay II, in the middle of a speech.

Magsaysay’s supporters joined the former governor onstage, although some tried to restrain him.

At one point during the commotion, Magsaysay lunged at Mara but he restrained himself while the audience jeered.

The PPCRV said it asked monitors of the forum to turn off the microphones when candidates ventured into “character assassinations.”

PPCRV officials asked Mara to cut off Jobo, son of senatorial candidate and outgoing Zambales Rep. Ma. Milagros “Mitos” Magsaysay, when he declared that he planned to investigate the supposed debts of the local government-run power distribution department should he be elected on May 13.

Organizers said they also turned off the microphone when vice mayoral candidate Brian Gordon’s speech “became too personal.”

Jobo is running against Olongapo Mayor James Gordon Jr., Brian’s uncle, and former Subic Mayor Jeffrey Khonghun.

In a telephone interview on Sunday, Jobo said PPCRV officials explained to him that he was cut off not because of what he was saying but because they were concerned about the unruly crowd.

“By that time, they could not control the crowd anymore and they were concerned [that a fight might break out between the candidates’ supporters],” he said.

Jobo said his grandfather, who is not running for any position, reacted to defend him because he misconstrued a gesture made onstage by Mayor Gordon, which appeared to order PPCRV to shut off his microphone.

The crowd was already agitated because of a speech made earlier by Brian, son of senatorial candidate Richard Gordon. Brian had been critical of Mayor Gordon and his aunt, Anne Marie, a mayoral candidate, and declared onstage that he was running “so that people [would] know that there is still a Gordon who is straight.”

The audience continued to jeer when Anne Marie, Mayor Gordon and Jobo spoke onstage. At one point, the supporters of Khonghun and Jobo walked out of the forum.

Mayor Gordon used the incident to attack the Magsaysay family, a rival of the Gordons.

In a statement, the mayor said: “The desperation of our political opponents is very clear. They have resorted to intimidation, harassment and bullying.”

Brian, however, endorsed the candidacy of Jobo’s mother, Mitos, who was in the forum. Mitos and Brian’s father, Richard, are running for senator under the United Nationalist Alliance.

Mitos, in 2004, beat Richard’s wife, Kate, in Zambales’ congressional race.

In this year’s election, one of Brian’s three opponents in the vice mayoral race is Mitos’ son, Vicente II or Vic-Vic.

Brian is running with his cousin, James “Bugsy” de los Reyes, who is seeking the mayoral seat against their aunt, Anne Marie, and Vice Mayor Rolen Paulino. Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon

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