Political winds in Cebu's 4th District

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus Jimenez - The Freeman

The perennial rivalry between the Salimbangons and the Martinezes in the 4th District of Cebu can be compared only to Cebu's historical rivalries between the Osmeñas and the Cuencos in the earlier years, and later, when the Osmeñas and Cuenco forces fused, the fights between Osmeña-Cuenco fusion on one side versus Durano and allies on the other side. They are oil and water, yin and yang, Montagues and Capulets. What matters most to us, however, is this: What have they done for the people?

The Martinezes used to control the 4th District, until the late Benhur Salimbangon disrupted the Martinez monopoly. The 4th District is composed of one component city (Bogo), and eight municipalities: Bantayan, Daanbantayan, Madridejos, Medellin, San Remigio, Santa Fe, Tabogon, and Tabuelan. It has a total land area of 484.19 square kilometers, about half of the size of the 5th District and one third of the area of the 3rd District. Its 2015 population was 427,641 (must be nearing 500,000 by now) and 282,172 voters (must be 200,000 today).

The 4th District has 144 barangays and an annual revenue of ?1.1 billion (must be ?2 billion now under the Mandanas ruling). But its poverty incidence is 27.60% and its per capita income is only ?2,788 which is the second to the lowest among the seven districts. The leaders should do something to alleviate the poverty among the common people, as more than one-fourth of the population live below the poverty line. After the 1987 Constitution, the representatives were Celestino E. Martinez Jr. (1987-98, three terms) and Clavel A. Martinez (1998-2007, three terms). In 2007, Benhur Salimbangon was proclaimed winner but his victory was belatedly annulled on January 11, 2010. Benhur however won in 2010 and served three terms until 2019. His wife won in 2019 and is now running for reelection.

Before 1987, today's 4th District (together with Balamban, Tuburan, and Asturias) used to be the old 7th district, and was represented in Congress by the following: Pedro L. Rodriguez (1907-09, one term), Eulalio E. Causing (1909-1912, one term), Tomas N. Alonso (1912-1919, two terms), Jose N. Alonso (1919-1925, two terms), Paulino Ybañez (1925-1934, three terms), Buenaventura P. Rodriguez (1934-38, two terms), Roque V. Desquitado, (1938-1941, one term), Jose V. Rodriguez (1945-1949, one and a half terms), Nicolas G. Escario (1949-1957, two terms), Antonio de Pio (1957-1961, one term), Tereso Dumon (1961-1969, two terms) and Celestino Sybico Jr. (1969-1972). During martial law the Lower House was replaced by a unicameral Batasan Pambansa with regional representation.

Bogo is the bailiwick of the Martinezes but they are now being challenged by the Salimbangons in their own turf. On June 16, 2007, 97.82% of its voters supported the cityhood of Bogo. It then became the sixth component city in the Province of Cebu, aside from Danao, Toledo, Talisay, Naga, and Carcar. Bogo has a population of 88,867 with 53,235 voters. If 90% of the voters here would support Martinez, Salimbangon will have a big headache. Bogo has a revenue of more than ?641 million and total assets of ?1.56 billion and counting considering the impact of the Mandanas ruling. Its poverty incidence at 18.62% is much lower than the district's 27.60%. Bogo is better managed than the whole district.

NUP's Daphne Salimbangon, daughter of Representative Janice, is challenging PPP's Carlo Jose Martinez, the incumbent, for city mayor. The incumbent vice mayor, Maria Cielo A. Martinez of PPP is also being opposed by Laurel Almirante of NUP. These are exciting fights worth watching. I remember the famous rivalry between the Dimaporos and the Quibranzas in Lanao in the 50’s and 60’s. It was stopped when Abdullah Dimaporo married Imelda Quibranza. Love is the antidote to politics.

I doubt if this will apply to the Salimbangons and the Martinezes. Whoever wins, they should remind themselves that this is not about the politicians. This is about the people. Let them ponder on that.


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