35-year-old dad ends 40-year reign of clan

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YAMAMOTO WILLIE. LOMIBAO/CONTRIBUTOR

BANI, Pangasinan— If there’s a big winner in last Monday’s mayoral races in Pangasinan, it is Gwen Palafox-Yamamoto, a 35-year-old councilor who is on her first term in this western Pangasinan town.

Yamamoto slew a political Goliath with her bare hands when she beat reelectionist Mayor Marcelo Navarro Jr., ending the Navarro family’s reign in this town for about four decades.

“I’m very happy. For 40 years, there was only one family ruling our town. It’s high time our town wakes up,” said Yamamoto, a candidate of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, who beat Navarro by

248 votes.

Bani (pop: 45,652) is a second-class (average annual income of P45 million to

P55 million) agricultural and fishing community lying between Alaminos City and Bolinao town.

Yamamoto, whose husband is a Filipino of Japanese descent, was not even born yet when the Navarro family’s rule in this town began in 1971 when Navarro’s father and namesake, Marcelo Navarro Sr., was elected mayor.

The elder Navarro would be reelected in 1980. He was replaced by an officer in charge after the 1986 Edsa revolt. After six months, he got the position back. In the 1988 local elections, he won and served for two terms until 1995.

From 1995 to 1998, Ireneo Orlino was mayor of this town. Orlino was succeeded by a younger brother of Marcelo Sr., Gabriel Navarro, who would be mayor for three terms until 2007.

Outgoing Mayor Navarro, a former director for human resource and doctrine development of the Philippine National Police, first served as mayor in 2007.

Yamamoto said that although she expected to win, she was nervous because she was fighting an institution.

“He (Navarro) had the machinery, the [support of the] administration. What I did was to go down to the grassroots. I talked to the people,” she said.

“I was just really hoping that the people will sustain their clamor for change,” said Yamamoto, a political science graduate of the University of the Philippines Baguio.

Her running mate, reelectionist Vice Mayor Filipina Rivera, and three councilors in her ticket also won.

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