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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, April 9, 2018
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with Matè Espina

Election fever

Rock & Refuge

The local government units are scrambling to strengthen their positions for the 2019 elections through next month’s barangay and SK elections.

Although our chief executives and lawmakers have nothing to do with the upcoming elections, we all know that the results of the May 2018 elections will have a huge bearing in the possible outcome of the midterm elections.

As early as last year, even with the planned nth postponement of the SK and barangay elections, would be candidates for the 2019 elections have already been establishing partnerships with village chiefs who are known to deliver votes for them come their turn.

I heard from the grapevine that a chief executive even terminated all job orders from a certain village after learning that the barangay captain has been seen getting close with a would-be-threat to his post in next year’s elections.

But that’s better than getting gunned down as what has been happening to some incumbent barangay officials or bets in other parts of the country.

With just a little over a month before the barangay polls, some officials are also urging mandatory drug testing for candidates taking off from reports that illegal drugs thrive in our communities because many of our village officials are allegedly part of the system or turn a blind eye to it.

Just a few weeks ago, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) itself said that out of the 289 barangay officials in their list of alleged narco-politicians, 207 remain active in illegal drug trade while the rest of them were either dead, arrested or have vanished.

Locally, we also read in the news that authorities have declared not one of our barangays here are drug-free which I hope will urge our voters to think twice about re-electing those whom they feel are involved in one way or the other with the drug trade.

Although drug testing may help, it will not fully eradicate the drug problem since we all know that some of them are not actually users but simply abetting some pushers either for fear or for money, or worse, because of indifference.

I suppose this new plan though is simply to derail again the May barangay elections since its proponents are seeking the Senate and the House to postpone the elections so they can pass a new law requiring drug testing.

What is also more exciting is how the SK election will turn out in the light of the implementation of the SK Reform Act which has an anti-dynasty provision that prohibits the candidacy of one who is related to a second degree either by blood or affinity to any incumbent official at all levels.

I don’t remember ever voting for an SK candidate. In fact, I only became a voter after I joined the media profession and I was already in my 30’s. And although the intent was to give our youth a voice in government, I have seen many of them get corrupted early on in their term.

In fact, their own nomination to either the city or provincial council is so politicized and are being dictated or planned by those in higher office. As to their actual programs, I have yet to see very credible youth-targeted projects worthy of praise, outside of those usual sports or literary programs that are often given to our youth representatives as mere tokens.

Talk about Jose Rizal’s quote that the “youth is the hope of our fatherland.” I do believe in that but I believe more those young leaders who try to make real changes in their own private capacity than those that have been elected to office.

And so, while our barangay and SK candidates will be on their toes after April 20 th when the filing ends, I bet our local officials will be busier than them trying to ensure the results will end the way they’d want it to be.

I was surprised myself how early planning and negotiations for the 2019 elections have started. As early as last year, talks have already been going around as to who would face-off in the midterm elections.

In Bacolod City alone there have been talks that former Mayor Monico Puentevella will give it a run for Congress against incumbent Rep. Greg Gasataya.

Or that Abang Lingkod Partylist Rep. Stephen Paduano and Councilor Cano Tan are after the seat of Mayor Bing Leonardia, not to mention one other former councilor is also interested in making a comeback for the mayoralty seat as whispered to me a couple of weeks ago.

This is going to be a major circus with former Vice Mayor Thaddy Sayson who may or may not run again as vice mayor under Monico’s slate. Yes, that is still 2019 but talks are really going around and people are actually going around consolidating their ranks.

At the provincial level, it’s a waiting game for Rep. Albee Benitez to make his decision whether he will continue to bid for the senate seat or take the offer of governorship and hope to consolidate the province.

But the way things look, Rep. Albee has just too many business interests in Imperial Manila and elsewhere to stay here for good and run the province. As a very influential person in Congress and even in several administrations past or present, Rep. Albee is a good candidate for the senate if he gets his numbers up.

And rest assured, at any day of the week, 24-7, I would rather campaign for him to stop the likes of Harry Roque from being elected into the Senate halls.*


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