LP’s 1st stop: Cavite’s ‘free zone’

In President Benigno Aquino III's first stop in the campaign trail, the Liberal Party proclaimed Erineo 'Ayong' Maliksi as its gubernatorial pick

Liberal Party (LP) chairman President Benigno S. Aquino III proclaim LP gubernatorial candidate Cavite 3rd District Representative Erineo “Ayong” Maliksi and running mate Ronald Jay Lacson, during the Proclamation of Cavite LP Candidates at the Apostle Arsenio Ferriol Complex, Maranatha Christian Academy, Barangay Malagasang II-D in Imus City, Cavite on Monday (September 24, 2012). Liberal Party was founded on January 19, 1946 by Manuel Roxas, the first President of the Third Philippine Republic. (Photo by: Gil Nartea/ Malacañang Photo Bureau)

IMUS, Cavite – The ruling Liberal Party (LP) officially got on the campaign trail Monday, September 24, bringing President Benigno Aquino III to proclaim its candidates in one of the most hotly contested provinces in 2013.

Cavite has been declared a free zone by the administration coalition, although its incumbent governor, Juanito Victor “Jonvic” Remulla, is nationally affiliated with the Nacionalista Party, LP’s partner for next year’s polls.

At the Maranatha Christian Academy here, Aquino, joined by LP president Manuel “Mar” Roxas and LP secretary general Emilio “Jun” Abaya, announced 3rd District Rep Erineo “Ayong” Maliksi as LP’s gubernatorial bet 2013. Maliksi was governor from 2001 to 2010.

Maliksi will be running with Jay Lacson, son and chief of staff of Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, as his vice-governor. His opponent, re-electionist Remulla, meanwhile, will have another senator’s son, Jolo Revilla, as his running mate.

Cavite has about 1.6 million voters, one of the highest number in the country. In the 2010 presidential elections, Aquino topped the polls in this province, garnering about half a million votes in a 10-way race.

Emotional and teary-eyed, as he has been in recent town hall meetings, Maliksi accepted the challenge of running for governor again, saying he was saddened by the decline of Cavite under Remulla. “Halos wala akong nakitang mga proyekto para [ma-improve] ang mga buhay ng ating kababayang Caviteño,” he said.

Ironically, Cavite has been recognized by the Department of the Interior and Local Government for the past 3 years for its accountability and transparency in planning, resource mobilization, and financial management, among other things. Since Remulla succeeded Maliksi in the capitol, Cavite’s financial standing improved, from a mere P80 million in obligated funds to around P680 million in funds freed up for programs and services.

Maliksi is also the subject of a complaint before the Ombudsman for the alleged misspending of funds meant for the relocation of families that would be affected by the construction of the Light Rail Transit extension from Pasay City to Cavite when he was governor. The LRT Administration released P500 million for the relocation of 2,000 families; Maliksi’s administration spent all the funds but relocated only 180 families.

Reciprocal support

The proclamation rally of Cavite’s LP candidates in Imus was the first stop of Aquino on the campaign trail. LP has yet to announce the exact number of free zones it will have. Free zones are localities where parties that are coalesced at the national level don’t observe the “equity of the incumbent” rule at the local level, and instead field candidates against each other.

Aquino said he first met Maliksi in 1986 when the latter supported his mother, Corazon Aquino, in the snap elections. Since then, Aquino said, he could never say no to Maliksi.

The President’s remark was questionable. In 1986, Maliksi was with the local Partido Magdalo, which supported President Ferdinand Marcos, Aquino’s rival. In 2005, when the Liberal Party was split, Maliksi joined the Atienza faction, while Aquino remained with the Drilon faction.

Aquino appealed to Cavite voters to continue the work the LP has started by reinstating Maliksi as governor. “Tiwala tayo na marami pang magagawa si Manong Ayong para sa inyo,” he said. “Bilang liberal, iisa ang prinsipyo… bayan bago sarili.”

The President heaped more praises on Abaya, who’s not seeking any provincial post, than Maliksi. Aquino praised Abaya and the work he has done for the government as a son of Cavite. He cited the various work projects that the government is currently working on to better connect Cavite to surrounding cities, which he said would decrease traffic and increase businesses.

One of the country’s most populous provinces, Cavite expects its races to be among the hottest in the country, primarily due to the keen interest being demonstrated by national officials in the Remulla-Maliksi rivalry.

In 2011, the province found itself in the middle of another controversy after Remulla-backed Imus Mayor Homer Saquilayan was unseated following a local court’s decision to favor the protest of Maliksi’s son, Emmanuel. The decision was appealed by Saquilayan and supported by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), but no explanations have been made why the poll body’s resolution has yet to be enforced. – Rappler.com

View the Elections 2013 Microsite here. 

More from #PHVote, Rappler’s 2013 Election Coverage: