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Arroyo, Imee lead unopposed bets

542 considered sure winners
/ 12:01 AM March 27, 2016

DETAINED former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is certain to be reelected Pampanga representative. So are reelectionists Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos and Pampanga Gov. Lilia “Baby” Pineda.

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Running unopposed, Arroyo, Marcos and Pineda are among 542 local candidates in the May 9 elections who are assured of victory even before the official start of campaigning on Black Saturday.

The biggest number of unopposed candidates are in Ilocos Sur (25), Isabela (21), Ilocos Norte (19), Pangasinan (16), Apayao (11), and Cagayan and Pampanga (10 each).

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Uncontested political races  do not sit well with some political scientists.

“Elections are meaningful only when voters have a choice,” said Alejandro Ciencia Jr., a political science professor at the University of the Philippines Baguio.

“Elections ideally compel politicians to present issues, and lay down proposed policies,” Ciencia said.

He said elections gave voters some form of leverage to demand governmental reforms.

“Politicians are calculating actors in the political environment. They run when they believe they can win or when they have secured some form of advantage,” he said, so they would heed a position that is pushed by the people.

The reasons a candidate for political office can run unchallenged are still areas of speculation, however.

For example, some unchallenged candidacies are in areas reputed to be controlled by political dynasties.

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Cordillera, Ilocos

The reelection bids of Apayao Gov. Elias Bulut Jr. and Apayao Rep. Eleanor Bulut-Begtang are certainties, with no opponent willing to challenge them.

Their late father, Calanasan Mayor Elias Bulut Sr., served as governor and congressman of the province since it separated from Kalinga more than 20 years ago.

A_1In Ilocos Sur province, Gov. Ryan Singson is also running unopposed. His father, former Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson, is now running for councilor of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur.

In Bataan province, reelectionist Gov. Albert “Abet” Garcia is running unopposed alongside his father, Rep. Enrique “Tet” Garcia, who is running unchallenged for vice governor. Tet’s youngest son, Balanga mayoral candidate Francis Garcia, and daughter, reelectionist Dinalupihan Mayor Gila Garcia, have no opponents also.

In Bulacan province, San Rafael Mayor Cipriano Violago Jr. has no opponent, a far cry from his dramatic 2013 election victory. He was a former vice mayor who defeated his former running mate, former Mayor Lorna Silverio, although he was implicated in the murder of a police officer in May 2013. Violago won and was later cleared of murder  charges in April 2014, after he negotiated an out-of-court settlement.

Cordillera region

Since the 1990s, elections in indigenous communities have supposedly been predetermined by their elders. It may not be so this year in the Cordillera region, where only two congressmen, two governors, one vice governor, 11 mayors and 12 vice mayors are running unopposed.

“Elections should not be the subject of any preelection agreement. To do so would be a mockery of the election process,” said John Martin, Baguio election officer of the Commission on Elections.

Election laws are silent about prearranged political races, he said. Voters become hostages to these political agreements, he added.

Many of the unchallenged candidates are incumbents. They are:

Ilocos Norte—Gov. Imee Marcos and Vice Gov. Eugenio Barba, Banna Mayor Carlito Abadilla III, Batac City Vice Mayor Jeffrey Nalupta, Dingras Vice Mayor Joefrey Saguid, Dumalneg Mayor Lairvee Espiritu and Vice Mayor Francisco Espiritu Jr., Pinili Mayor Samuel Pagdilao Sr. and Laoag City Mayor Chevylle Fariñas.

Ilocos Sur—Gov. Ryan Singson and Vice Gov. Jeremiah “Jerry” Singson, Alilem Mayor Mar Ruel Sumabat and Vice Mayor Onofre Bistoyong, and Magsingal Mayor Alrico Favis and his mother Vice Mayor Arlyn Favis.

In the congressional races in Metro Manila, six reelectionist candidates are running unopposed. They are Representatives Miro Quimbo (Marikina City, second district), Carlo Lopez (Manila, second district), Winnie Castelo (Quezon City, second district), Jorge Banal (Quezon City, third district), Alfred Vargas (Quezon City, fifth district) and Kit Belmonte (Quezon City, sixth district).

Southern Luzon

In Southern Luzon, 11 candidates for congressional seats, led by Evelina Escudero of Sorsogon, mother of Sen. Francis Escudero, are running unopposed. Ten of these candidates are from Southern Tagalog and Escudero is the lone unopposed candidate for representative in the Bicol region.

In Cavite, candidates for four out of seven congressional districts are running unopposed. All of them are reelectionists, except for Bacoor City Mayor Strike Revilla, who is running for representative of the lone district of Bacoor.

The three other unopposed candidates for representative are Alex Advincula (third district), Luis Ferrer IV (sixth district) and Abraham Tolentino (seventh district).

Tolentino is a brother of former Metro Manila Development Authority Chair Francis Tolentino, who is running for senator.  Tolentino’s wife, Agnes, is running unopposed as mayor of Tagaytay City.

Joaquin Chipeco Jr. will be on his second term as Laguna representative (second district) after two other candidates, withdrew their candidacies.

Three-term Sta. Rosa City Mayor Arlene Arcillas is the lone candidate for representative of Laguna’s first district.

Visayas-Mindanao

In the Visayas, 51 candidates for congressional representative, mayor, vice mayor, governor and vice governor in Western, Central and Eastern Visayas as well as in Negros Island Region are running unopposed.

The lone unopposed candidate in Eastern Visayas is Vice Gov. Carlo Loreto of Leyte who is seeking reelection under the Liberal Party.

Reelectionist Rep. Arthur Defensor Jr. of Iloilo said he was glad to be running unopposed in the third congressional district. “In a way, it is a validation from my constituents that what I have been doing for them is satisfactory,” he said.

Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr., is seeking a third term unopposed. His son, Sagay City Mayor Alfredo Marañon III and nephew, Rep. Rafael Leo Cueva of Negros Occidental’s second district, are likewise unopposed.

Three siblings in southern Negros Occidental are running unopposed under the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC). They are Rep. Mercedes Alvarez of then sixth district and her brothers, Ilog Mayor Genaro Rafael Alvarez and Ilog Vice Mayor Paul Alvarez.

In several Mindanao areas, including those identified as among the country’s poorest provinces, members of old political clans and their allies are without challengers in May.

Adolph Edward Plaza, 53, the unopposed reelectionist governor of Agusan del Sur, is the son of former Rep. and Agusan Gov. Democrito Plaza and Valentina Galido Plaza, also a former governor.

For the two congressional districts of Agusan del Norte, Plaza’s sisters, Ma. Valentina and Evelyn, are also seeking reelection unopposed.

Reports from Vincent Cabreza, Gabriel Cardinoza, Yolanda Sotelo, Melvin Gascon, and Leilanie Adriano, Inquirer Northern Luzon and Ron Lopez, Inquirer Central Luzon; Maricar Cinco, Michael Jaucian and Fernan Gianan, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Carmel Loise Matus, Leo Udtohan, Carla P. Gomez, Jhunnex Napallacan and Joey A. Gabieta, Inquirer Visayas; and Allan Nawal, Williamor Magbanua, Eldie Aguirre, Jigger Jerusalem and Chris Panganiban, Inquirer Mindanao; and TJ Burgonio in Manila

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