The outcome of the forthcoming local elections in Palawan isn’t too hard to predict. If we really come down to it, there is no contest. Such was the scenario portrayed by this brave newspaper’s recent banner story.
On the key position of governor, incumbent Jose Ch. Alvarez is, for all intents and purposes, running unopposed, with apologies to former PCSD executive director Art Ventura and the two other candidates whose names I still have to dig out from my notes. Unopposed, because the odds against any of them pulling an upset victory is more Chinese-looking than a real Chinaman’s chance.
The only legitimate contender if you’re looking for one is Ventura, considering his modest resume. But his capacity to run a real campaign and challenge the governor’s built-in advantage in organization and resources is doubtful. Ventura is aware of these odds and has adopted a bahala-na-si-Batman attitude. My only worry for him is the mythical superhero will not even show up.
The intensity of the upcoming gubernatorial contest doesn’t compare to any of the previous match ups for the post, mainly the duels in the last two elections between ousted Gov. Baham Mitra and Alvarez. Mitra defeated Alvarez by the skin of his teeth during their first skirmish and even pushed back a recall attempt by Alvarez afterwards. The latter came back better prepared in 2013 and decisively denied him a second term and perhaps even a career.
The Mitras were a no-show in the run up to the filing of candidacy last week, snuffing out early rumors Baham the ex-governor will try to recover lost footing and the elder Monmon will aim for either the 3rd district congressional seat or the mayoralty of Narra.
The anticipation over detained former Governor Joel Reyes’ earlier rumored plan to run against Alvarez was laid to rest towards the end of the filing period. We gave too much attention to a couple of clueless Manila columnists who tried to drum up the idea. Reyes, currently in jail as mastermind suspect in the Gerry Ortega murder, decided to vie for mayor of Coron, with his brother Marjo as his running mate.
If it is true that Reyes was being lobbied by other major political players who were willing to coalesce behind him if only to topple Alvarez, the embattled former Governor wasn’t going to be rushed. He decided to bid for time and contend with Coron.
That Reyes’ decision was influenced by Gov. Alvarez himself remains a mere rumor. I can’t resist quoting him quoting me on my recent column piece during that controversial press conference at City Jail that resulted in the sacking of his jailer. “Who knows, Dempto might be correct in stating that I might just prefer to retire privately in a beach in Coron.”
Reyes’ victory will not extricate him from the murder case and the ongoing trial. But it will allow him to exercise his political leverage for whatever purpose in the near future.
If we are to frame a snapshot of the current political arena, it would look like Gov. Alvarez and his formidable army standing unchallenged in the field. Except that in the case of Puerto Princesa City and the newly created 3rd district, we see the Hagedorns fighting for political survival.
Incumbent Rep. Douglas Hagedorn (3rd district) is facing former PIO Gil Acosta, an Alvarez protégé. Let’s call this one a spade that it is – a surrogate fight between Douglas Hagedorn and Gov. Alvarez. The latter’s dislike of the elder Hagedorn is common knowledge it has emboldened Acosta who otherwise would not have his own financial and organizational resources to be a serious contender.
Edward Hagedorn is facing his own uphill battle against incumbent Lucilo Bayron, whose eclectic support base includes Alvarez plus Reyes and Mitra’s key lieutenants. That makes him a solid favorite. Alvarez has a softer heart towards this Hagedorn compared to the elder brother but was still instrumental in his defeat during the recent recall elections.
The Hagedorns represent the last remaining holdout of the consolidation of Palawan politics by a singular player. The rest of the other player have either gone on sabbatical or joined the bandwagon.
The real significance of the 2016 elections in Palawan is not the victory or defeat of each individual contender for local posts. Heck it’s not even who the province’s electorate will bid for the presidency. We’re too puny in numbers to swing the final count. It is the crowning of Governor Jose Ch. Alvarez as the province’s singular, undisputed political power center.