Races reshape Cagayan’s political landscape
TUGUEGARAO CITY—As the provincial office of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) here opened on Monday for the week-long filing of candidacies for the May 2016 polls, among the first entries in the list of aspiring candidates for provincial posts were old, familiar surnames in Cagayan politics: Antonio, Vargas and Enrile.
But while the names are the same, the three candidates who filed their certificates of candidacy (COCs) on Monday, comprising the provincial lineup of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), represent a mix of the old and the new, the hardened and the neophytes.
Among the three, the most familiar name would easily be that of Juan “Jack” Ponce Enrile Jr., son of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile. Jack wants to replace his wife, Salvacion, as third district representative and return to the post he held before he ran and lost in the Senate race in 2013.
Top-billing the UNA ticket in Cagayan is a 36-year-old political neophyte but with a familiar name: lawyer Cristina “Tin-tin” Antonio. She seeks to take over from her father, three-term Gov. Alvaro Antonio.
Board Member Melvin Vargas Jr. filed his COC as UNA vice gubernatorial candidate. While he may not be necessarily new in politics, he belongs to the third generation of the Vargas family who has been in local politics for the past three decades, starting with former Gov. Florencio Vargas Sr.
His aunt, incumbent Rep. Baby Alyne Vargas-Alfonso of the second district, is expected to seek reelection under the UNA ticket. As of Tuesday, however, she had yet to file her COC.
But while it now looks like the UNA ticket has preserved alliances in Cagayan, at least for the 2016 elections, it was not without damage.
The young Antonio’s run for the province’s top elective post shattered the governor’s “Team Cagayan” alliance with outgoing Vice Gov. Leonides “Odie” Fausto, who is expected to vie for the gubernatorial post.
As they both cruised through their third terms, Fausto had made known his plans to succeed Governor Antonio. Everything seemed well on track because in recent months, Jack Enrile even went public expressing support for Fausto’s 2016 plans.
Monday’s COC filing by Antonio and Enrile under one slate officially cuts ties between erstwhile UNA allies Antonio and Fausto, who is set to file his COC for governor under the Nacionalista Party (NP).
The UNA crack may prove to benefit Secretary Manuel Mamba in the three-way battle for governor. Mamba, a member of the Liberal Party (LP) and outgoing chief of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, heads the province’s other political force.
His PLLO associate, Assistant Secretary Ignacio Taruc, a former mayor of Buguey town, is expected to be Mamba’s running mate.
A former representative of the first district, Mamba returns to the Cagayan political arena backed by his old LP allies and reinforced by a number of desfections from the Antonio-Fausto fallout.
Among the recent defectors are Board Member Ramon Nolasco, a former three-term mayor of Gattaran and patriarch of a growing political family that includes his son Matthew, the incumbent mayor, and nephew Danilo Jr., the vice mayor.
Ramon Nolasco seeks to deny Jack Enrile, a former UNA ally, from reclaiming the post that he and his wife alternately held since 1998.
“Word is that the elder Nolasco has been promised to be given his turn to run for Congress. He has been waiting and waiting and that turn has not been given to him,” said a UNA source.
The LP is fielding a candidate to challenge Vargas-Alfonso for the second congressional district, with a scion of the Sacramed family of Sanchez Mira town, signaling a breakout from the Vargas-led UNA coalition there.
Maj. Darwin Sacramed, a former aide-de-camp of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., will enter politics to follow in the footsteps of his parents, Councilor Napoleon Sacramed, a former three-term mayor, and incumbent Mayor Asela Sacramed.
In the third congressional district, the LP is expected to field Board Member Christian Guzman to contest the reelection bid of Rep. Randolph Ting of the National Unity Party.
Drama in the race for the province’s third district, however, may soon intensify after Governor Antonio hinted that he was also considering running for representative.
Sources said Antonio was provoked by criticisms hurled at him by Ting’s father, former Tuguegarao City Mayor Delfin Ting Sr., for his support for Mayor Jefferson Soriano as the latter dealt with a string of suspensions and an aborted dismissal during his first term.
Delfin Sr. is said to be challenging Soriano anew in the mayoral race in the capital Tuguegarao. The incumbent vice mayor, lawyer Englebert Caronan, is also reported to be joining the race, breaking an alliance with the Ting family.
A known Ting ally, Board Member Mila Perpetua Lauigan, is said to be running for vice governor, alongside Fausto.
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