Malilong: The election year in retrospect

Frank Malilong

THE year 2019 was a very eventful year for politics in Cebu not only because it was an election year but also because of developments that defied conventional wisdom and reshaped the political landscape in the island. Here’s my list of the most significant events of the past year:

The Victory of Edgar Labella. In a city with a rich history in political royalty, Labella was an outsider. When his name was first floated as a possible mayoralty candidate, very few other than his most loyal friends believed that he could win against Tommy Osmeña. The results of initial surveys were disheartening but he plodded on despite a shoestring budget. The survey results became more encouraging as the campaign wore on and a couple of weeks before the elections, his confidants were so certain of victory that they mightily tried to dissuade him from debating with Osmeña. He defied them and, as they say, the rest is history.

The Return of the Garcias. After a series of setbacks in the provincial elections, the Garcias returned with a vengeance, sweeping all the electoral contests where a member of the family was a candidate. Leading the charge was former Gov. Gwen who reclaimed the Capitol after two failed attempts by her brothers. They are, without doubt, the most dominant political clan in the province and it looks like that dominance is going to stay for a long time.

The Emergence of Mike Dino as a Political Influencer. He worked quietly behind the scenes but the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas was a major player in the last elections, helping the candidates of President Duterte win. He will most probably refuse to take credit for the most dramatic upsets that occurred in May 2019 but there is no denying his huge influence.

The Defeat of the Duranos in the Fifth District. For a family that has ruled the district for more than half a century, losing it must have come as a complete shock. They managed to hang on to Danao City but barely and the question now is how long they can withstand the siege from the Garcia/Frasco steamroller.

The Fall of the Radazas. This was another shocker. Ahong Chan was not supposed to win and shake off the tag as the Radazas’ gofer. But Chan surprised all the naysayers and toppled the patriarch of the Radaza clan, Arturo. Arturo’s popular wife and former Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza, however, won as congresswoman and still wields vast influence in the city. It is interesting to see if Chan can beat back the expected challenge of the Radazas in 2022.

Junjun Davide’s Decision Not to Seek Re-election. Davide was eligible to seek one more term but he decided to slide down to vice governor instead. The decision left many political observers scratching their heads in disbelief but it turned out to be a wise one because he was able to survive the Garcia juggernaut. Davide had also been heard telling friends that he was tired of running the Capitol because of the intrigues.

The Implied Clearance of Mike Rama. The former Cebu City mayor was among the public officials whom President Duterte accused of involvement in illegal drugs. Rama sought many times to have his name cleared but failed to get it from the President. During a campaign sortie in Cebu, Duterte raised his hand as the candidate for Cebu City vice mayor. Many took it as a signal that Duterte had already cleared Rama.

The Destruction of the Mayor’s Office. A few days before Labella was scheduled to take his seat as city mayor, his men discovered that the mayor’s office had been cannibalized. Tommy Osmeña admitted that the destruction was upon his order although he claimed that he was only retrieving what were his and that he intended to repair the damage resulting from the retrieval. In a TV interview, however, Osmeña said that he was pissed off. As to which version is correct, only the court can decide.