Allies turned rivals: Los Baños politics heats up

Ulderico B. Alviola
Former allies are now in a heated mayoral race in Los Baños

FORMER ALLIES. Vice Governor Caesar Perez (left) and Mayor Anthony Genuino (right) are campaigning in full swing for the Los Baños mayoral race. Photos from Perez’s campaign team and Bagong Los Baños Facebook page

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna – Outgoing Laguna vice governor Caesar Perez decided to challenge incumbent Mayor Anthony Genuino for a seat in the municipal hall. Perez previously endorsed Genuino in the 2010 mayoral race.

Perez unexpectedly filed his candidacy for the mayoral race at the last minute of October 5, 2012 under the AKBAYAN Citizens’ Action Party. Mayor Genuino bolted from the Lakas-Kampi CMD party and is now aligned with the party of Governor Jeorge Ejercito Estregan of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

Three other candidates for the the mayoral contest are Francisco Lapis of the Liberal Party (LP), Johnny Leron of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), and Marcelino De Guzman who is an independent candidate.

Credentials

Prior to his stint as vice governor, Perez was Barangay Chairman of Batong Malake from 1989 to 2001. From 2001 to 2010, he became one of the most awarded local chief executives in the history of Los Baños. During his term as mayor, he was a recipient of various awards in local governance and environmental management.

Now 30 years old, incumbent Mayor Genuino is the son of former Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) chairman Ephraim Genuino. Chairman Genuino faced malversation and graft charges.

Prior to his entry in the local political arena of Laguna, Mayor Genuino lost in his bid as councilor of Makati City in 2007. He transferred his residence to Los Baños the following year by building a house inside the campus of the Genuino-owned Trace College.

Just like Perez, LP’s candidate Lapis was Mayor of Los Baños. He served only one term from 1998 to 2001.

The two other candidates are political neophytes.

Ungrateful or responding to public clamor?

Walang utang na loob” (ungrateful) was how the camp of Mayor Genuino described Vice Governor Perez following the latter’s sudden decision to join the mayoral race.

In most of his campaign sorties, the young re-electionist emphasized that his family genuinely helped Perez in winning the vice gubernatorial contest in 2010 only to challenge his incumbency 3 years later.

For his part, Perez accepted that initially, he has no intention of running again as mayor but he only responded to the clamor of the people.

From October 1 to 5 last year, a week-long rally was held in front of the UP Los Baños (UPLB) gate to convince the vice governor to come back and serve again in the town.

“It is true that they helped me win as vice governor in 2010, but without my endorsement, Ton (Anthony) would not have won in the mayoral race because the people know that he is not from Los Baños. I was thinking that Ton will stay here if he wins but most of the time, he is not in the municipal hall. I am now confused on who is the real mayor whether it’s Ton, his father or his municipal administrator as he is always absent,” Perez narrated in Filipino.

Increasing crime rate

Residents are most concerned in ensuring peace and order because of the rampant crimes which plagued the municipality during Genuino’s term.

Two students of the UPLB were among the most controversial victims of violence that took place within the town.

UPLB student Rey Bernard Peñaranda was murdered in March 2012. Two motorcycle-riding men mugged him and stabbed him in the chest outside the UPLB after they attempted to escape from a robbery incident.

In October 2011, the UPLB academic community was shocked when one of its students, Given Grace Cebanico, was found dumped just outside the university campus near the International Rice Research Institute compound.

In addition to this, there are also two rape-slays of female teenagers in Los Baños.

The second and the most recent rape-slay happened in March 2013, when the body of an 11-year old Mary Grace Esguerra was found decomposing in a dark and remote area of Brgy PuthoTuntungin.

The first one was the killing of 14-year old Rochelle Geronda that happened sometime in February 2012, just days before Peñaranda was killed.

Response of municipal government

The municipal government responded by increasing police visibility within the immediate communities surrounding UPLB. Also, red security posts were installed in strategic locations to monitor peace and order.

Despite these efforts, many lambasted the administration of Mayor Genuino for his inaction.

Marifi Magsino, a Los Baños native and UPLB research and extension personnel, said Ang kailangan ng bayang ito ay isang alkaldeng personal na nakikita at nakakasalamuha at hindi yung matatanaw mo lamang sa mga posters at tarpaulins kung saan-saan.” (What this town needs is a Mayor who can be personally seen and not someone who only appears visible in posters and tarpaulins.)

Loan for new town hall

Another contentious issue pressed against Mayor Genuino by his political opponents is the local government’s P91-million loan taken by his administration from the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) for the construction of the new Los Baños town hall. 

The controversial building was inaugurated on November 29, 2012. The celebration strategically coincided with the 30th birthday of the re-electionist mayor.

COLOSSAL. Despite alleged irregularities, the New Town Hall of Los Baños, Laguna was inaugurated complete with a colorful celebration. Photo from Bagong Los Baños Facebook page

The loan was approved through a council resolution dated March 26, 2012, which according to Councilor Jay Rolusta was never ratified because it was not even tackled during the plenary session of the Sangguniang Bayan (Municipal Council).

Rolusta added that the request for loan was deliberately inserted in the minutes of the meeting as a form of deception.

With this, Councilor Rolusta along with mayoral candidate Lapis filed a joint complaint on August 13, 2012 in the Office of the Ombudsman against Mayor Genuino and 9 other local officials of Los Baños for falsification of public documents and for violating Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Law. The case is still undergoing investigation.

Mayor Genuino was not available for comment. 

The province of Laguna has a voter population of 1,525,522 this 2013 elections. – Rappler.com


Ulderico B. Alviola is a Rappler Ambassador. Follow him on Twitter for real-time updates.


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