In Leyte: ‘Walk for change’ vs ‘Walk for progress’

Jed Asaph Cortes
A showdown in Baybay City looms between an entrenched political family now affiliated with the Liberal Party and a challenger associated with the United Nationalist Alliance

MOBILIZATION. Oppositionists begin to organize in Baybay City. Photo from Malot Galenzoga's Facebook page.

BAYBAY CITY, Leyte – A younger mayoralty bet is challenging the almost 4-decade rule of the Loreto-Cari clan in this city in western Leyte.

Marilou ‘Malot’ Veloso-Galenzoga, filed her Certificate of Candidacy (COC) for mayor of the city of Baybay, to run against incumbent mayor Carmen Loreto-Cari.

Both incumbent and challenger almost crossed paths as they filed their COCs in the morning of Oct 4, 2012. Cari filed earlier in the morning, her party leaving the Comelec only minutes before Galenzoga’s party came.

Galenzoga, also known as “Malot” and “Miga Malot” (Friend Malot), is the first political challenger of Cari and her family in years. The family had long run unopposed during elections for various local positions in Baybay and Leyte.

Malot, 36 and single, said she wants to end the long suffering of the people of Baybay who, for decades, have been under the rule of the powerful Loreto-Cari clan. Carmen is already 76 years old.

CHALLENGER. Marilou 'Malot' Veloso-Galenzoga files her certificate of candidacy.

All in the family

In a historic move, Malot led about 28,000 Baybayanons around the city in a rally dubbed “Walk for Change.” Clad in light blue, Malot’s official color, the crowd flooded the city streets on Sept 16, 2012 to call for change in the city leadership.

Cari responded the following week by organizing a rally of their own, dubbed “Walk for Progress,” participated in by local government employees. The phrase “Cari Karon, Cari Ugma, Cari Gihapon, Bisan Unsaon” (Cari Today, Cari Tomorrow, Still Cari, No Matter What) was emblazoned on T-shirts for the rally.

Cari served 3 full terms as then municipal mayor of Baybay, then another 3 as congresswoman of the 5th district of Leyte, before coming back fresh for a 1st term as mayor of the newborn city in 2010.

Meanwhile, her sons Boying and Mike took turns over the mayorship while she was away.

In 2010, Boying took over as congressman of the 5th District of Leyte, while Mike ran for vice-mayor as Carmen returned as mayor. For the 2013 elections,the 3 are running for the same positions again, trying to keep it all in the family.

Dynasty

On the east side of Leyte, Matin Loreto-Petilla, Carmen’s sister, is currently the mayor of Palo. Matin’s son, Jericho, is currently serving his 3rd and last term as governor of Leyte province. He is currently eyeing a congressional seat in the 1st district going head to head against incumbent solon Ferdinand Martin Romualdez. The Petillas are also fielding Jericho’s younger brother Dominic for governor, and his full cousin Carlo Petilla-Loreto for vice-governor.

The Loreto-Cari-Petilla clan was recently a subject of a documentary on political dynasties by GMANews.TV. In the documentary, Congressman Boying Cari says they are not technically a political dynasty because they have the “necessary qualifications and the people voted for us.” Mayor Carmen also said the people must have liked them, that’s why they have kept their posts.

IN GREEN. Mayor Carmen says they are not traditional politicians. Photo by Jed Asaph Cortes

Mayor Carmen shrugged off reports that Malot is her niece. “Her mother is a Veloso and my mother is also a Veloso, but we are not directly related,” Carmen said. “We are not very close. We just say ‘hi’ when we meet. Our relation is very far.” 

Mayor Carmen, however, said Malot has a slim chance of winning the mayorship, claiming she has little grassroots support.

“As of now, all the 92 barangay captains of Baybay are supporting us,” Carmen said. “I could say we have strong support from the people of Baybay.”

“They have no heads and tails: no support from above, and no support from below,” she added.

But Malot is affiliated with the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) and the local party Tingog Leytenon headed by businessman Benjamin Philip Romualdez, a gubernatorial hopeful following the death wish of his father Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez to reclaim the province from the Petillas.

Liberal Party

Meanwhile, the Loreto-Cari-Petilla clan is presently associated with the ruling Liberal Party (LP), after jumping from the Lakas-KAMPI-CMD party days before the May 2010 elections.

But they wore green during their COC filing, not yellow.

“It so happened that we are wearing something different, to show that we are not “trad-pols” (traditional politicians),” Carmen said, laughing. “No, this is a different uniform. We just feel that we should wear something different from the traditional politicians.

“This is only for our filing…because the color of the city is green…but in the campaign, we have to wear something more (yellow): the color of the party that we represent. So we might combine both.”

Amid Carmen’s claims of having a local machinery, Malot’s camp, on the other hand, feels that support from the 92 barangays has started racking up to their side.

“They know us. They won’t tremble like that if they know we’re not up for a good fight,” said Malot.

She added, “We’ve already heard the voices of the Baybayanons. Others are just waiting. Now they are ready to come out, now that my candidacy is official.”

Malot said she will answer public requests to fix the hospital, public market and start livelihood programs if elected, as many projects have been currently “taken for granted” by the mayor.

WHERE TAXES GO. They go to tarps? Photo by Jed Asaph Cortes

Government road concreting projects have sprouted all over Baybay in the past months. Last October 3, trucks were seen hauling tarpaulin billboards to install them on various project sites. The billboards display the name of the projects, the faces of mayor Carmen, vice-mayor Mike and congressman Boying Cari, and the phrase “This is where your taxes go!”

Photo by Jed Asaph Cortes

However, Malot has a surprisingly different interpretation of the billboards, poignantly pointing out the downside of the “epal” mentality of politicians.

“They put in these tarpaulins that this is where our taxes go. Then the faces of the 3 are there. So what does that mean? Where do our taxes really go?” she asked, hinting that the taxes go to the people whose faces were plastered on the tarpaulins — instead of projects. – Rappler.com

 


  

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