One surprise of the recent Palawan polls were the results of the mayoralty elections in the southern towns of Narra and Rizal. Two independent mayoralty candidates managed to unseat otherwise well-entrenched politicos allied with the local ruling political party, Partidong Pagbabago ng Palawan.
In Rizal town, a 77-year old tribal leader named Otol Odi scored a landslide win over the well-supported PPP bet. The outcome was hardly expected by the PPP, as was the end result of the town’s gubernatorial voting where longshot challenger Arthur Ventura eked a rare upset over incumbent Governor Jose Chaves Alvarez.
In Narra, the 3-decade rule of the Demaala family abruptly came to a halt with the narrow win of political newbie Gerandy Danao, a goat farmer whose politics and leadership track record is least known beyond the town’s boundaries.
The two cases certainly did not escape the media’s interest, tickled in a way by the romantic notion of David winning over Goliath and of old dynasties being toppled by emergent popular leaders as had been showed in several other places around the country.
It is not fair for both Danao and Odi to be judged with an expectation that they will perform according to the stereotypical image of a hero overcoming all odds to uplift the living conditions of their people. Rizal and Narra politics are unique in themselves and their performances in the office are yet to unfold. Neither of them had been swept to power on the crest of a popular clamor or a progressive movement. Refreshing as their victories are, they remain an open-ended story on local politics.
Odi and Danao’s case, however, provides an opportunity for the two rural towns to jumpstart into a genuine track for good governance, unsaddled as they are by the trappings of old politics. While it remains to be seen how they will fare in vision and leadership categories, the opportunities are there for their supporters and constituents to pool resources together and help their new leadership.
It is encouraging enough for these towns to find new leaders who are unfettered with traditional political backgrounds and who can find new inspirations and motivations to significantly improve governance.