By Jessa Mae Sotto, Morexette Marie B. Erram |July 03,2018 - 11:08 PM

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (right) shows how PDP-Laban members do their hand shake after the mass oath-taking of about 50,000 new party members at Plaza Independencia, Cebu City on November 17, 2017.



It is said that history is bound to repeat itself.

And indeed this was so when in November 2017, an estimated 50,000 spectators and elected officials flocked to Plaza Independencia to witness another round of oath-takings for the administration party, Partido Demokratikong Pilipinas – Lakas ng Bayan (PDP – Laban).

The event was reminiscent of August 2016 — a few months after President Rodrigo Duterte won by a landslide — when Cebuano politicians affiliated with the erstwhile party in power, Liberal Party (LP) staged a mass exodus which left LP out in the cold.

Around 300 local officials took their oath with PDP-Laban in August 2016; and as Duterte’s popularity remained high for two years, so did the number of politicians in Cebu who jumped ship to join his party.

The mass oath-taking on November 23, 2017 was a history for PDP – Laban as it finally brought a majority of Cebu officials into its fold, effectively turning the province into “PDP – Laban country”.

Interestingly, the massive shift of alliances came barely a year before local officials were expected to file their certificates of candidacy (COC) this October for the local elections scheduled in May 2019.

New allies

The number of Cebu mayors under PDP – Laban has grown from 15 in 2016 to its current 39.

All mayors from Cebu’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd districts are now allied with the ruling party, PDP – Laban.

In the fourth district, except for local chief executives of Bogo City, San Remigio and Daanbantayan, those from the towns of Medellin, Santa Fe, Bantayan, Tabogon, Tabuelan and Madridejos are now part of the powerful administration party.

The 5th district, which is dominated by the Durano-led Barug Alang sa Kauswagan ug Demokrasya (Bakud) only has two mayors allied with PDP – Laban: Liloan’s Christina Frasco and Noel Dotillos of Borbon.

All mayors in the 6th district forged an alliance with PDP-Laban while in the 7th district, only Ronda Mayor Mariano Blanco III is left with LP.
Others who decided to stay with LP are Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, San Remigio Mayor Mariano Martinez, and Bogo City Mayor Jose Carlo Martinez.

Daanbantayan Mayor Vicente Loot and ex-Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, who were both tagged as “drug protectors” in Duterte’s narco list, also remained with the United Nationalist Alliance (Una), the party to which they belonged to when they ran in 2016.

At Capitol, PDP- Laban claimed about half of the seats of the Cebu Provincial Board (PB) with eight PB members now allied with Duterte.

In the House of Representatives, Gerald Anthony Gullas, Jr. (First District), Wilfredo Caminero (Second District), Gwendolyn Garcia (Third District), Benhur Salimbangon (Fourth District), Jonas Cortes (Sixth District), and Peter John Calderon (Second District) now all belong to PDP-Laban; while 5th district Rep. Red Durano remains with Bakud.

In Cebu province, PDP-Laban is led by businessman Nixon “Jojo” Dizon, husband of ex-Mandaue City mayoralty candidate Emmarie “Lollipop” Ouano-Dizon.

Dizon said that party members served as a bridge that linked the government to the masses.

“Whenever duna moy problema, kami maoy mo bridge para maabot sa taas ang problema diri sa grassroots (Whenever you have a problem, we will serve as a bridge so that problems at the grassroots level reach the top),” he said.

Dizon added that their role was also to inform people about federalism, Duterte’s preferred platform of government and solution to growth inequalities.

“The main role sa mga LGU (Local Government Units) is to spread, ipasabot sa ilang mga constituents kon nganong advantageous ang federal government kumpara sa unitary ( The main role of the LGU is to spread and educate their constituents why a federal system of government is more advantageous compared to unitary),“ he said.
But despite the political exodus to the ruling party, local alliances remain a blur as former LP mayors in Cebu province who are now members of PDP

– Laban maintain support for LP’s Davide promising the governor their help for his reelection bid next year.
But would Davide’s friendly alliance with local officials hold in the face of harsh political realities when PDP-Laban’s Gwendolyn Garcia runs against

the governor to reclaim her seat at the Provincial Capitol?

Critical stage

For young political observer Maurice Jitty Villaester, a former college lecturer, the politicians’ shift to the ruling party was only a matter of “political survival”, especially now that the clock ticks closer to next year’s midterm elections.

“As a voter, these things do not surprise me anymore. I can understand that this is a matter of political survival for them because at this point, it’s critical for politicians who want to run,” said Villaester.

But does affiliation with Duterte’s party really matter these days?

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Provincial Election Supervisor Lionel Marco Castillano, believes more than just political affiliation, today’s voters focus on the candidates’ personalities.

“The voters now look at performance, unlike before,” said Castillano as he called on the public to also look at the candidates’ platform and track record.

And while affiliation to the ruling party may work favorably for national candidates, it may not be so in the local political arena.

“Politicians still give value to being affiliated with President Duterte by belonging under PDP – Laban but for me, it hardly ever works in local politics,” Villaester said.

Three-Way Cebu City Race

Villaester, a registered voter of Barangay Day-as, Cebu City noted that local politics is now shrouded with uncertainty following separate announcements by supposed allies Cebu City Vice Mayor Edgar Labella and former Mayor Rama to run against Osmeña in what is shaping up to be a three-cornered mayoralty race.

Labella’s announcement came a month after his former running mate, Rama, also made public his intentions to challenge Osmeña’s reelection.

The development sparked rumours of an impending break-up among members of Barug Team Rama even as both Rama and Labella assured that no conflict will arise.

Aside from his membership with Barug Team Rama, Labella also heads PDP-Laban in Cebu City.

For a young voter like Villaester, Osmeña, Rama and Labella were old political figures who should already give way to others.

“Regardless of what position they seek in government, it’s the same names. How I wish there are new names soon,” said Villaester.

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