Iloilo politics runs in the family

'Frenemies' get a whole new meaning in Iloilo politics

MANILA, Philippines – Iloilo’s glory days as a land of sugar and wealth have long faded. Though the province is trying to move on from its past and focus on the future, some things haven’t changed at all. 

The province is still dominated by well-entrenched political clans like the Tupases and the Garins. Familiar challengers to the throne, which include the Birons, the Defensors and the Gonzalezes reinforce the archetype that Philippine politics is still a family affair

Towering over local politics is Sen Franklin Drilon, known as the “big man in the Senate,” who has showered the province with large infrastructure projects paid with national government funds. This he has managed to do under the terms of various presidents, some of whom he eventually opposed. 

Drilon’s shepherding of Iloilo’s development has paid off. Iloilo is a bailiwick of the ruling Liberal Party (LP).

In 2010, President Benigno S. Aquino garnered a total of 470,081 votes, trumping the 62,488 votes of former president Joseph Estrada. Aquino’s running mate, Sen Mar Roxas, got 627,067 votes while Vice President Jejomar Binay received only 149,347 votes. 

With over 1.2-M voters, the stakes for both the national and local elections are high. 

For the 2013 elections, the LP has managed to broker an alliance between former rivals Arthur Defensor Sr, Niel Tupas Sr and Oscar Garin Sr. Defensor is running for reelection as governor under the LP.

Niel Tupas Sr, who originally intended to challenge the incumbent, will now run for the congressional seat in the 5th district. As part of the deal, Tupas’ son, Barotac Viejo Mayor Raul Tupas, will run for vice governor. Challenging the pair is loilo Rep Ferjenel Biron and former Vice Gov Rolex Tupas Suplico of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA). 

Local political commentators and journalists agree that political dynasties are a fact of life in the province, but they are divided on whether the status quo is doing the province more good than harm. with research by Rey Santos/


Move.PH, Rappler’s citizen journalism arm, will be at the Central Philippine University Rose Memorial Auditorium on March 8, 2013 from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm for “MoveIloilo: Social media for social change” — a seminar on the evolution of journalism and how citizen journalists can help keep elections honest. The event is open to the public. Register for MoveIloilo below or click here for more details. 

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