(The Ilocos Times and riknakem.net are embarking on a voter information campaign dubbed “Keddeng ti Umili 2013”. In this issue, we are featuring the mayoralty candidates in Laoag City. News articles on the interviews, conducted mainly by your karikna, are published in the paper.)
She is sugar, spice, and everything nice. She answers even the most controversial questions but knows how to get though them unscathed. She pledges to speak ill of no one, even if her main political opponent is having a field day throwing mud.
He is stiff and stern. It is not difficult to be afraid of him. And having a reputation of literally slapping people, which he does not categorically deny, is of no help. But he came prepared for the interview, bringing with him documents proving that the current administration led by his nephew is anything but sugar, spice, and everything nice.
It has happened elsewhere, family members torn widely apart by politics, but we did not see it coming here in Laoag City. The Fariñas Family has always seemed close-knit and formidable until now. There was hope against hope that they would resolve their issues among themselves, but in politics, dear karikna, hope has its limits. And so it has come to this.
Roger accuses the couple—Mayor Michael and ABC President Chevylle—of corruption and ill-gotten wealth. He cites a newly constructed house, which he values at 80 million pesos, condominium units in Manila, and luxury cars, among others, as proof of shenanigans. He decries the deterioration of peace and order, overpriced but losing government ventures such as the Laoag City General Hospital, and dirty public spaces which was unseen of during his term when the Laoag first gained fame as the Philippines’cleanest and greenest component city .
To all these, Chevylle has ready answers. In her husband’s nine-year stint, she says, Laoag City has reaped various recognitions, including the ‘Seal of Good Housekeeping’ from the Department of Interior and Local Government. She argued that “If there was corruption, it would have been known because the ‘seal’ guarantees efficiency and transparency in governance.” She says their house, located at Brgy. Vira in the city’s outskirts, costs only eight million pesos at most while denying other properties Roger asserts they have amassed. While enumerating their various businesses which contribute to their family income, this advertising graduate of Miriam College says she is not materialistic and is content with a simple lifestyle. She proceeds to show a crucifix pendant, a gift from his late father, which she says is her main piece of jewelry.
Don’t be deceived, warns Roger, because Chevylle could spin a tail of lies. He laughs at the idea of the couple having businesses and challenges them to present business permits if these were really existing and legitimate. He also urges them to make public their SALN. Roger proudly says that no graft and/or corruption case has ever been filed against him and that while he is being pictured as arrogant and brute, people would always prefer a “slapper” over a “killer,” referring to the 2005 fatal shooting of Laoag City Vice Mayor Jimmy Chua, where Michael was implicated, and the gunning down of City Legal Officer Jose Antonio “Pepoc” Pastor for which a former bodyguard of Michael was recently convicted for murder.
Roger has gone from one barangay to another for his exposés while Chevylle, who has the support of Governor Imee Marcos and around 95 percent of barangay captains as per her estimate, says negative campaigning is not in her book. The mayor’s wife was calm and composed during the interview and welcomed questions never before openly asked like “Is it true that you’re a battered wife?” but sidestepped most queries and gave very safe answers. Roger, on the other hand, was stern, decisive and at times agitated. At one point, he even accused this columnist of being ignorant and one-sided.
More about them soon.
Biggest gainer: Keon
The biggest gainer in this Fariñas family squabble is former Governor Michael Marcos Keon who is yet to make public appearances and grant media interviews. The Ilocos Times tried to arrange an interview with the former governor through his right hand, Willie Boy Agcaoili, but to no good result. Keon’s apparent strategy seems sound: just let Roger and Chevylle both crumble by their own doing, and then woo voters disappointed by the family’s intramurals.
While Governor Imee Marcos remains resolute in her endorsement of Chevylle, there is speculation that the rest of the Marcos Family—Senator Bongbong, Congresswoman Imelda, and Ms. Irene—are throwing their support behind Keon whose victory would mark the first time a Marcos gets hold of the Laoag City Hall. Indeed, there are towns where Imee and Madame Imelda have each endorsed opposing candidates. Let’s see if Laoag City will be one of them.
If Keon wins, he is expected to forge alliances with Imee who defeated him for the gubernatorial post in 2010. The latter has surely learned by now that his cousins can bury him to political oblivion without sweat.
Exciting days ahead, dear karikna.
From power to ridicule: Ventura
In the interest of fairness, we are including in our coverage former Mayor Cesar A. Ventura, the one and only politician to have defeated a Fariñas for Laoag City’s top post. He beat Eric Fariñas, Rudy and Roger’s younger brother, in 1992.
Sadly though, Ventura is now widely regarded as a virtual nuisance candidate. He campaigns by his lonesome, and takes pride in being a one-man team driving a rundown Ford Fiera with trailer while speaking on a microphone.
Many people actually pity the guy. A former mayor must be able to retire in dignity and not be reduced to laughingstock status. Some opine that had he ran for city councilor, he might actually have winning chances, but Ventura is not sold to the idea of occupying a post much lower that what he had over two decades back. He ran for Vice Mayor in 2010 but lost to the late Eddie P. Domingo. The septuagenarian prefers to look at a glass half full: he obtained around 12,000 votes and won in a few barangays.
Ventura concedes that only “a miracle” can make him win in this election, but that does not distract him from conceptualizing priority projects such as building a senior citizens’ center complete with swimming pool and gymnastics facilities. When I commented that the bones of senior citizens, including my parents’, might be too brittle to endure gymnastic activity, Ventura laughed. People in the room laughed even harder.
It broke my heart, dear karikna, to see my former mayor in such state.