Monday, November 23, 2009

It's All About Who Gets What

Earlier I wrote in this blog that the 2010 elections in Iloilo City will be fought along Liberal vs. Lakas Party lines. I always presumed that Mayor Jerry Trenas and Vice Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog after their break-up with the Gonzalezes will unite and run under the Liberal Party because both have ties to former Senate President and LP Chair Franklin Drilon, the acknowledged LP stalwart in Iloilo City. Jed is said to be a distant relative of Drilon, Trenas at one time worked with Drilon at the ACCRA law office, and all three are from Molo. I was dead wrong.

As the last few weeks have shown, it is now apparent that the party higher ups are not willing (or are not able) to bankroll the campaign of LP candidates in Iloilo City. With Senator Mar Roxas out of the presidential race, the LP suddenly lost its most valuable campaign financier and since campaign contributions to Senator Noynoy Aquino’s campaign have yet to start pouring in, the LP’s finances are still uncertain. Since Iloilo City is touted to be his bailiwick, the responsibility of building up the LP rests in the hands of Drilon. The problem is Drilon is said to be tight-fisted (ku-om kamot) more so now because he needs to concentrate all his financial resources on his own Senate reelection bid. I have it from a good source that the reason why Mayor Trenas opted to join the Nacionalista Party instead of the LP was because Senator Manny Villar offered to give him P20 million to help his campaign while Drilon had nothing to offer but just the spectre of an Aquino presidency (and all the “perks” that goes with it). I guess Mayor Jerry’s answer to Drilon’s offer was: “your proposal is good Frank, but I need cash.” Mabilog for his part is said to be contemplating joining the NPC (Nationalist People’s Coalition) but I frankly do not know if he was promised anything by Danding Cojuangco. Undersecretary Larry Jamora, who is closely associated with Congressman Iggy Arroyo, is with Kampi and is lobbying the GMA administration to declare Iloilo City a “free zone.” While some pundits are predicting a possible Trenas-Jamora team-up (especially after the Trenas-Mabilog negotiations bogged down), I honestly cannot see it happening because Joe III Espinosa (Mayor Jerry’s bilas and vice mayoral candidate) has an axe to grind with Congressman Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo because he is the person responsible for breaking the centuries-old stranglehold of the Espinosa family in the Muelle Loney Port.

Not many people realize this but I believe the root cause of all the party hopping and political free-for-all in Iloilo City can be traced to the failure of the redistricting bill to pass in the Senate. If the city was successfully split into two districts, the Trenas-Gonzalez alliance would still be intact because one party would not have to sacrifice his personal ambition for the other. The blame for the bill’s demise rests entirely on Senator Noynoy Aquino, the Chairman of the Committee on Local Government, and former Senator Drilon whom Secretary Raul Gonzalez pointed to as the one who convinced Aquino to stonewall the bill in the Senate. Senator Aquino has repeatedly said that Iloilo City is not yet qualified because its population has yet to reach 500,000 and he has refused to abide by the previous Supreme Court decision on the Makati redistricting case which clearly establishes that Iloilo City is entitled to another representative. Whatever the case, Noynoy can simply refuse to calendar the bill because that is his prerogative as Chairman of the Local Government Committee (which is precisely what he did). Since there was no hearing held, people will never know whether Iloilo City is indeed entitled to another congressman and we will just have to content ourselves with rhetorical and hypothetical discussions on the matter.

For years, Drilon has been plotting the demise of the Gonzalezes and has been aching to be acknowledged as the sole kingpin of Iloilo City. Recall that in 2007, Drilon attempted to run for congressman but seeing perhaps that the field has been totally dominated by the Gonzalez-Trenas group thought better of it. It must have been utterly humiliating for no less than the chairman of a party to have to admit to his partymates that he is not capable of winning in his own bailiwick and I heard that Drilon’s credibility within the Liberal Party suffered because of this. This may partly explain why DENR Secretary Lito Atienza and other party stalwarts questioned his leadership which led to the splitting up of the Liberal Party into an Atienza-wing and a Drilon-wing.

Of course, it should be noted that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Liberal Party plotting to defeat the administration Lakas-Kampi-CMD in Iloilo City. Putting Gonzalez out of commission is a perfectly valid and legitimate ambition on the part of Drilon. After all, that’s what politicians and parties are all about: the attainment and (ideally) the judicial use of political power.

But what I find objectionable is Drilon’s “sneaky” manner of attaining political dominance via the “divide and conquer” method of recruiting an enemy to conquer their enemy. “Divide and conquer” as a tactic is as old as politics itself and is usually employed by parties who face a very formidable opponent (the Spaniards and the Americans used it with much success on us Filipinos). The LP in the past has tried and failed to dominate Iloilo City and it is obvious that the only way they can win is by driving a wedge between Mayor Trenas and the Gonzalezes. By blocking the passage of the redistricting bill, the LP effectively created a scenario where Trenas had to choose between his loyalty to the Gonzalezes and his loyalty to himself. Drilon the political animal probably knew Trenas well enough to guess that the latter would certainly choose himself. What Drilon failed to see was that Trenas the political pragmatist would choose Manny Villar’s money rather than his appeal to his sense of delicadeza and debt of gratitude to Cory Aquino (it was Cory, after all, who gave Trenas his first big break in politics by appointing him OIC councillor in 1986). But if Trenas could overlook his debt to Gonzalez (who resuscitated his moribund political career in the mid-1990s), I could not see why he would have any residual loyalty to Cory Aquino’s son Noynoy because it seems that Mayor Trenas’s sense of gratitude does not extend to the sons of his “debtors.”

In the coming weeks, we can expect the candidates to regale us with their plans and lofty reform programs. But let’s not kid ourselves. At the end of the day, it’s all about who gets to wield the power and enjoy the perks of government.


Anonymous said...

Given your premise, Manny Villar made a bad investment with Jerry Trenas for the so-called 20 million pesos as pay up for the graduating mayor to join the ranks of NP. With some 200,000 registered voters in the City, the rate of return of Mannys investment is too low. Generally,
it will be split among among the other two major parties, the LP, Lakas Kampi, and that of Erap, and all others.

This is the first time though as an Ilonggo with his roots, Manny will play for the first time and see the rough and tumble of politics in the City.

The city polity is divided into areas of spheres of influence among contending political warlords rooted on patronage,"utang na loob", "kabalaslan," and those that could be swayed by some 2000
pesos in exchange of one's vote.

Moreso, with so many candidates running for city councilors, each candidate has his own "personal"
likings among the senatorial slots, and go for single vote for the senatorial line up same too with the councilors.

"Horse" trading is the game.

But, we got word from reliable sources, just fact-checking, who among the candidate/s holds the
passport issued by the United States of America.

Only american citizens are righful recipient of passport issued by the State Department.

Does it mean that there is one among them is an american citizen?
And or having dual citizensship?

We got the information from one of the candidates running the concerned political group. Old timer in the local power play concludes that this is one way to silence the possible whistleblower
by inclusion in the slot as city councilor, including campaign funds.

Believe it or not?

Hey Mr. Oliver, send me ur email and I will give you the additional
bits and pieces...

Anonymous said...

Honestly, we need a fresh blood, not stained like Trenas or Mabilog. Or way older blood. We are screwed one-way or the other. promises promises...that's all there is.