Mayor braces for fight vs big Davao Sur clan

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DIGOS CITY—Mayor Joseph Peñas sees himself as a David fighting a Goliath in his reelection bid against Davao del Sur Gov. Douglas Cagas.

Peñas admits that Cagas, who is still qualified for another term, and his family are well-entrenched in Davao del Sur politics.

Cagas’ son, Marc, is representative in the first district. His wife, Mercedes, is a provincial board member. His brother, Gary, is the village chief of Zone III, one of the city’s biggest and strategic villages. A nephew, Josef Cagas, is running for councilor.

“I don’t even have a barangay (village) councilor for a relative,” Peñas said.

Peñas said his political experience pales in comparison to Cagas’, whose career started when he became a member of the defunct Batasang Pambansa, representing Davao del Sur, in 1984.

It became clear last year that Cagas’ decision to run for mayor was intended to accommodate Mercedes, who is ending her term as board member.

Marc, who, like his father, is also still qualified for a last term as congressman, is running for governor.

“It is really akin to the fight between the biblical David and Goliath,” said Peñas.

“This is the most difficult battle in my political career yet but I am banking on the support of people who also do not want political dynasties to govern them,” he said.

Peñas admitted that the fight against political dynasties is tough for any politician who does not have any elected relative.

If he has any relative in government, Peñas said the closest is his elder brother, Emilio, the city engineer. He said Emilio has held the position for years even before he entered politics.

Peñas said Cagas often describes him as an official without a track record, especially in the implementation of infrastructure projects.

“Some people tend to believe him because, unlike him, my name is rarely on billboards announcing projects,” Peñas said. “I even tell my staff not to put my name on them because it is not correct,” he said, citing the proliferation of the name Cagas in government projects in the province like gymnasiums and health centers “as if he owns them.”

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