All politics, indeed, is local.
Amid the polarization gripping national politics, local politics sure has the greater weight on the voters’ minds since the policies, ordinances, and local projects have more direct impact to the people’s day-to-day lives. It is undeniable that gubernatorial, mayoralty and congressional races deserve much scrutiny and assessment.
Incumbents, dynasts, celebrities, outcasts, novices and young, visionary officials are vying for 81 governorships and vice-governorships, 782 seats to provincial boards, 146 city mayoralties and vice-mayoralties, 1,650 seats to city councils, 1,488 municipal mayoralties and vice-mayoralties, 11,908 seats to municipal councils and 80% of the 316 seats to the House of Representatives.
Local campaign begins on Friday, March 25.
Politixxx Today highlighted 16 high-profile races in the country that could catapult victors to national prominence that may, someday, land them in the two highest positions in the land. These races involve allies-turned-foes, David vs. Goliath scenarios and clashes between children and relatives of former officials.
Honey Lacuna vs. Christy Lim vs. Alex Lopez (Manila, Mayor)
With first-term Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso gunning the presidency, the battle for the position of mayor in the nation’s capital heats on.
In the running are Vice Mayor Honey Lacuña, Christy Lim and Atty. Alex Lopez.
Lacuña runs alongside Rep. Yul Siervo. Both are pushing to continue the legacy of Domagoso, which includes free housing for street dwellers. Their tandem would also push for government transparency and anti-corruption measures.
While Lim, the daughter of the late former Mayor Alfredo Lim, vows to continue her father’s legacy, who served as the 20th city chief executive for a total of 12 years.
“My dad had a legacy na naiwan niya sa Manila, na up until now ay talagang napapakinabangan ng taong bayan,” she told Manila Bulletin. “Andiyan ‘yung kanyang legasiya na napakaganda na siyang magiging pundasyon para maipagpatuloy at makapagserbisyo rin nang tama sa taong bayan.”
“Ang plano ko lang paigtingin pa ang serbisyong medikal at ang serbisyong pangkabuhayan, serbisyong edukasyon. Sa palagay ko napaka-importante ng basic na pangangailangan ng mga tao dito sa lungsod ng Maynila,” she added.
And Lopez, son of the late former Mayor Mel Lopez, touted his experiences in the private sector as a foundation to serve Manileños.
“Ako po ay manggagaling sa private sector. I think after Covid, we need a fresh start, fresh outlook, fresh vision coming from the private sector,” he told Manila Bulletin. “We have to have a heart on helping the poor. Different visions and different approaches that have been implemented not only during this administration but also in the past. We need a total redevelopment.”
Joy Belmonte vs. Mike Defensor (Quezon City, Mayor)
Incumbent Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte notched 54% of the vote in the 2019 elections in the race to succeed her ally, Herbert Bautista, after three consecutive terms. Running at the time against Vincent Crisologo – whose supporters, on the day of the election, were caught committing vote-buying – Belmonte seemed to be a sure bet. Add to that her alliance with Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago, victory was cemented.
But this election, the winds have changed. Belmonte finds herself in a heated race against Anakalusugan Partylist Rep. Mike Defensor, who ran against Bautista in 2010, only to be defeated by a considerable margin.
Defensor has the backing of presidential and vice-presidential frontrunners, former Senator Bongbong Marcos and Duterte-Carpio. He also has the backing of Bautista, who left his former running mate for his former opponent.
The congressman’s camp has unleashed a slew of allegations against the incumbent, most recently emphasizing the Commission on Audit’s adverse findings over the PhP479 million Covid-19 assistance that the city distributed in 2020. Belmonte’s camp hit her opponent’s “childish challenges,” considering that Quezon City received an “unmodified opinion” in 2020, the highest rating the city has received in at least a decade.
Publicus Asia – a survey firm headed by veteran strategist Malou Tiquia, who openly supports the candidacy of Duterte-Carpio – reported that Belmonte is leading the race. Still, other firms say Defensor notched a much higher preference than the incumbent.
Gian Sotto vs. Winnie Castelo (Quezon City, Vice Mayor)
And it’s not just the mayoralty race heating up in the country’s largest city. The position of vice mayor is hotly contested between the incumbent Gian Sotto – son of vice presidential candidate Vicente Sotto III and veteran actress Helen Gamboa – and Winnie Castello – Quezon City councilor for District 2.
Sotto is running with Belmonte, whereas Castello is under Defensor’s coalition.
Both camps claim they are frontrunners in the race. Publicus Asia reported Sotto with a slight edge over Castello, gaining 47% voter preference.
In 2019, Sotto narrowly eked a victory over Jopet Sison, winning by just over 38,000 votes out of over 850,000 ballots cast. Castello, meanwhile, topped the councilors’ race in District 2, garnering more than 155,000 votes.
Onyx Crisologo vs. Arjo Atayde (Quezon City, 1st District Representative)
Quezon City 1st District Rep. Onyx Crisologo, son of veteran politician Bingbong Crisologo, faces a political novice and a popular actor in his reelection campaign: Arjo Atayde.
The venerable actor, who bagged the Best Actor plum at the Asian Academy Creative Awards in 2020 for “Bagman,” has allied with Belmonte, while Crisologo is part of Defensor’s “Malayang Quezon City” coalition.
Atayde has involved himself in public service by donating service vehicles to his constituents. But another motivation in entering politics is the loss of ABS-CBN’s broadcast franchise, which Crisologo and 69 representatives took part in.
“High school pa lang nagsasabi na s’ya, ‘Gusto kong manungkulan, mommy.’ Sabi ko, ‘Makakatulong ka naman kahit wala ka sa puwesto.’ Sagot n’ya, ‘Mas makakatulong ako ‘pag nasa puwesto ako, mommy.’ ‘Yun ‘yung totoo,” Atayde’s mother, veteran actress Sylvia Sanchez, said in October. “Okay na, nanahimik na s’ya nu’n. Hanggang nang magsara ang ABS. D’un talaga. ‘Yun ang pinakatalaga, du’n s’ya nalungkot, nagalit, nalungkot s’ya sa lahat ng Kapamilya. Sa mga kaibigan sa loob, mga pamilya, lahat lahat, natanggalan ng trabaho tapos pandemic pa. ‘Yun talaga ang isa sa pinaka rason n’ya.”
ABS-CBN is the home network of Atayde and Sanchez. On July 10, 2020, the House Legislative Franchises Committee voted 70-11 to deny the network’s franchise renewal for alleged violations even though government agencies testified that the network’s operations were compliant with the law.
But Crisologo remains unfazed by his challenger, who touted his contributions to improve the lives of the residents of Quezon City’s first district.
Vico Sotto vs. Iyo Caruncho Bernardo (Pasig City, Mayor)
In 2019, wonder boy Vico Sotto ran against a Goliath – a dynasty that ruled Pasig City for three decades.
In 2022, Vico Sotto is now the Goliath, not because he is part of a dynasty (though, technically, he is) but in part of his popular leadership that captured the imagination of Pasiguenos and the entire nation.
After a pandemic that highlighted Sotto’s clean, transparent and responsive government, surveys have shown that he is on track to win reelection by a landslide.
But not without giving him a run for his money.
He is currently challenged by his own vice mayor, Iyo Caruncho-Bernardo, allied with Sotto’s former opponent, Bobby Eusebio, who said in October that he will be a “hands-on mayor” that will “implement programs that would make changes […] just to bridge the gap.”
At the time, he said he treats Sotto as a “friend,” denying any friction between them. However, two months later, politics eroded their supposed friendship, launching an avalanche of attacks against the incumbent after the latter said in a flag ceremony that his No. 2 is always late and uncooperative amid endless criticisms against the city government’s initiatives.
Caruncho-Bernardo described Sotto’s governance as “puro palabas (full of shows)” and criticized him for supposedly tarnishing his family’s legacy. “Kaya ako magsasalita ngayon ay para proteksyunan ang pangalang Caruncho na pilit mong dinudumihan. Noong nakaraang flag ceremony na sadya mong ginamit na lugar upang mangampanya sa pagkakasabi mo na tinext mo ako at nagconfirm sa pagdalo. Ito ang telepono ko, wala pong message or tawag si Mayor Vico Sotto,” he said.
Just this March 18, the vice mayor filed a cyber libel case against his boss, rooting from that flag ceremony livestreamed on social media platforms. Sotto just ‘haha’d’ the news.
Caruncho-Bernardo has over a month to convince his constituents that he can replicate the leadership of his grandfather, who led the city for nearly two decades, and beat his rockstar opponent, who seemed to be doing a good job in the eyes of the people.
Along Malapitan vs. Egay Erice (Caloocan City, Mayor)
Two heavyweights are vying for the top seat in Caloocan City.
With Mayor Oca Malapitan term-limited, his son, Along, currently the city’s second district representative, is seeking to succeed his father. But Egay Erice, the first district representative, won’t hand the city hall to another Malapitan that easy.
Erice ran for mayor in 2004 after being elected at the city council for two terms but lost to then-Rep. Enrico Echiverri. He then ran for vice mayor in 2010 and won before entering Congress in 2013.
A former Liberal Party stalwart, Erice is now running under Isko Moreno’s Aksyon Demokratiko.
If Erice wins over Malapitan – the latter has been leading pre-election surveys – he would imitate his party standard-bearer’s signature project: Housing.
“I’ve been rooting for socialized housing ever since. [Manila] Mayor Isko [Moreno] and I even talked before. I told him I was impressed by the financing scheme of his Binondominum project. The rent there [will only be] around P2,000 per month,” he said.
The first district congressman has criticized his rival for trying to maintain their dynasty in Caloocan by switching posts with his father.
“[Along is] not prepared. His only qualification is he’s the son of the mayor. He had no jobs, he had no formal schooling, he had no business,” he said.
But Malapitan does not come empty-handed: He has been in public service for nearly 15 years, starting as a barangay chairman in 2007, before moving into the House, where he principally authored 129 bills during his two terms.
“In my two terms as congressman, I helped build 1,058 classrooms and gave assistance to thousands of people through various social programs in the first district of Caloocan,” he told Rappler. “Records would tell you that I have performed very well in the […] years that I am a public servant.”
Marcy Teodoro vs. Bayani Fernando (Marikina City, Mayor)
Apparently, Marikina City Mayor Marcy Teodoro has not convinced his ally, Rep. Bayani Fernando, to run for reelection instead of challenging him for the mayoralty. Now, he has to fend off this challenge to win a third term in the Shoe Capital of the Philippines.
Teodoro has been heralded for his leadership during the Covid-19 crisis, along with other metro mayors. But that didn’t spare him from the messiness of local politics.
His falling out with Fernando, an ex-chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), began when the incumbent ordered the removal of “illegally-reclaimed land” on the banks of Marikina River, situated near Fernando’s properties. He also stopped the construction of a road dike, which the representative had planned to construct.
Teodoro told The Daily Tribune that he hopes the local campaign won’t descend into mudslinging.
“The people will decide,” he said.
Matthew Manotoc vs. Rodolfo Fariñas (Ilocos Norte, Governor)
The feud between the Marcos and Fariñas families for the seat of governorship in Ilocos Norte is once again reignited this year.
Former House Majority Leader Rodolfo “Rudy” Fariñas came out from retirement to challenge Matthew Marcos Manotoc, the son of Sen. Imee Marcos, for Ilocos Norte’s governorship. Fariñas was supposed to run against him in 2019, but they brokered a deal that led to Manotoc’s unopposed run that year.
The two allied clans had their falling out in 2015 when the Marcoses dropped the Fariñases from their “One Ilocos Norte Ticket.” The rivalry intensified when the patriarch spearheaded an investigation into alleged funds misuse in the province in 2017.
Rodolfo Fariñas substituted Juner Daniega Jacinto on November 15, just four minutes shy of the deadline.
Other family members will challenge the Marcoses in one of their strongholds: Chevylle Fariñas, widow of Rudy’s late nephew, Michael, will vie for the mayoralty seat in Laoag City, running against incumbent Michael Keon and Vice Mayor Vicente Lazo (both are also feuding); Ria Fariñas, the patriarch’s daughter, will run against Sandro Marcos for a congressional seat in the province; Rey Carlos, the son, is gunning for the vice-mayoralty seat in Laoag; Rodolfo Christian, also the son, is seeking reelection as Ilocos Norte’s board member; and Rudys Caesar is running again as Probinsyano Ako representative.
Daniel Fernando vs. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado (Bulacan, Governor)
There is no permanent ally or foe in Philippine politics.
Daniel Fernando, actor-turned-governor of Bulacan, will run against his mentor and ally for 12 years, Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado, currently the vice governor. There is no reported reason for their falling out.
Both men endorsed differing presidential bets: Fernando sided with Vice President Leni Robredo, Sy-Alvarado with former Senator Bongbong Marcos.
This election, Bulacan is the fifth most vote-rich province, with 2,007,523 registered voters. Baraosoain Church, the birthplace of democracy in the Philippines, is situated here.
Ramil Hernandez vs. Sol Aragones (Laguna, Governor)
While there is no bad blood between them – as of writing – the Laguna gubernatorial race is a must-watch because of the face-off between two incumbents, one seeking reelection and another seeking to move to the provincial capitol after three terms being a representative.
Gov. Ramil Hernandez – who was elevated to the top post after his predecessor, ER Ejercito, was unseated in 2014 for overspending campaign funds in his 2013 elections bid – will square off Rep. Sol Aragones – the province’s third district representative and former ABS-CBN correspondent.
Aragones will run alongside Ejercito’s son, Jericho, while Hernandez will partake in this campaign with the incumbent vice governor, Atty. Karen Agapay.
Nonoy Contreras vs. Oto Castro vs. Elmer Villasis (Capiz, Governor)
Gov. Esteban “Nonoy” Contreras has a tough reelection battle with two rivals under big parties, both trying to unseat him.
In this three-cornered fight, Contreras will be facing Rep. Fredenil Castro, running under an alliance between Lakas-CMD and Liberal Party (LP), and Elmer Villasis, running under Bongbong Marcos’s Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP).
The incumbent governor, a PDP-Laban member, defeated then-Gov. Antonio del Rosario, a staunch ally of ex-Interior Sec. Mar Roxas, in the 2019 elections. Contreras, who bolted from LP, ran as independent then.
This time, LP is fielding Castro to unseat the current occupant of the provincial capitol. After long reflections, the second district representative said he is running “for the sake of the people of Capiz.”
“It’s very hard on my part before I accepted the challenge of the majority. But because of the strong endorsement and after a long deliberation, I finally gave in to the call,” he said in October.
While Villasis will run anew after an unsuccessful bid in 2019 when it was a four-cornered fight.
Gwen Garcia vs. Ace Durano (Cebu, Governor)
For ex-Tourism Sec. Ace Durano, challenging incumbent Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia is like climbing Mt. Apo.
Durano, who served as Cebu’s 5th district representative from 1998 to 2004 before jumping into the Arroyo administration as Tourism chief, was in retirement after unsuccessfully carrying Grace Poe to the presidency in 2016 but changed his mind after the coronavirus pandemic hit the province. “[C]onsidering the situation in the province because of COVID, if we [continue] to address it the way we are currently doing so, then this pandemic would affect us for a much prolonged time,” he said.
The incumbent vice governor, Hilario Davide III, is his running mate.
“I’ve known Ace for a while. He’s a good person. He’s just, sincere and humble, able, calm and would make a suitable leader for Cebuanos,” he said in Cebuano in October.
But Garcia has the advantages: support of an overwhelming majority of local officials and political machinery and resources. Most importantly, she enjoys the support of the overwhelming majority of Cebuanos, as indicated in the latest RP-Mission and Development Foundation survey, notching a 77% approval rating, the highest among provincial governors. The group also found that Garcia opened a 63-percent lead, days before the local campaign begins.
Durano remains unfazed, citing his own internal survey, claiming to receive a 65% preference among voters. “Daghan man survey nanggawas. Two local surveys were also made in Cebu in the past months. In both surveys which also had over 1,000 respondents, we won with 65%. Ato nalang ni tan-awon inig May 9,” he said.
Cebuano commentators are already giving their two cents in this race. Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez of The Freeman wrote in October that Durano is “a good man,” but Garcia “will be the winner.” While broadcaster Jason Monteclar said if Durano and Davide can’t even agree to support one presidential candidate, how can they convince voters to vote for them? Besides Garcia’s advantages, Durano has not yet laid out the foundation of his campaign well. “Durano’s major reason for challenging incumbent Gwen is her alleged mishandling of the Covid crisis. He has not yet offered, or been given the forum, to prove that the governor bungled Capitol’s response to the crisis,” he said in January.
Reality suggests only an upset would hand over the provincial capitol to the underdog.
Richard Gomez vs. Goyo Larrazabal (Leyte, 4th District Representative)
“I had crossed the Rubicon from an election lawyer to election commissioner, to election reform advocate, and now I am a candidate myself.”
These were the words of former Comelec Commissioner Gregorio “Goyo” Larrazabal when he filed his candidacy to run for fourth district representative of Leyte. He will be challenging Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez, the popular actor.
The ex-poll commissioner is part of the Larrazabal clan, which joined forces with the Codillas to regain political power in Ormoc and the 4th district of Leyte from the Gomezes, Torreses and Locsins.
“This is the right time for the people of Ormoc to unite and remove Gomez, who is not a true Ormocanon,” Eric Codilla, who is running mayor of Ormoc City against Gomez’s wife, Lucy Torres-Gomez, said. “Our families (Larrazabals and Codillas) are the pure Ormocanons whose hearts are closer to the local people than Gomez. The unity of these political clans means the true voice for real change in Ormoc.”
But an informal survey showed that Gomez is miles ahead of his opponent, leading by nearly 60 points.
Baste Duterte vs. Ruy Elias Lopez (Davao City, Mayor)
With the president hailing from Davao City, politics in the Durian Capital of the Philippines has been thrown into the national spotlight.
Running this year to maintain power in Duterte’s bailiwick is the president’s youngest son, Baste, who substituted for his sister, Sara, who is gunning the vice-presidency.
But Baste Duterte may not cruise quickly to victory, for his opponent also hails from a clan with deep roots in the city. Ruy Elias Lopez, ex-political ally and former representative of Davao City’s third district, faces an uphill battle to claim the city’s mayoralty.
“Since I have time, I’m still young, so, sabi ko, ‘Sige, I’ll put my name as a choice for the people.’ Kasi every election, walang choice ang tao,” he said in an interview with broadcaster Christian Esguerra.
Lopez severed his ties with the Dutertes in 2007 after then-mayor Rodrigo Duterte pushed to install a dynasty in Davao by naming Sara as his running mate. That move, Lopez said, would lead to corruption, abuse of power and elimination of checks and balances.
“Hindi ko puwedeng dalhin ang pangalan ng tatay ko sa ganiyang gawain, sabi ko sa kanya (Duterte), that’s why we separated,” he recalled.
Lopez is the son of the late former Davao City Mayor Elias B. Lopez, who served from 1968 to 1971 and 1981 to 1986. The older Lopez pushed then-OIC Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in 1987 to run for mayor in next year’s polls, according to a profile from MindaNews.
Asked by Esguerra why Davaoeños should vote for him, the younger Lopez underscored his background.
“I am a lawyer [and] graduate from UP. I had lots of experience in [practicing] law. I worked for the government […] With my experience, I said, ‘Siguro, I can do also the same and more if I’m mayor of Davao City,’” he said.
It will be seen whether the Dutertes will hold unto power in their base.
Mags Maglana vs. Pulong Duterte (Davao City, 1st District Representative)
An uphill battle is about to ensue for Maria Victoria “Mags” Maglana, a Davao-based NGO worker, who is challenging reelectionist Rep. Paulo “Pulong” Duterte in Davao City’s first district. The incumbent, son of the president, is a seemingly safe bet in their clan’s bailiwick.
But Maglana’s filing of candidacy alone is, for her, an achievement, knowingly she is up against a part of the nation’s most powerful family.
“The die is cast. But, we are not only mounting a challenge. We have a vision and a compelling agenda, and we are aiming to win for the first district, for Davao, for good governance,” she said.
Maglana’s campaign will be anchored on 5Gs: Governance, good quality of life, grassroots-oriented approach to peace and human rights, global solutions to disasters and climate change and genuine post-pandemic economic recovery.
She will offer herself as an “alternative to the Duterte dynastic playbook” to the residents of Davao City’s first district, which is comprised of 54 barangays.
The NGO worker said that politicians and the bureaucracy should be viewed differently and that Davao City’s progressive citizenry has pushed dynastic politicians to create progressive policies that would benefit all people, specifically of genders.
“Kaya pa rin naman nating matingnan na magkahiwalay ang civilian bureaucracy sa mga elected officials ng gobyerno, sa mga pulitiko,” she told Rappler in December.