Game of clans: Dynasties rule Eastern Visayas politics

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TACLOBAN CITY — The same ruling political clans will control the key elective positions in impoverished Eastern Visayas region in the next three years, as incumbent officials and their family members succeeded in holding their clout in local governance, defeating their less popular opponents.

Biliran Rep. Rogelio Espina succeeded in the gubernatorial race as he swapped post with incumbent Governor Gerardo Espina Jr.

The Espinas, who ran successful campaigns against their rivals, have been in control of the small province since its creation in 1992.

In Leyte, Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla, a member of the influential clan, defeated the other candidate, whose name doesn’t ring a bell among voters in the province. The governor’s family has been reigning the province since 1992.

The governor’s sister-in-law Anne Petilla is the mayor-elect of Palo, a town next to Tacloban and has been ruled for the last nine years by the clan’s matriarch Remedios Petilla, the former Leyte governor and solon.

Anne, a neophyte politician, is the wife of former governor and Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho.

The Petillas are members of one country’s oldest dynasty. The first member was Jose Ma. Veloso who became Leyte first district representative for three terms (1922-1925; 1935-1938; 1941-1946) and senator for two terms (1916-1919 and 1925-1935) during the Commonwealth period.

Jose Ma. is the grandfather of Remedios, whose sister Carmen Cari, successfully expanded the political dynasty in the 5th District of Leyte. Carmen, a former solon and current Baybay City mayor, is retiring from politics this year.

Carmen’s son, Jose Carlos, the incumbent Leyte 5th District representative, won in Baybay City’s mayoralty race. Replacing him in the House of Representatives is his son, Nicholas Carl, an ex-officio member of the city council as president of the city’s association of village chiefs.

It was also landslide victory for Ferdinand Martin Romualdez in Leyte’s 1st District congressional race, the same post he held from 2007 to 2016. Martin is the nephew of former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos and son of former Leyte Governor Benjamin Romualdez, who ruled the province during the Marcos administration.

Martin’s wife, incumbent Rep. Yedda, is eyeing a seat in Congress through the Tingog Sinirangan Partylist.

Another Imelda’s nephew, Alfred ran unopposed in his bid to reign the regional capital after his nine-year term ended in 2016, replacing his wife, former actress Cristina Gonzales-Romualdez. Alfred is the son of Alfredo, Imelda’s younger brother who served as the city’s mayor from 1998 to 2007.

Lolita Javier will be the new face in the House of Representatives after she defeated incumbent Leyte 2nd District Rep. Henry Ong. Lolita is the wife of outgoing Javier, Leyte Mayor Leonardo Javier, the owner of Andok’s Litson Corp. Javier’s son, Michael Dragon succeeded in his bid to replace his father.

Actor-turned Mayor Richard Gomez won a fresh term in Ormoc City while his wife, Lucy Torres-Gomez retained her congressional post in Leyte’s 4th District. The couple defeated the sons of late mayor and solon Eufrocino Codilla Sr., known in western Leyte as “man of the masses.”

Lucy’s brother, Board Member Matt Torres defeated the incumbent Kananga, Leyte Mayor Weng Codilla. Weng’s husband, Eming lost to Matt’s running mate, Miguel Tan in the vice mayoralty post. The defeat ended the Codilla’s political dynasty in Leyte.

Leyte 3rd District Rep. Ching Veloso, a former appellate court justice, won in his reelection bid against former solon Andy Salvacion. This district elected its new board member, Anna, a daughter of Veloso.

In Northern Samar, incumbent Governor Jose Ong succeeded in his bid to swap post with his nephew, Northern Samar 2nd District Rep. Edwin Ong. Northern Samar 1st District Rep. Raul Daza will be replaced by his son, Paul, a former governor.

The younger Daza posted a landslide victory against former governor and solon Harlin Abayon.

In the hotly contested gubernatorial race in Samar, 2nd district Rep. Milagrosa Tan defeated retired Army official Emil Zosa. The Tan political clan matriarch will swap post with incumbent Governor Sharee Ann Tan.

Milagrosa’s son Vice Governor Stephen Tan lost in his bid to represent Samar’s 1st District to incumbent Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento, brother of former interior and local government chief Mel Senen. The vice governor’s brother, Reynolds Michael, a newbie in politics, will replace him.

Reynolds Michael is the newest politician in the clan, who has been involved in Samar politics since 1998.

In Eastern Samar, Rep. Ben Evardone defeated incumbent Marcelo Ferdinand Picardal in the gubernatorial race. His ally, Borongan City Mayor Fe Abunda, will replace him in the House of Representatives.

It seems that there’s no election in Southern Leyte after Governor Damian Mercado and brother, Roger won by landslide in their reelection bids.

For decades, the region’s key positions have been controlled by a few families that promise to spur economic growth every election season.

Citing the latest Philippine Statistics Authority’s 2018 first semester data, about 37.6 percent of population in Eastern Visayas remain poor, just a little bit of improvement from 38.7 percent in 2015.

The region is the third poorest area in the country next to Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Zamboanga Peninsula. (PNA)