IBA, Zambales—Just into his first term, Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. has started flexing his political muscle in the province that had been dominated by political families for many years.
His ally, Vice Gov. Ramon Lacbain II, expected the political party formed by Ebdane—Sulong Zambales Party (SZP)—to dominate the May 13 elections due to a well-oiled machinery, as well as effective programs of government undertaken during his first term.
Ebdane’s tenure, as distinguished by those of the heads of other political clans like the Magsaysays and the Delosos who had led the province in the past, has been characterized by “pushing the province forward,” Lacbain said.
The SZP, which Ebdane launched last year, is fielding candidates in all 13 towns of the province. About 70 percent of them are incumbents.
The party’s platform is anchored on tourism as a banner program. “We call it Blueprint 2020, which focuses on agriculture, tourism, health and infrastructure,” Lacbain said.
Earlier, Ebdane said SZP was conceived after the May 2010 elections, when he won his first term.
“Under SZP, we can do away with the inherent conflict from being affiliated with various national parties, and we can therefore focus our energies on developing our community and serving our province mates,” he said during the party’s launch. He also announced his reelection bid.
Ebdane, a former chief of the Philippine National Police and one of the closest advisers of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, said having a local party would prevent local officials from changing party affiliations every time a new administration assumes power.
Slow but steady hold
Political clans in Zambales have noted Ebdane’s slow but steady hold on politics and have fielded their own candidates to challenge SZP.
Former Gov. Amor Deloso, a candidate of the Liberal Party (LP), is running against Ebdane. His daughter Cheryl Deloso-Montalla is challenging the reelection bid of Ebdane’s son, Rep. Jun Omar Ebdane, in the second district.
Deloso’s son Ad Hebert, the incumbent mayor of the capital town Iba, is up against another Ebdane son, Jun Rundstedt, or Rundy, a political neophyte.
A scion of the Magsaysay clan, Jobo, the son of outgoing Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay, is challenging the bid of a close ally of Ebdane, former Subic Mayor Jeffrey Khonghun, for the first district’s seat in the House.
Add to this mix is Olongapo City Mayor James Gordon Jr., an LP candidate and member of the Gordon political clan, who is running in the first district against Magsaysay and Khonghun.
Although not belonging to SZP, Gordon said: “I’ll work with Governor Ebdane, or whoever wins for governor in this election, for the common good of our shared constituents.”
The Deloso clan has fielded candidates in key positions and has teamed up with Rica Diaz-Arambulo, daughter of the late second district Rep. Antonio Diaz, who is running for vice governor with the elder Deloso.
Sought for comment on the rise of the Ebdane family and their rematch, Deloso said in a recent campaign rally: “Ebdane had put to shame the honor of Zambaleños, betrayed their trust, destroyed their patrimony, and wasted their money and resources.”
“I will bring back the vigor and pride of the Zambaleño and I will open not only the capitol’s doors but also the streets that have been closed to the people,” he said.
Last year, the Ebdane-Deloso rivalry for control of the province turned bloody when a bodyguard of Deloso, Cezar Madoh, was shot and killed by policemen on the eve of the special congressional election in the second district in February. Ebdane’s son won that election.
Various controversies have also hounded Ebdane’s term as governor, including the charge of Senior Supt. Rafael Santiago Jr. that Ebdane masterminded the operation to steal election returns from the Batasang Pambansa in 2005.
The theft of mineral ore by small-scale miners, which was allegedly sanctioned by Ebdane, also grabbed headlines, culminating with a plunder charge against him filed by owners of Consolidated Mines Inc. Ebdane has denied these accusations.
In one of his speeches, Ebdane hit his detractors, saying they had neglected the province.
“They forgot to improve the lives of Zambaleños in the long years that they had served the province,” he said.—With a report from Cesar Villa, Inquirer Central Luzon