BY PET MELLIZA/ The Beekeeper
At the flag raising ceremony October 1, Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr. told provincial employees he and Tupas already united “that ends bickering among you”, acknowledging the pro-Tupas and –Defensor factions among provincial workers.
“We are now one, so stop your heated partisanship,” he told employees. “It’s over now, you don’t have to wager on the outcome anymore”, referring to the knack of some employees to bet on who between Tupas and Defensor was to be anointed Liberal Party standard bearer for Iloilo province.
October 26, the LP through Sen. Franklin Drilon declared Defensor provincial standard bearer, dashing hopes of local LP members on the candidacy of former governor, Niel Tupas Sr. Drilon is vice chair of the LP.
The declaration surprised many even dismayed LP members in Iloilo’s 42 towns and one component city who banked on Tupas, LP stalwart the last 47 years. Tupas and his junior, a member of the Lower House and chief prosecutor of the successful impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona, acknowledged that what they did was a “sacrifice” all right, but a little one.
Both declared that such was nothing compared to the benefits the LP and Iloilo would reap from the “unification of political families” or “united front” as Drilon put it. The “unification” of the Tupases (5th district), Defensors (3rd district) and the Garins (1st district) was what President Benigno Aquino wanted, the standard explanation by the dramatis personae to include the sacrificial lambs themselves, the Tupases.
The grapevine says that all that is the handiwork of newly appointed DILG chief Manuel “Mar” Roxas III who fears that the political imbroglio where three giants vie for governorship – the incumbent Gov. Defensor, LP’s Tupas and Rep. Ferjenil Biron (Iloilo 4th district) would hand power over to Biron, standard bearer of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) headed by Vice Pres. Jejomar Binay.
Defensor, a cabinet member in the administration of Pres. Corazon Aquino, mother of today’s president, has been with the Lakas of then Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo; Tupas is the provincial chair of LP while his junior is LP’s secretary general. Roxas and Biron fought over the passage of the Cheaper Medicine Act that Biron authored in the Lower House. However, Roxas succeeded in passing his own version in the Senate that Pres. Macapagal-Arroyo signed.
Biron and Roxas traded barbs as result, the former calling the latter “protector” of foreign multinational pharmaceuticals, the latter belittling the former as “lobbyist” for his own business interests. Biron is known for his fabulous wealth from importation of cheap generic drugs from India and China. Roxas dreads to see Biron governorship for that would place Iloilo under the grip of UNA’s Binay, his potential rival in the 2016 presidential race.
The “development projects” awaiting Iloilo as outcome of the unification of political clans though “only flatters” Biron. He retorts: “Pres. P-Noy spent hours consulting with them (Roxas, Garin and Drilon) just to ensure my defeat? So Biron indeed must be somebody to them”.
Biron convened the UNA gathering for “mass oath taking” September 29 that drew over 1,000 guests to include a bevy of national giants – Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Vice Pres. Jejomar Binay, and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada. Defensor followed suit the next day, with Drilon and Roxas as top stars. Twenty four mayors (out of 43 towns and one city) attended, among others.
Incidentally, Biron’s running mate Rolex Suplico and Defensor’s Raul Tupas, son of the former governor are first cousins; Defensor and Raul Tupas vied for governorship in 2010; the former led by 27,000 votes. Biron’s “mass oath taking” incidentally, drew original LP members of Iloilo, among them, SP Gerardo Flores, an ally of Tupas who felt disgusted at the “betrayal” by LP higher ups. “Ang loyal nga membro ginasipa tapos ang indi membro ginapasulod, ano klase ra (A loyal member is kicked out just to give way to a stranger, what kind of logic is that)?”
Flores tagged along with him his wife Miag-ao mayor Juliet who UNA anointed to run for Congress for Iloilo’s 1st district, and councilors who became instant UNA members.
The LP “oath taking and reaffirmation” meanwhile, had non-members seizing control of the local from original members many of whom already migrated to UNA.