Thursday, May 21, 2009

Positive Development on Redistricting Bill

I have it from a reliable source that the Committee on Local Government in the Senate had approved this week the bill adding another congressional district in the province of Camarines Sur. While this development is seemingly unrelated to Iloilo City, it nonetheless bodes well for the other redistricting bills languishing in the Upper Chamber. With the approval of the Camarines Sur bill, this means that all the other redistricting bills will now have to be acted upon also by the said Committee chaired by Senator Noynoy Aquino, among which is the bill redistricting Iloilo City.

I recall that Senator Aquino was at first adamant to pass bills creating new legislative districts, arguing that Congress might already be violating the Constitution if it continues to add districts well over the 250-members limitation stipulated in the Charter. So just to be safe, he requested both the House and Senate leadership to first enact a law increasing the membership of the House of Representatives from 250 to 350. Only then, Noynoy insisted, will he act on the various redistricting bills pending in his Committee.

But the recent Supreme Court ruling on the 32 party-list representatives (which effectively increased the House membership from 238 to 270) brought a new dimension to the issue. The same SC decision is now being interpreted by legislators as a tacit permission or go-signal for them to add more districts. Many feel it is no longer necessary to enact a law increasing their number to 350, as Senator Noynoy earlier requested. This is because the Constitution states that the House membership is limited to 250 "unless otherwise fixed by law." Therefore, if a new law or a Republic Act creating say, a new district in Iloilo City is enacted that will bring to 271 the total number of congressmen, then that new R.A. effectively changes the set up and now fixes the membership of the House to 271.

With this positive development in the Senate, Ilonggos can continue to hope that come 2010 Iloilo City will already have two congressmen.


Speaking of the party-list, the victory of the 32 new representatives has inspired me into establishing my own party-list group to rival groups such us ANAKPAWIS. I'm thinking of calling it AMOY-PAWIS and the only condition for membership is for the aspiring member to only take a bath twice a week!

On a more serious note, I was surprised to learn that the real intention of the party-list system when it was enacted by Congress was not only to give the marginalized sectors a chance to participate in the policy-making process but ultimately to make them grow strong enough to challenge the "mainstream" political parties like the Lakas-Kampi, Liberal Party, NPC and Nacionalista parties. This is according to a study paper sponspored by the Ateneo School of Government/Konrad Adenauer Stiftung entitled "Is There a Party in the House?" by Edna Estifania Co. In her paper, Co recommends that the three-seat cap be scrapped to allow popular party-list groups to become large enough to challenge the traditional power blocs in Congress and maybe even field their own presidential/senatorial candidates in future elections.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Possible Team-Ups for 2010

1. Noli de Castro and Manny Villar. In the latest SWS survey (March 30, 2009), Vice President Noli de Castro and Senator Manny Villar were the top two presidentiables, garnering 27% and 26% respectively. If the two Wednesday Club buddies unite, they will be the team-to-beat this 2010 elections, moreso if they have the entire administration Lakas-Kampi machinery backing them up. Kabayan Noli is a candidate without a party while Lakas-Kampi is a party in search of a candidate, and many ranking Lakas-Kampi members find him acceptable because he is more "pliable." Villar on the other hand has the money and, more importantly, he knows how to use his money for maximum political mileage. But since he is now "tarred" by the double-insertion scandal, I wouldn't be surprised if his ratings will go down in the next quarterly surveys. It would probably be a wise move for him to slide down and become Noli's vice president and wait for his chances to improve, on or before 2016 (like what GMA did).

If Villar and de Castro do not reach a modus vivendi, there are a number of second-tier presidentiables they can pick as their running mate. The good-looking defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro or the competent Chairman BF Fernando, for example, would make a perfect vice president for the Kabayan (popularity and performance ang drama). For Villar, there's always Senator Kiko Pangilinan (another Wednesday Group buddy who announced recently his availability for the vice presidency) or his most-avid defender in the Senate, Alan Peter Cayetano.

2. Chiz Escudero and Loren Legarda. The two NPC stalwarts are both young, good-looking and popular - the same SWS survey showed Senator Legarda garnering 25% and Chiz Escudero a respectable 23%. Sometimes referred to as the "Obama of the Philippines," Chiz's rock star-looks and glib tongue endear him to the 20- and 30-something crowd (and this group now comprises 70% of our voting population) while Loren's movie star charm also makes her very appealing to the younger set. Both not only look good but also sound good on TV, and TV, more than any other media, will be the single strongest factor that will influence voters' preferences in the 2010 national race. With Danding's financial backing and NPC's disciplined support, any of the two could bag the presidency.

But in the aftermath of GMA's 9-year rule, many pundits observe that Filipinos will not be ready for yet another woman in Malacanang. While Loren may be popular, her estranged husband is currently in jail for homicide (only in the Philippines) and her opponents would surely raise the specter of another "rogue" First Gentleman in the Palace. Chiz meanwhile is perceived to be "too close" to Danding Cojuangco and this makes the other elites uncomfortable fearing a return to Marcosian times wherein all power and money were concentrated in the hands of a favored few.

I've heard the rumors that say a Chiz-Loren or Loren-Chiz team-up is virtually impossible because both are not willing to slide down. I see that in the event that negotiations between the two fail, the person who fails to bag Danding's support will definitely come out the loser. Without financial and party support, it would be too late in the game for either Chiz or Loren to put up a new party. Joining another party would also be out of the question because most already have their standard-bearers. So in the end, I predict that Chiz and Loren will ultimately abide by the NPC party decision because both have been boxed into a corner.

3. Mar Roxas and Ping Lacson. If Mar and Ping could somehow find enough common ground to unite, a Roxas-Lacson/Lacson-Roxas tandem can be a strong Third Force. From where I stand, Mar's economic savvy coupled with Ping's kamay na bakal - Mr. Palengke and Mr. Law & Order - is a perfect combination. Although Roxas got only 15% in the March 2009 survey, SWS noted that this figure represents a 5% increase since their last survey conducted in December 2008. If he continues on this trajectory Mar could very well find himself the frontrunner by December 2009. Although Ping Lacson's modest 14% rating is not impressive, his PR people argue that this represents a solid constituency, Ping die-hards who have never wavered in their support for the man no matter the brickbrats thrown at him by Malacanang.

Mar's elitist and segurista (cold and calculating) image are his main drawbacks. His impending marriage to media personality Korina Sanchez might refurbish that perception. Ping's greatest asset, his kamay the bakal, is at the same time his greatest drawback - while it inspires confidence in our authorities, it also brings fear to other people especially those traumatized by Martial Law. But in our multi-party system, you really need only 30% of the vote to win and Mar's 15% combined with Ping's solid 14% could secure them a win in 2010.

If the team-up does not materialize, Ping Lacson can always go solo again like he did in 2004. Mar Roxas can accede to the desire of his Liberal Party-mates and pick Kiko Pangilinan as his running mate.

Others. Our multi-party system will also embolden others to continue on their quest to capture the presidency. Senator Dick Gordon seem hell-bent on capturing Malacanang despite the fact that this will be his third attempt already I think. Former President Erap Estrada, who despite his ouster and conviction for plunder, still got a 13% rating in the SWS survey also seems very determined to run. Then there are the religious leaders Bro. Mike Velarde and Bro. Eddie Villanueva who think they can convert their cult following into votes. And then there are still the others, would-be reformers and idealists all, who promise to change our country with their "movements-movements," namely Governor Ed Panlilio's "Kaya Natin" Movement, Chief Justice Reynato Puno's "Moral Force" Movement and the latest, Manny Pangilinan's "Ako Mismo" Movement.

I have only listed three tandems because past experience shows that the Philippines only has room for three candidates. For one, political parties (and the businessmen who fund them) only have resources for three sets of candidates otherwise politics will no longer be a "profitable proposition" in the country. As things stand, only Lakas-Kampi has the capacity to field candidates in all positions from president to senators to congressmen down to municipal mayors and councilors. The NPC, Nacionalista and Liberal parties combined may be able to field candidates in 100% of the positions to be contested but individually will be hard put to do the same. In Iloilo City for example, the local race in the last 2007 elections was fought by candidates from Lakas-Kampi and the Liberal Party coalition while the Nacionalista and NPC party did not have a local ticket. A few years back, there was a study that came out showing that most Filipinos, when it comes to national offices (president, vice president and senators), remain undecided whom to vote for up until the day of election. If this study is true, then the importance of a nationwide party machinery is all the more important for a presidential candidate.

Moreover, the Philippine population seemingly only has attention span for three candidates. I observe that most undecided voters, when it is down to two weeks before election day, more often than not are usually focusing or have narrowed down their choice to only three candidates.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Scratch One, Ten More To Go

The presidential campaign season is already upon us. This realization hit me when a couple of days ago I received this text joke:

Mar: O ilang taon ka na?
Boy: Siya po anim, ako trese.
Mar: Ano ang pangarap niyo?
Boy: Ako po seaman sana.
Girl: Ako po artista!
Boy: Pero di ko na iniisip.

Kanya kanyang kayod po dito. Walang maayos na trabaho.
Walang pambili ng gamot.
Mar: Anak itabi mo.
Boy: Bakit po?
Mar: Adik ka ba? Lagpas na tayo!!

It is very hard to ignore the number of "campaign-ads-disguised-as-commercials" these days especially because most are aired during primetime. Unless you decide purposely not to watch the daily news or forgo watching TV totally, there is no escaping these so-called "infomercials." It is also hard not to take notice of the theatrics and scene-stealing antics of the so-called "presidentiables." And slowly but surely, the focus of politicians are turning away from Cha Cha and towards the coming presidential elections. I expect that in the coming months, we the people will be further entertained by the political theatrics and the mudslinging between and among the perceived contenders.

Since we are on the topic of mudslinging, it seems that Senator Manny Villar is the first presidentiable to be hit with mud (and I can say it hit him right smack his handsome face). The Senate is currently investigating him for his role in the so-called "double insertion scandal." His camp's PR spin seems to be the typically dismissive "the charges against me are old news" line and that he is being persecuted because he is a strong frontrunner in the presidential race. But it remains to be seen if the public will buy this PR line. It is easy for the apathetic to believe his yarn but if people would just have the little patience to look more closely, they will find that there really is some merit to the charges against Villar (kindly read this Malaya column written by Lito Banayo entitled "The Road Through Elsewhere"). In it Banayo said that as if building a road (using public funds) across your property in order to increase its land value isn't bad enough, Senator Villar moreover used his political influence to double the budget for the construction of that road.

The thing is, this is not the first time Senator Manny Villar got accused of big-time corruption. Back when he was still Speaker of the House, Joker Arroyo (who is now his political ally and Wednesday Group buddy) accused him of land-grabbing and acquiring a behest loan from the BSP (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas). Again, Lito Banayo wrote about this in his column entitled "A Case of Plunder". I've always wondered how Villar was able to pay up his debts. Recall that during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, Villar's housing companies were hit hard and the so-called "Brown Billionaire" became neck-deep in debt in the aftermath of that currency crisis which started in Thailand. Today, a little over ten years after the financial crisis, his SAL (Statement of Assets and Liabilities) shows that he has zero liabilities which makes him (and his wife Las Pinas Congresswoman Cynthia Villar) one of the richest legislators in the land.

This early I am scratching Manny Villar off my list of presidentiables. Even if he is proven innocent later on, the next president should not have even a mere whiff of scandal on him. If he becomes president, Villar would already be on the defensive on his first day in Malacanang much like GMA. At least, when GMA was still only a senator and vice president, I cannot recall her getting embroiled in a corruption scandal - well, at least not involving billions of pesos. And look at her now. I shudder to think what will happen if Villar, who is only a senator but already accused of masterminding several billion-peso scams - becomes president. It used to be that politicians with presidential ambitions would endeavor to keep their noses as clean as possible - until they get to Malacanang that is! But it seems some politicos cannot afford or do not have the patience to wait for their turn.

So now that I've made up my mind on Villar, I am only left with the following choices: Mar Roxas, Chiz Escudero, Ping Lacson, Noli de Castro, Gilbert Teodoro, Loren Legarda, Ed Panlilio, Erap Estrada, Bayani Fernando and Jojo Binay. Scratch one! Ten more to go!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

SSL 3 Approved in House of Reps

The House of Representatives approved last night Joint Resolution No. 36, more popularly known as SSL 3 (Salary Standardization Law 3), which grants our government workers their first salary hike in 20 years. It also seeks to correct the huge disparity between public and private sector pay scales, after a WB-CSC study showed that senior government employees are underpaid by as much as 70% than their private sector counterparts. The said study also discovered that low-ranking government employees (SG 1-6) are paid at par or even a little higher than their counterparts in the private sector thus resulting in a skewed situation wherein the higher you go in government, the more underpaid you become.

After the House of Representatives, the joint resolution will go to the Senate for ratification. The target date of implementation for the salary hikes is on July 1, 2009, to be released in four tranches. Let's just hope the senators can find time out of their busy campaign schedules to approve the SSL 3 in time for the July deadline.


I am currently reading "Atrocities and Lies: The Untold Stories of the Communist Party of the Philippines" written by Yettan Liwanag, Jun Alcover, Tito Porras and Matthew Jennings (who despite his name is a Filipino by the way). Published by the National Alliance for Democracy and Freedom Foundation, the book is well-researched and gives a listing of the supposed brutality and corruption in the Kilusan. The authors are all former active members of the CPP-NPA-NDF and their book offers an insiders view of the rebel movement (in all its gory details). Incidentally, one of the authors, Jun Alcover, is now a congressman representing ANAD Party List. Here is an excerpt from the book:

"Deep in the forest of Inopacan in Leyte province in Central Philippines, a suspected comrade was brought to the execution site. The year was 1987 and you could feel the bite of summer on your skin despite the forest cover. There was a terrifying stench of fear in the air; it was the start of Operation Missing Link (OPML) and the systematic killings by comrades of comrades suspected of turning traitors to the cause. Ka Rodel was brought in, his feet were bound in chains and his hands tied at his back. He was walking the last few meters of his life. 'Mga kasama hindi ako nagtraydor!' Whack, went the two-by-two inches wooden club and it landed at the back of his head just above his nape. He fell to the ground and lying on his side he managed to protest his innocence. He struggled to gain a footing despite the chain around his feet, trying to stay alive, fighting for dear life. Whack, a second blow to the same spot. His knees buckled and he fell down again and stood up, yet again. This time the head of the Task Force walked from behind and casually slit the victim's throat with a scythe, blood spattered on the commander's right hand; it was his tenth kill for the day. Moments later, they dragged the corpse to an open pit to join the twenty others who were executed in the same brutal, gruesome manner a few hours back. They called the place "The Garden." It is coincidental, though, that the town is officially called Inopacan (Pilipino word for 'hit' or 'strike with lethal results')."

But perhaps the most memorable (and most damaging) line in the book were the words uttered by a certain Ka Karding, a cadre of the Melito Glor Command based in Southern Tagalog, who supposedly said: "Peke ang rebolusyong ito!" (This revolution is a fake!) With these four simple words, he has managed to encapsulize the true extent of disillusionment in the Kilusan and I wouldn't be surprised if this line will be used as a sort of "counter-battlecry" by government forces to discredit the Communist insurgency in the Philippines.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Run-Off Elections for President

With one year to go till the May 2010 elections, there are 18 individuals who have signified their interest in running for the presidency or whose names have been "floated" in the mass media as possible "presidentiables." They are the following (in alphabetical order):

1. Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay
2. Quezon City Mayor Sonny Belmonte
3. Vice President Noli de Castro
4. Senator Chiz Escudero
5. Former President Joseph Estrada
6. MMDA Chair Bayani Fernando
7. Senator Dick Gordon
8. Senator Loren Legarda
9. Senator Ping Lacson
10. Senator Kiko Pangilinan
11. PLDT Chair Manny Pangilinan
12. SC Chief Justice Renato Puno
13. Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio
14. Senator Mar Roxas
15. DND Secretary Gilberto Teodoro
16. Senator Manny Villar
17. El Shaddai Head Mike Velarde
18. Jesus is Lord Movement Bro. Eddie Villanueva

Six months from now the list will become shorter - sagging survey ratings, decreasing campaign contributions, lack of machinery support from established political groups, internal power struggles within their campaign HQs, etc. are just some of the usual reasons for the collapse of many a campaign. Judging from previous elections, the presidential race will eventually boil down to just six or seven contenders. It is impossible at this point to predict who among the 18 will be the winner in 2010. But I am certain that the next president will not be able to garner more than 50% of the vote and we are again looking at a minority-elected president in 2010.

In the belief that giving our people more choices is better than just limiting it to just two or three, the framers of the 1987 Constitution instituted the multi-party system which encourages the participation of as many political parties and candidates as possible in elections. This logic is well and good if you're shopping for an anti-dandruff shampoo but, if applied to politics, is problematic and this multi-party system has in fact turned our elections into a circus. Nowadays, presidential elections in the Philippines are more like free-for-all wrestling matches instead of mano-a-mano boxing bouts. Surely, a melee (or in Ilonggo, rambol) is not the best way to pick out the best fighter. It's like, in boxing for example, in determining who is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, we put in Manny Pacquiao, Oscar dela Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. all together in one grand bonanza fight. Similarly in presidential politics, having six or more candidates running all at once is not the best way to pick out the best of the lot. This is why televised debates, which long have been a staple of presidential politics, are no longer relevant today because even if say Mar Roxas proves he is a better debater than Manny Villar, he still has to prove to the electorate that he is also better than Chiz Escudero, Noli de Castro, Ping Lacson and Loren Legarda - some or all of whom might decide not to bother to appear in the TV debate. As a result, presidential campaigns are no longer about party platforms and policy debates but about who has the most money, who has the most "recall" and who has the best ad "gimmick."

In an election with six equally-strong candidates, one can win even with only 25% of the vote, as Ramos did in 1992. Hell, Erap got only 40% of the vote in 1998 and most people considered it a "landslide" already. In today's political equation, Chiz Escudero could very well win the 2010 election by just winning in Bicol and Metro Manila or Mar Roxas by just carrying the three Visayas regions (Regions 6, 7 and 8). We may very well see in the near future a president elected by a mere 15% of the voters in a hotly-contested election with 10 or more serious candidates.

Unless we can find a way to whittle down their number to just two or three candidates, I am afraid that the Philippines will continue to have minority-elected presidents. We have to have a "weeding out" process like in the United States where they have the primaries wherein the Democrats and Republicans choose their best (which sometimes also means the most "winnable") candidate. The closest "weeding out process" we have are the surveys by Pulse Asia and SWS (but even then there are individuals whose ambition to become president is such that they simply refuse to abide by their survey ratings no matter how low, as we have seen in previous elections). The American primary system ensures the election of a majority president; Obama for example garnered 69,498,215 votes which represents 52.9% of the vote while McCain got 59,948,240 votes or 45.7% of the vote in the last 2008 elections. In contrast, all our post-EDSA presidents were minority-elected presidents: Ramos in 1992 got only 24%, Erap in 1998 got 40% while GMA in 2004 garnered about 39% of the vote.

This is why I support the bill filed by Iloilo City Congressman Raul Gonzalez, Jr. that would require a run-off election in case no candidate for president and vice president garners more than 50% of the total votes cast in the election. House Bill No. 6183 primarily seeks to prevent the election of a minority president and I will cite its Explanatory Note here because it pretty much explains the reasons why we need a majority president:


Even before his term of office begins, a minority-elected president is already at a great disadvantage. Instead of “hitting the ground running” so to speak, a chief executive who is elected by a mere plurality or less than 50% of the total votes cast, first, would have to strike alliances with various political groups in order to solidify his hold on power and govern more effectively. Lacking the confidence of a decisive mandate, the newly-elected minority president understandably would be averse to introduce necessary but unpopular reform programs and would be more susceptible to the influence of vested interests.

All of our post-EDSA presidents were minority presidents. Fidel Ramos in the 1992 elections got only 24% of the vote. Despite being reputed to be very popular among the masses, Joseph Estrada, only managed to get 40% of the votes in 1998 while our incumbent president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, got about 39% of the votes in the last 2004 elections. By contrast, all except one of our pre-EDSA presidents were elected by majority vote. Manuel Quezon got 68% of total votes cast in the 1935 elections and a resounding 82% in 1941. In the 1946 elections, Manuel Roxas received 54% of the vote while in 1949, Elpidio Quirino got 51%. Ramon Magsaysay won in the 1953 elections with a decisive 69% of the vote while Carlos Garcia prevailed in 1957 by a mere plurality of 41% of the total votes cast. In 1961, Diosdado Macapagal defeated Garcia garnering 55% of the vote while in 1965, Ferdinand Marcos in turn routed him cornering likewise 55% of the total votes cast. Marcos would go on to win in the 1969 elections getting 61% and in the 1981 special elections with an unbelievable 91% of the vote.

This bill proposes to modify the way we choose our presidents and vice presidents by requiring that to be declared winners, candidates for the two highest positions in the land must garner at least 50% of the total votes cast in the election. In the event that no candidate has garnered more than 50% of the vote, the bill provides for a mechanism wherein another election may be held between the top two presidential and/or vice presidential candidates not later than three (3) weeks after the first election. Necessarily, this proposal for a “run-off election” entails that a “surgical” amendment to the Constitution be made, specifically in Article VII, Section 4.

What our country needs today is a strong national executive who possesses a clear and indubitable mandate from the people so that he can have the necessary political capital to deal with vested interest groups, implement difficult reforms as well as unite our nation especially during crucial times. If allowed to continue, the current plurality system will eventually lead to a situation wherein a candidate could get himself elected president with a mere 20% or even less of the vote in an election wherein there are eight or more solid contenders.

I think what the Explanatory Note leaves out is that a majority president will also discourage future military adventurism and coup 'd etats in the Philippines. In the book "Before Gringo: History of the Philippine Military 1830 to 1972," author Donald Berlin detailed a plan by disgruntled military officials to launch a coup 'd etat first against President Elpidio Quirino in December 1953 and then President Carlos Garcia in October 1958 but their plans fizzled out partly because, although the two were not exactly the most popular of Philippine presidents, they were nonetheless voted and enjoyed the support of a significant portion of the population. Ousting a president during those era would have thrown the country into a civil war and just the thought of this possibility would have sent chills in the spines of even the most disgruntled military officers, no matter how serious or valid their gripes were. Nowadays, a minority-elected president, elected by say 23% of the voters, is much easier to oust than a majority president because any charismatic and politically-astute soldier can cobble up popular support from the remaining 77% of the population who did not vote for that president, enough to legitimize and ensure his stay in power.

I believe that Filipinos in general are already sick and tired of so many self-appointed "presidentiables" promising reforms and peddling themselves as messiahs that will lead this country out of its poverty. It used to be that to be considered "presidential timber," a politician first has to show exceptional leadership qualities and a good track record of public service, and even that is not enough to be elected president. Today, it seems that any Tom, Dick and Harry can aspire for the presidency. During the period of the two-party system in the Philippines, there was an "elimination round" for presidential wannabes thru the party convention. A party convention was held by the Liberal and Nacionalista parties wherein their respective ward leaders choose from among their ranks the best candidate for president and vice president. Thus, the system ensures that there are only two candidates for president come election day. Those days are gone and I don't think that we can return to the two-party system given our recent political history. But we can change the way we choose our presidents and vice presidents by making sure that they are elected by a majority of our people thru a run-off election.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

2010 is a "make-or-break" year for Tupas family

With only a year to go til the May 2010 elections, politics in Iloilo City is surprisingly "subdued." Except for a couple of individuals aspiring for higher posts, most political players in the city are hedging and not really mobilizing as yet since all are waiting with bated breath for the outcome of the legislative redistricting bill of Congressman Raul Gonzalez, Jr. The bill is currently pending with the Senate's Committee on Local Government chaired by Senator Noynoy Aquino.

The redistricting bill is the single most crucial factor in determining the political dynamics for the forthcoming 2010 elections. Political alignments, alliances and candidacies will be decided depending upon the outcome of the bill. If passed, the local LAKAS party headed by the Gonzalez-Trenas team will remain intact and continue to dominate city politics. Gonzalez Jr. will be re-elected handily as First District representative (comprised of Jaro, Mandurriao and LaPaz) while Trenas will continue on as Second District congressman representing the areas of Molo, Arevalo and City Proper. In the interest of party unity, the young and ambitious Vice Mayor Jed Mabilog will be prevailed upon to give way to the elder Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. as mayor of Iloilo City. And with the City Council membership increased from the present 12 to 16 seats, most incumbent councilors can expect to get reelected and with 4 new seats, politicians who lost in previous elections or with expired terms will now have better chances to reclaim their seats at the Sanggunian.

But if the Senate fails to pass the bill, many Ilonggos expect an exciting "battle royale" between erstwhile close allies. Although Mayor Trenas has repeatedly said, publicly and privately, that he will not challenge Raul Jr., many Ilonggos simply refuse to believe him. The young and ambitious Vice Mayor Jed Mabilog allegedly said that he will not run for mayor in deference to Raul Sr. but if it will be Raul Jr. who will run for mayor then he will challenge the son. The Liberal Party headed by Franklin Drilon, which represents the only remaining group with the wherewithal to challenge LAKAS in the city, is thinking of fielding Councilor Lex Tupas the son of Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas as a candidate for Vice Mayor. Coffeeshops in the city are awash with all sorts of political permutations, scenarios, and rumors all in the presumption that the redistricting bill will not get enacted in Congress. Hearing all these rumors, one thing I can say for sure is that Iloilo City definitely does not lack for ambitious individuals.

Another electoral race worth watching is the one in Iloilo province. Ilonggo politics is a family affair ("pinamilya" to borrow Congressman Art Defensor's term) and in a bid to become the most dominant political force in Iloilo, the Tupas family will be contesting most of the important elective posts in both the province and the city of Iloilo in the coming 2010 elections. Their patriarch, third-term Governor Niel Tupas Sr. will be running for congressman in the 4th District while his eldest son Niel Jr. will vie for reelection in the 5th. His second eldest son, Barotac Viejo Mayor Raul "Buboy" Tupas, is being groomed to replace the father as governor while their youngest child, Councilor Nielex Tupas is said to be eyeing the vice mayorship post of Iloilo City. Nong Niel's wife Myrna Causing will reclaim her old seat as mayor of Barotac Viejo while a couple of Tupas children are rumored to run for provincial board member or mayor in one of the towns in the fifth district. Provincial Administrator Manuel "Boy" Mejorada, whom many consider as the real "eldest son" of Nong Niel, is also planning to run either for vice governor or congressman in the 2nd District.

If successful, the Tupas family would have duplicated (or even surpass) the feat of the influential Garcia family which succeeded in achieving political supremacy in Cebu province in the last 2007 elections. The Garcia family presently counts a governor, two congressmen and a GSIS general manager from their ranks.

Obviously, this attempt to become the most dominant political family doesn't sit well with the other political clans as it will upset the traditional "balance of power" between the Five Families of Iloilo. Thus, the heads of the Five Families each have resolved to unite in order to prevent the ascendancy of the Tupas family. House Majority Leader Art Defensor of the 3rd district of Iloilo, Philcoa chief Oscar Garin (former 1st district rep.), 4th District Rep. Ferj Biron, TESDA chief Buboy Syjuco, Vice Governor Rolex Suplico and a hodge podge of political actors have banded together united only in their hatred (or fear) of the Tupases. Even the Gonzalez family, which historically doesn't concern itself with provincial politics, will also do what it can to stop what it considers as an "encroachment" of their territory with the bid of Nielex Tupas for the vice mayorship of Iloilo City.

With such powerful forces arrayed against them, 2010 is surely a "make-or-break" year for the Tupas family.