Monday, April 11, 2016

Zamboanga del Sur governor’s endorsement of Bongbong is huge

By Alfredo C. Garvida, Jr.

Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" R. Marcos, Jr., the object of President Benigno S. Aquino III's slime politics lately, has remained unscathed, despite the Philippine President's, and his party's, personal-based attacks against him in their hopeless hope to derail the senator's strong and steady surge to the top of the vice presidential race. The latest Pulse Asia survey (Mar. 6-13, 2016), commissioned by no less than the giant media outlet, ABS-CBN, indicated that BBM is now on top of the vice presidential race at 25%, up by 1% from the previous survey, while Sen. Chiz Escudero, his closest rival, scored 24%, a 2% drop from his previous rating. It is worth noting that Bongbong leads all VP candidates in Metro Manila, the most anti-establishment region in the whole archipelago, with a 35% preference vis-a-vis Chiz' 30% rating. Equally worth noting is the fact that BBM tops the voters' preference from the ABC class nationwide and evens up with Chiz on the D class.

These numbers should be shocking to the Liberal Party, especially PNoy, the party's number one attack dog against the Ilocos Norte senator, for the battering ram of politicos opposed to BBM's elevation to more political prominence that is the martial law issue has put no dent on the senator's wall thus far. People, it now appears, prefer objective, valid issues to ponder against subjective ones that have no relevance to the realities of today's political order in the first place. To reiterate this writer's previous opinion on the martial law issue, it would be unfair to lay blame on Bongbong for his father's alleged bad governance under the martial law regime without the son's hand in it while laying no blame on PNoy for his mother's bad presidency even without the son's hand in it too. Blaming Juan for Pedro's omission violates unwisely the basic principles of human liberty, which the Filipinos, by culture, do not accept.

It is a one-way street PNoy and the Liberal Party want to traverse by themselves alone, which the people are repudiating so eloquently with their setting now the Ilocano senator on the lead in the vice presidential derby. 

While people are not swayed by the filth of politics the Liberal Party is casting on Bongbong, the senator's candidacy is gaining fortifying momentum nationwide, the latest of which is epitomized by the assertive declaration of support of him by Zamboanga Del Sur Governor Antonio H. Cerilles, the Chavit Singson of his province, in terms of electors' trust and loyalty, and the acknowledged political leader of Region 9, which views him with indubitable respect and revered of his competence and fairness in public service. 

Tony Cerilles is half-Ilocano, as his mother hails from the Madarang clan of Ilocos Sur. But this is not the sole reason why he has thrown his full support to BBM's candidacy. The Zambo governor started his political career in midstream of the martial law regime. He was a young practicing lawyer when he successfully ran for a seat in the Philippine Assembly where the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos noticed his leadership potential and made him an important ally of his in Mindanao and in Congress. He never lost any election forward on and hopped from one government position to another. A certified environmentalist like the late President, Mr. Cerilles was made the DENR Secretary by President Estrada, then became congressman and governor of his province thereafter. Today, his family, like the Singsons of Ilocos Sur, tightly controls the Province of Zamboanga Del Sur. His wife is a congresswoman, their only child is a municipal mayor and his brother is a member of the provincial board. Like the Singsons too, the Cerilles clan treats their people with fairness and respect, cascading even further upon the whole of Region 9.

Last March 9-12, Governor Cerilles staged a massive assembly of people at the Megayon Convention Hall in Pagadian City to launch the introduction into the political mainstream of the party-list he founded, the Katipunan Guardian Brotherhood, otherwise known as KGB, which is listed as no. 112 in the Comelec's official ballot. The three-day event was huge and compelling as politicians from other provinces and regions came in droves to attend. All the 28 mayors of Zamboanga Del Sur were there, so were politicians from Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Lanao, Sibugay, Zambo Norte, Leyte, Cebu and the Ilocos. Senatorial candidates Sherwin Gatchalian, Francis Tolentino, Sammy Pagdilao and Martin Romualdez were also in attendance, so was Davao Congressman Anton Lagdameo, better known as husband of movie actress Dawn Zulueta. This massive gathering of bigtime names was reflective of Cerilles' political stature nationwide. Zambo Sur has 800,000 registered voters alone, a third of which will be more than enough to earn two seats for the KGB in the Philippine House of Representatives; and huge to a candidate running for a national office likewise

The Pagadian confab's defining moment emerged into a compelling scene when Governor Cerilles introduced his most prized guest to the jam-packed crowd in the Magayon Convention Hall: He was Senator Bongbong Marcos. And as he pulled the VP aspirant up stage and declared his full and unqualified support of him, people began to cry, I was told. We learned too that those people's tears were tears of joy entwined with nostalgic memory of the senator's father, and grateful as well that the political icon of Region 9's vast power was being thrown behind the candidacy of the son of the late president, who, I was likewise informed, was well loved by the Zamboanguenos. 

It might be a coincidence that the Mar. 6-13 Pulse Asia survey which nudged Bongbong up to the top of the vice presidential race ran in parallel with the Pagadian confab, but there is no telling how huge Cerilles' endorsement of the Ilocano senator's candidacy had to be. With Cerilles' support of Bongbong, there is a great possibility that the offices of the President and the Vice President will be occupied by a guy from Mindanao and the Ilocos Region respectively, given the indications on the last survey too on the presidential race. Mayor Rody Duterte of Davao is now just 1% behind survey leader Grace Poe. The race for the presidency is so tight and to the tough talking mayor's strategists, the flash point they must not miss to examine is their candidate's un-competitive rating in Luzon. With some pragmatic moves down North perhaps, where Binay and Poe substantially lead him, Duterte's strategists may blend their candidate's cause with the clannish Ilocanos who are bent on staying solid behind Bongbong no matter what.

For Duterte's sake, however, his latest political ad enjoining the electors not to vote for him if they will not vote also for his running mate, Sen. Allan Cayetano, in this writer's opinion, is embarrassingly full of presumptuousness and arrogance. People say that you do not attach a condition if you are asking for a favor.  Duterte's gimmick has virtually slammed the door shut on whoever is inclining to vote for him but whose priority is on a vice presidential candidate other than Mr. Cayetano. I want to vote for Duterte too, matter of factly speaking, but I feel enslaved and insulted by his rejoinder that he does not want my vote if I am not going to vote for his running mate. Maybe the brash talking Mayor of Davao should quit stretching the bounds of what he perceives to be the people's acceptance of his gutter rhetoric and start to realize that flattering himself too often is just weirdly boring. 

Many voters in Ilocos Norte who are leaning for Duterte have been turned off by the ad. They said that it would be just fine with them if he does not need their vote, after all, they would rather vote for Bongbong for vice president than vote for Duterte for President.  

The party-list KGB is founded by Gov. Antonio Cerilles but he is not one of its nominees. Its first nominee is Atty. Marjun Cerilles, the governor's nephew and a cum laude graduate from the University of the Philippines law school. The second nominee is Atty. Felipe Favila, from the great province of Abra, a very close friend of the governor, and mine too. 

Tony Cerilles and Ipe, as I fondly call Atty. Favila, were my classmates in law school at the University of the East. They graduated and became lawyers; I did not, because I was forced by circumstance to move to the United States after my third year. Ipe worked hard to help Tony get elected as the federated president of the UE student law organization. I helped too, but not as vigorous as Ipe did. Both guys were bright and resourceful. The leadership traits in them were already apparent in college, even at their young ages. When Cerilles became a congressman, Ipe became his chief legal officer. Thereafter, with Tony's help, he became the consultant to the chairman of the PNR Skyway and PNCC Legaspi. He also became the assistant general manager of the Laguna Lake Development Authority and a consultant to Q.C. Mayor Herbert Bautista.

Ipe and I re-crossed path when I came home for good after more than 20 years of residency in America. We accidentally met at the McDonald's by the Sulu Restaurant a couple of years back. He still recognized me, after all the years past, and I readily recognized him too when he called out my name across several tables I was seated from him. Our friendship, in short, was rekindled. When he and Aida Aspiras were forming Kailian, the association of Ilocanos greatly responsible for testing the political waters for Bongbong, he readily urged me to join the group. Kailian launched the first rally for the Bongbong Marcos Movement in the exclusive compound of La Vista last June 6, 2015, which was attended by Marcos die-hards from the legendary Solid North. Some guys from Region 3 and Manila, including Kit Tatad, attended too. It was a vibrant assemblage of people hoping for BBM to declare that he was running for president. Unfortunately, as it turned out, he has preferred to be in the vice presidential race.

KGB is a nationalist organization opposed to foreign intervention on domestic affairs and "dismemberment of any island of the Philippine territory." Its mission is "to strengthen political structures that will address poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and will provide policies that will make the Philippines globally competitive." Although it advocates for lasting peace in the land, especially in Mindanao, KGB is opposed to the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), as its present version is "not inclusive." Cerilles argues that only about 10% of Muslims are residents of Mindanao, "why would they be so privileged now to run the daily lives of the predominantly Christian populace with so little constraint from the national government?" Cerilles and group want peace in Mindanao, but not to be governed by the BBL as presently written. His stand, therefore, squarely conforms with Bongbong's on the BBL.

What is so compelling about the KGB's plan of government is its intention to revive the railway system, as envisioned by the late President Marcos, from Manila to the Ilocos and Cagayan regions. This is an ambitious economic program on this party-list's agenda that Attys. Marjun Cerilles and Favila intend to aggressively pursue if they get elected to congress. As Ilocanos, these guys are well aware of the travel nuances involved between Manila and the North, let alone the tremendous boast the railways would give to the tourism program of the government in Northern Luzon. 

Harmonizing their effort with BBM, if the latter gets elected to the vice presidency, will not be a tall order to do, Ipe asserts. " It would be nice if the huge support that Cerilles has delivered for Bongbong's cause be returned—even for symbolic reasons alone—at the polls this coming May by the Ilocanos," Ipe jokingly added. This writer couldn't agree more with Ipe's small wish; after all, the main men of KGB are all Ilocanos, who like Bongbong, are desirous of transforming the North into an economic hub.

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