Villafuerte-Fuentebella rivalry restaged
NAGA CITY—Camarines Sur restaged the rivalry between the two most prominent, longest-thriving political clans in the province—the Villafuertes and Fuentebellas—as members of these families faced off in the gubernatorial race.
Jose Perez, 62, editor-in-chief of the local newspaper Bicol Mail, said the clash between the Villafuertes and the Fuentebellas in the 2004 elections was reprised in this year’s contest.
“Basically, it’s Villafuerte versus Fuentebella like in the 2004 elections when Rep. Felix William ‘Wimpy’ Fuentebella lost to Luis Raymund ‘LRay’ Villafuerte in the gubernatorial race. And now, it’s Gov. Miguel Luis ‘Migz’ Villafuerte and Tigaon Mayor Arnulf Bryan ‘Arnie’ Fuentebella [facing off],” Perez said.
Jose Barrameda, 78, a local historian and book author, said the Fuentebellas started in provincial politics through lawyer Jose Fuentebella at the turn of the 20th century. While the Villafuertes, led by lawyer Mariano Villafuerte Sr., rose during the Commonwealth period.
Barrameda said both Fuentebella and Villafuerte became members of the National Assembly and governors of Camarines Sur.
Villafuerte died in the hands of anti-Japanese guerrillas in 1942. while Fuentebella served the government in different capacities up to the Marcos regime when he was appointed presidential adviser.
Fuentebella, who died in 1982, was appointed ambassador to Indonesia in 1956 by then President Ramon Magsaysay, according to the book, “Noli Fuentebella Embracing Destiny.”
Barrameda said the present leaders of the political clans—Arnulfo Fuentebella and Luis Villafuerte, both lawyers—had been political allies and members of the Interim Batasang Pambansa in 1978 during the administration of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
In the 2004 elections when the Villafuertes defeated the Fuentebellas, both LRay and Wimpy were greenhorn candidates for governor but their fathers, Luis and Arnulfo, stood behind them, Perez said.
He said when LRay finished his term in 2013, his son, Migz, then 24, won the gubernatorial race in a three-cornered fight against his grandfather, Luis, and former Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz.
Migz came to the fight as a reelectionist seeking a second term while Arnie is a newcomer in provincial politics, where votes from 35 towns and Iriga City are up for grabs.
“But the balance of forces has shifted. The political forces are now divided between those loyal to LRay and the allies of combined forces of Arnulfo, Luis (LRay’s father and candidate for representative in the province’s third district) and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. [of the first district],” Perez said.
He said the difference between the 2004 and 2016 gubernatorial races was that Luis, in this election, had sided with the Fuentebellas even as LRay established his own political following.
LRay, Camarines Sur’s Nacionalista Party (NP) chair, was running for representative in the second district against Ava Arceño, Andaya’s protégé.
Arnulfo, Luis and Andaya are all members of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC). Arnulfo’s closest rival in the fourth congressional district race was singer Imelda Papin of the Liberal Party (LP), who was being supported by LRay.
Also allied with the Fuentebellas in the local elections is former Camarines Sur Rep. Felix Alfelor Jr., who was making another run in the fifth congressional district race under the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA). He faced LRay’s candidate, reelectionist Rep. Salvio Fortuno of LP.
The political landscape in the province has been confused with party-affiliation.
For example, the Arnulfo-Luis alliance, both local stalwarts of the NPC, were campaigning for UNA standard bearer Vice President Jejomar Binay. Arnie, Arnulfo’s son, ran for governor under UNA.
The NPC and UNA had coalesced and were supporting common candidates in provincial races. But these parties’ local leaders were supporting different presidential candidates.
Andaya, who was campaigning for independent presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe until April, was supporting the candidacy of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. Arnulfo and Luis had been campaigning for Binay.
On the other side of the political divide is the alliance of NP, chaired by Lray in the province, and LP under Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo, a candidate for vice president.
LRay and his local allies supported Robredo’s candidacy.
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