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Opinion

The golden rule of Visayan political dynasties

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

In the realm of Visayan politics, which are controlled by family dynasties, there is a new golden rule: He who owns the gold rules. It simply means that the family who controls the economy would necessarily control the politics. If a family owns the biggest haciendas in the locality, it is only logical that they should protect their possessions by making sure that the governor and the mayor are theirs. Otherwise, their operations can be hampered by ordinances that make business difficult. Look at the Visayan provinces. The clans that control the economic enterprises are also the political kingpins. Any brilliant outsider who rises is surely under their control and domination.

Consider the province of Leyte. It has always been under the Loreto, Petilla, Cari, and Veloso clans. Tacloban and the first district have never gone outside the Romualdez family, except only when one guy named Ted Failon, thanks to ABS-CBN, defeated Romualdez as representative of the first district but only for one term and never again. The most famous, of course, is Imelda, the jewel of the Waray region, and his favorite brother Benjamin Kokoy who was both governor of Leyte and ambassador to the USA. Imelda's other brother, Alfredo “Bejo,” is the father of congressman Martin, majority leader and husband of another member of Congress, Yedda Marie Mendoza, party-list representative. Other members of the clan were Speaker Daniel Romualdez (the airport was named in his honor), and the children of Imelda, Senator Bongbong, the ex-future president, Senator Imee and her children who are now governors and congressmen in Ilocos Norte.

Northern Samar is dominated by the family of Raul Daza and Emil Ong. Samar, the western part of the island, is dominated by the Tan family who controlled Catbalogan, except one district in the north which was won by Edgar Sarmiento, covering Calbayog City. Eastern Samar, facing the Pacific, was won by Ben Evardone as governor and congresswoman Fe Abunda, sister of TV host Boy Abunda. Southern Leyte has been ruled by the Mercados after the era of Nicanor Yniguez. Damian Mercado is governor and congressman Roger remains in control. Biliran is still dominated by the Espinas. And Bohol, with Art Yap as governor, is still controlled by the clans of the Chattos, Relampagos, and Aumentados. This is the province of Carlos P Garcia, Francisco Dagohoy and Rajah Sikatuna, and the home of Yoyoy Villame. The rich and landed families hold the political powers since time immemorial.

Negros Oriental, used to be dominated by the Teves clan, is now an exception to the rule. Governor Roel Degamo is still governor and Doc Macias is vice governor. The representatives are Josy Limcaichong, Chiquiting Sagarbarria and Arnie Teves. But in 2019, many dynasties crumbled. The landed Luzuriagas in Tayasan were defeated. The Baldados in Ayungon lost, too. The Ibar Teves dynasty in Tanjay has been demolished. The Dionaldos of Jimalalud and the Bautistas of Canlaon were vanquished. But the Teveses of Bayawan and Valencias remained impregnable. The Reyes dynasty in Guihulngan is undefeated. Negros Occidental is controlled by the rich hacienderos, the Montillas, Maranons, Lacsons, Montelibanos, Gatuslaos, Ferrers, Arroyos, Alvarez. The governor is Bong Lacson, and the vice governor is Jeffrey Ferrer. The representatives are Ginggo Valmayor, Bebo Cuevas, Kiko Benitez, Juliet Marie Ferrer, Marilou Arroyo and Lim-ao Alvarez. Siquijor's governor is Jecoy Villa and its lone representative is Jecjec Villa.

In Iloilo, the first district is controlled by the Garins. Dr Janette is representing the first district. The other representatives are Michael Gorriceta of the second, Lorenz R Defensor (my student in UST, classmate of Speaker Alan Lord Velasco) of the third, Braeden John Biron of the fourth, Raul Tupas of the fifth, and Julienne Baronda of Iloilo City. The governor of Aklan is Florencio Miraflores and the congressmen are Carlito Marquez of the first district and Teodorico Haresco Jr of the second district. Antique's governor is Rhodora Cadiao, and the lone representative is former senator Loren Legarda. The Capiz governor is Esteban Contreras. The two representatives are Emmanuel Billones and Fredenil Castro. Guimaras governor is Samuel Gumarin and its representative is Ma Lucille Nava.

If we examine the interconnections between the economic dominance and election results, we shall find one thing conclusive: The economic elites are also the political kingpins. Politics in the Visayas, like that in most of the country, are largely feudal, transactional and paternalistic. We have not grown in terms of political maturity and the way we elect officials is not based on principles, ideology or platforms, but on personalities, economic domination and convenience.

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