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109 years of Ortegas in La Union; Gordons, Magsaysays in Zambales

Inquirer Northern Luzon
First Posted 03:50:00 04/27/2010

Filed Under: Inquirer Politics, Elections, Family, Eleksyon 2010, Civil & Public Services, Local authorities, Congress

Read Part 1: Congress won?t end reign of political dynasties

(Second of four parts)

MANILA, Philippines?In 50 provinces, at least 108 families use elections in the Philippines as a virtual playground to keep themselves in political power.

What special qualities these privileged few have that enable husbands, wives, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, granddaughters, grandsons, grandfathers, grandmothers, nieces, nephews and in-laws to remain in control isn?t clear.

What is clear, though, is that they are addicted to power.

The provision against political dynasties is one of the most explicit in the 1987 Constitution, but it has also become the most neglected, if not totally ignored. Congress has become populated with the very people the Constitution has sought to keep out.
Election after election, voters witness a parade of families similar to what their parents had seen in their time, and what their children will likely see in the future.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer looks into the issue, starting in Northern Luzon, to see why the Philippine countryside remains the playhouse of political clans.

The Ortegas are still the dominant and most durable political clan in La Union, 109 years after the family patriarch, Joaquin Ortega, was appointed by the Americans as the province?s first Filipino civil governor in 1901.

Fifteen of them belonging to the third and fourth generations are now seeking reelection or vying for other posts.

?Continuous service, win or lose,? is how Mary Jane Ortega, former San Fernando City mayor and wife of reelectionist Rep. Victor Francisco Ortega, explains this foothold.

?Unlike other politicians who leave the province when they lose and come back only when election time comes, the Ortegas stay right here and are always visible,? she adds.

The Ortegas have stayed, winning many victories while suffering few defeats.

Another key to the family?s political longevity, according to Mary Jane?s brother-in-law, reelectionist San Fernando Mayor Pablo Ortega, is KBL?kasal (wedding), binyag (baptism) and libing (funeral).

?I maintain close relationships with the people by attending kasal, binyag, libing and birthdays in the villages,? Pablo says, ?even when it?s not election time.?

Zambales: Personal fiefdoms

In Zambales, the Magsaysays and the Gordons are on top.

?The Gordons have been running Olongapo like a personal fiefdom,? former Gov. Vicente Magsaysay said when he filed his certificate of candidacy for city mayor against the incumbent, James Gordon Jr.

The Gordons have ruled Olongapo since the 1960s. Vicente is the longest serving governor of the province and father-in-law of first district Rep. Milagros Magsaysay.

Mayor Gordon?s father, James Sr., turned Olongapo into a city, while his brother, Bagumbayan presidential candidate Sen. Richard Gordon, turned Subic Naval Base into a freeport zone.

The mayor?s wife, Anne Marie, is challenging Milagros in the congressional race, a post the latter won in 2004 against Olongapo Mayor Katherine Gordon, wife of Senator Gordon.

The Magsaysays and Gordons believe that dynasties aren?t at all bad.

But a member of the Gordon clan, Ang Kapatiran Party standard-bearer John Carlos ?JC? de los Reyes, wants to do away with it all. ?For years, they have gone from bad to worse. It?s time we all abided by the Constitution ratified by our people,? he said.

Pampanga: Arroyos plant roots

There was no prominent dynasty in Pampanga until Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo became senator in 1992. This ended an era in which her father, the late President Diosdado Macapagal, had only one political heir?daughter Cielo, who was vice governor until 1998.

Immediately after Ms Arroyo, then vice president, was installed as president in 2001, her son Mikey (Juan Miguel) won as vice governor. Mikey?s local political foray was like planting roots, for the Arroyos were not born, raised and educated in Pampanga.

Faced with lightweight foes, Mikey won two terms as second district representative, a post he is now giving up to give way to his mother. He is now a nominee of Ang Galing Pinoy, a party-list group supposedly representing security guards.

Former Rep. Emigdio Lingad, son of Jose Lingad (credited with the entry of Diosdado Macapagal into politics), is alarmed by the rise of the Arroyos in and out of Pampanga. Son Dato is a representative of Camarines Sur, while brother-in-law Ignacio is a representative of Negros Occidental. A sister-in-law, Marilou, represents a party-list group purportedly representing ?balut? vendors and small entrepreneurs.

?It?s absolutely unprecedented for the President to establish an extended family dynasty not only in Pampanga but elsewhere,? Lingad says. In his view, a ?dynasty is worse than a totalitarian government.?

Mikey denies his family is a political dynasty.

?We are not running in only one specific jurisdiction. Ang Galing Pinoy is not specifically Pampanga. My brother, uncle and aunt are representing other districts,? he says. ?It?s the people who will choose (their leaders), depending on the brand of politics they like.?

Isabela: For Dys, it?s ?legacy?

The elections in Isabela in 2004 and 2007 showed that a strong political clan, like the Dys, could be beaten.

Maria Gracia Cielo Padaca, a former broadcaster, defeated reelectionist Gov. Faustino Dy Jr. in the 2004 gubernatorial election, ending the Dys? more than 30-year hold of the provincial government. She repeated the feat in 2007 against Dy?s brother, former Gov. Benjamin Dy.

For Rep. Faustino Dy III, who is trying to derail Padaca?s bid for a third and final term this year, it is not about dynasty. ?For us, it is a legacy, not a dynasty. We are being voted upon by the people because of our track record in public service,? he says.

Five other Dys are running?Alicia Mayor Napoleon Dy for third district representative, Benjamin for Cauayan mayor, Michael for San Manuel mayor, Anna for Alicia mayor and Ian for Alicia vice mayor.

Nueva Ecija: Josons? rude awakening

The Josons were rudely awakened in the 2007 polls, when Vice Gov. Mariano Cristino Joson lost to Rep. Aurelio Umali in the gubernatorial race. The almost 20-year reign of the Josons that was started by the patriarch Eduardo ended.

The family lost only one post, however. Edward Thomas was elected vice governor, Eduardo Nonato, representative and his son Eduardo Basilio, mayor.

Edward Thomas is running for governor against Umali this year. Four other Josons are in electoral combats?Josefina Manuel for first district representative, Eduardo IV for third district representative, Mariano Cristino for Quezon town mayor, and Rey for provincial board member.

Another Joson, Edno, who isn?t running this year, says Ms Arroyo and pardoned plunderer Joseph Estrada should ?lead their respective families in the anti-dynasty efforts.?

Ilocos Sur: Turf of Singsons

At least 13 members of the Singson clan, led by Luis or ?Chavit,? are seeking various positions in Ilocos Sur.

Chavit, a former governor, faces Efren Rafanan in the gubernatorial race. Chavit?s son, Rep. Ronald Singson, is seeking a second term against lawyer Beltran Baterina, while another son, Ryan, is unopposed as vice mayoral candidate in Vigan City.

Other aspiring Singsons are Jeremias for board member, Gemelina Singson-Goulart for Caoayan mayor, Eva Marie Medina for Vigan mayor, Eric Jr. for second district representative, Allen for Candon City mayor, Alfonso and Kristelle for Candon councilors, Charito for Narvacan vice mayor, Zuriel Zaragoza for Narvacan mayor and Charmian Wyanet for board member.

Ilocos Norte: Marcos vs Marcos

The Marcoses would not lose their hold on Ilocos Norte.

Former Rep. Imee Marcos, eldest daughter of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, is facing her cousin, reelectionist Gov. Michael Keon.

Keon?s running mate is another cousin, Board Member Angelo Marcos-Barba. Board Member Mariano Marcos II is running for reelection on Imee?s ticket.

The Marcos matriarch, Imelda, is running for representative in the second district, while her son, outgoing Rep. Ferdinand ?Bongbong? Marcos Jr., is running for senator.

Pangasinan: Still big names

The big names are likely to be around for quite some time in Pangasinan as retiring officials are replaced by wives, sons or daughters.

Rep. Victor Agbayani is trying to reclaim the governorship from Amado Espino Jr. Agbayani?s father, the late Aguedo Agbayani, ruled the province from 1969-1986 and from 1992-1995. Victor served as governor from 1998 to 2007.

Former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. has passed on the baton to his wife, Gina, who is running against Celia Lim, wife of his erstwhile political opponent, former Dagupan City Mayor Benjamin Lim.

De Venecia?s son, Jose III or Joey, is seeking a Senate seat under the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino.

De Venecia?s reign in the district began when he was elected representative during the first congressional elections after the 1986 Edsa Revolt. He left his district in 1998 to run for president but fielded Teresita de Venecia, a cousin?s wife, to succeed him. Teresita lost to Lim in that election.

In 2001, De Venecia returned unopposed by convincing Lim to run for mayor in Dagupan. Lim, a businessman, is now running for mayor of Dagupan against reelectionist Mayor Alipio Fernandez Jr.

The Fernandezes have also dominated politics in Dagupan, starting with Fernandez?s father, Alipio Sr., the first city mayor.

Fernandez?s son, Alipio Serafin or Alfie, is seeking reelection as councilor, while grandson Carlos is ex-officio member of city council because he heads the Sangguniang Kabtaaan Federation of Dagupan.

The mayor?s nephew, Michael, is ending his term as councilor, but his wife, Maybelyn, is seeking a council seat.

Outgoing Rep. Arthur Celeste is contesting the mayoral seat in Alaminos City against incumbent Hernani Braganza. To take his place in the House is former Bolinao Mayor Jesus Celeste.

The Celestes ruled Bolinao since the 1990s when Jesus was first elected mayor. He was succeeded by his brother, Alfonso, who wants a second term.

Arthur?s daughter, Kazel, is the Sangguniang Kabataan provincial federation president and sits as sectoral representative in the provincial board.

Outgoing Rep. Mark Cojuangco, son of tycoon Eduardo ?Danding? Cojuangco Jr., has fielded his wife, Sison Mayor Kimi Cojuangco, to succeed him. Mark is a cousin of presidential contenders Benigno Aquino III and Gilbert Teodoro.

Aurora: ?Good? Angara dynasty

In Aurora, the Angara family has produced four politicians who held power at the same time?Sen. Edgardo Angara, his sister Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo and their brother, Baler Mayor Arthur Angara. The senator?s son, Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, replaced his aunt in Congress.

?There are good and bad dynasties, but I?d like to think we?re a good dynasty,? says Representative Angara.

In Bataan, Gov. Enrique Garcia Jr. and his sons, Rep. Albert Raymond Garcia (second district) and Balanga City Mayor Jose Enrique Garcia III, are seeking reelection. His daughter, Gila, is running for first district representative.

In Quirino, Gov. Dakila Carlo Cua is seeking the lone congressional district seat that would be vacated by his father, Rep. Junie Cua.

The elder Cua, who started serving as Quirino representative after the 1986 Edsa Revolt, is running for governor.

Cordillera: Children as politicians

In Apayao, Gov. Elias Bulut Sr. is resting from big-time politics, after preparing two of his children to take over?son Rep. Elias Bulut, who is running for governor, and daughter Eleanor Bulut-Begtang, who is running for representative.

In Abra, Rep. Cecilia Luna is seeking reelection, while her sons are in the mayoral races in Bangued and Tineg. A daughter is running for vice mayor in the family?s hometown of Lagayan.

Board Member Maria Jocelyn Valera Bernos, daughter of reelectionist Bangued Mayor Dominic Valera, is running for representative. Bernos is the widow of slain La Paz Mayor Marc Ysrael Bernos.

Bernos? mother-in-law, Esther Bernos, is unopposed in the mayoral race in Danglas, while her brother-in-law, Joseph, is running for La Paz mayor.

Ma. Zita Valera, former governor and Bangued mayor, is running for representative. Valera is the wife of former Gov. Vicente Valera. Reports from Yolanda Sotelo, Gabriel Cardinoza, Cristina Arzadon, Leoncio Balbin Jr., Villamor Visaya Jr. and Frank Cimatu, Inquirer Northern Luzon; and Robert Gonzaga, Tonette Orejas, Anselmo Roque and Greg Refraccion, Inquirer Central Luzon

Copyright 2015 Inquirer Northern Luzon. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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