Analysis of Cebu Politics 2013

Professor Phoebe Zoe Maria U. Sanchez teaches History and Political Sociology in UP Cebu. She is chair of PRO-RIGHTS Central Visayas, a regional alliance of Human Rights advocates. She is also the lead convenor of the Cebu Educators Forum (CEF) that initiates institutional academic trainings and forums on issues confronting Cebu's education sector.

 Trapo politics prevail in Cebu. 

A mapping of Cebu’s political field will show us that colors of dynastic families still fair very well in recent political scenes.  

Now campaigning for the first congressional district is the unopposed Samsam Gullas grandson of ALAYON Party’s grand politician Eduardo “Eddie” Gullas who has been in politics since the 70s.  This was after Gullas’ ALAYON allied with the LP avoiding a split of the district between grandson Samsam and  San Fernando township’s Mayor Antonio Canoy  to compete in the district. Canoy withdrew his candidacy thereafter.   

Meanwhile, second district was in the last term under Representative Pablo Garcia , father of Cebu Governor  Gwnedolyn Garcia and One Cebu Party’s gubernatorial bet PJ Garcia. Third district was with the Yaphas in the last term but will see suspended Governor Gwendolyn Garcia running for congress to reclaim the district that also used to be lorded over by his father.

Sustaining district boss in the fourth district is Rep. Salimbangon now facing competition from Martinez III of the Martinez family who had lorded the fourth district since the 60s.

Fifth district remains to be a  Durano country with Boboy Durano competing in the Vice Gubernatorial seat against a relative, OIC Governor Agnes Almendras-Magpale.  District boss in the sixth is Rep. Luigi Quisumbing, son of business tycoon Norberto Quisumbing now facing competition from former Congresswoman Nerissa Soon-Ruiz. Likewise, the lone district of Lapu-lapu City with Mayor Paz Radaza  and Rep. Boy Radaza is with the Radazas for quite a time. This time Radaza’s  daughter runs for district representative to sustain  the position.

In Cebu’s Gubernatorial race is the competition between LP’s Junjun Davide against UNA’s and One Cebu’s PJ Garcia.  PJ Garcia accuses Davide for having used the latter’s father - CJ Davide’s shadow to win over votes in the province. While PJ Garcia’s father,  2nd district Rep Pablo Garcia and sister  suspended Gwen Garcia ‘s track record and projects implemented in the last 18 years are forces that enable easy campaigns for a Garcia in the province. It must be noted that with the Garcia’s long stint in Cebu Province, they had covered thoroughly all 1,166 barangays of the province in terms of community projects and benefits over the years.  Local folks say there had never been a Cebuano government too busy to deliver projects to the barangays but that one run by the Garcias. 

Now whether the perks and pampering of these barangays  by the Garcias will  translate into warm votes for PJ Garcia despite cases hurled against suspended sister,  Governor Garcia is still to be seen. A Garcia victory would then speak on how far the provincial Cebuano’s notion of  “utang buot” or “utang na loob”  to mean debt on one’s honor,  still works even in local political culture.   This is because, a number of incumbents are still under the Garcia camp. In their recent campaign sortei’s  they say before their constituents, “Kamo na lay tan-aw diha sa atong mga kaayohan nga nakuha sa unang panahon,”  to mean,“It is now encumbent upon you to assess on the benefits that we gained before.”

In Cebu City, now sparring are two old political families – the Osmeñas and the Ramas. They used to be both members of the Bando Osmena Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) political party with former  Mayor Alvin Garcia, and who later created his erstwhile KUSUG political party.  

Barangay officials in the city are quite heated with the kind of electoral norm today. They say “we opt not be too close to God or too close to the devil” when asked to choose between Mike Rama and Tom Osmeña. Whoever is God or the devil between the two, the folks will reveal on elections.

As observed from past elections in Cebu, Barangay officials who serve as gatekeepers in communities had been lured of lucrative incentives only to pursue zero-opponent –to-perfect votes for a favored slate.  It has been common practice that barangay officials are given incentives to campaign and deliver perfect votes for certain parties and give zero votes to opponents in their respective precincts in exchange for large perks. But a call for a zero opponent to perfect score votes for a slate is in itself an erroneous political praxis. It conjures a picture of the poverty of democracy, where the masses are uncritical, un-empowered, and yet uncontrived. It means the electorate can be easily manipulated through the economic power of political lords.  Hence, politicians are taking advantage of the poverty of the poor.

What is at stake in Cebu today is the break from the bondage of money politics. The discourse in Cebu’s political field shows that it is gradually honing its capacity to advance political dynamics such as in the field of party building that helps broaden democratic participation, advancing critical mass awareness, and organizing clean electoral politics. But the political matrix between LP and UNA had reclassified ripples in Cebu’s political norm that could have been of another tone. It is because when LP and UNA saw it a need to exploit vote rich Cebu province, home grown political parties in Cebu with its respective development discourse were reorganized and shifted to another tone, such as how BAKKUD has to jump to LP or how ALAYON had adopted the LP National Politics, or BOPK has become solely TEAM O hiding by the skirt of LP and TEAM Rama and One Cebu stalwarts working with UNA. 

And more wanting are the Cebuanos who always find the vigor to participate in political discourse despite economic hardships, if only to level the playing field between the proprietary and the laboring classes.