Unbeknownst to many, Nacionalista presidential candidate Manny Villar slipped in and out of Iloilo City last week. The purpose of his visit was not known as there was no big rally or any activity announced to the press. The only information I got was that Senator Villar met with Mayor Jerry Treñas, the Nacionalista candidate for the Lone District of Iloilo City. But what went on during their closed-door, one-on-one meeting was not divulged to the public.
What I do know is this: after his quick visit to Iloilo Senator Villar decided that he will no longer release any campaign funds to Mayor Treñas. This is the information I got from a very good source in Manila. My source said that the primary reason for Senator Villar’s sudden “change of heart” is Mayor Treñas’s continued inability to deliver on his earlier commitments. The source explained that late last year, Mayor Treñas committed to Senator Villar that he can deliver at least ninety (90) of Iloilo City’s one hundred eighty (180) barangay captains to support his presidential candidacy. This was the reason why Villar chose to draft him as the Nacionalista congressional candidate and why he will lend him financial support. But in exchange for the campaign funds, Villar wanted Treñas to demonstrate his political mettle by organizing a meeting with his purported 90 barangay chieftains. The gathering was intended as a “show of force,” an actual demonstration of his political power in Iloilo City. Recall that several weeks ago the Treñas camp did indeed attempt to organize a dinner meeting with Villar but even though they already enlisted the help of Tito Lopez, scion of the Albertito Lopez clan (who are also pro-Villar) and despite the fact that they did all sorts of cajoling just to convince the captains to come (they for example said, pang “national” lang ni, wala ni ya labot ang “local”), still the number of barangay captains who turned up at the said meeting was short of the promised 90.
So with only less than a month to go ‘til elections, the said “meet-and-greet” has yet to happen. My source said that Senator Villar may have finally lost patience in waiting for the promised meeting to happen and may have finally seen the light (“nasanagan” kung sa Ilonggo pa) that his local Nacionalista bet, an incumbent mayor at that, is not powerful enough to gather even just half of the barangay captains in his own city. My source added that Villar is first and foremost a businessman, and that he applies the same business principles to politics. In other words, if you cannot meet the terms of his contract, he will not pay you. It’s that simple.
It is now obvious that Mayor Treñas cannot meet his side of the bargain because Secretary Raul Gonzalez, Sr. has maintained his firm hold on the barangay captains. To date, 135 barangay chieftains are firmly with the Gonzalez camp. Out of the remaining forty five (45) barangay chairmen who are not with Gonzalezes, two (2) joined the camp of USec. Larry Jamora (namely, Gilbert Jamolo of Brgy Tanza, City Proper and Rafael “Chichoy” Palmares of Brgy. Magsaysay Village, Lapaz) while the rest are either with Mayor Treñas or Vice Mayor Mabilog (who are supporting two different presidents).
This latest development will surely have devastating effects on Team Uswag’s already flagging campaign. Without Senator Villar’s financial assistance, Mayor Treñas will have to dig deep into his own pockets to fulfil the logistical requirements of his campaign. Or maybe the local Chinese community, which during his incumbency became a very much favored and very powerful group, will come to his rescue and relieve him of his pecuniary predicament.