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In Zambales, no Gordon-Magsaysay alliance

Ayee Macaraig
The relatives are battling it out for various posts in Zambales, but Richard Gordon and Mitos Magsaysay are comfortable as Senate bets under UNA

MANILA, Philippines – Local politics is a whole different ball game. Case in point: Zambales, where the clans of Gordon and Magsaysay are battling it out for various posts while, at the national level, their members are runnning for senator under one coalition.

Former Sen Richard Gordon and Zambales 1st District Rep Milagros “Mitos” Magsaysay were able to come together in the national level as senatorial candidates of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

Yet in their home province, there’s no uniting their feuding families. Gordon’s brother, Olongapo City Mayor James “Bong” Gordon Jr, is running for representative of Zambales’ 1st district, pitting him against Magsaysay’s eldest son, 29-year-old Jobo Magsaysay, who is seeking to replace his mother.

The rivalry does not end there. Gordon’s own son, Brian, is seeking to be vice mayor of Olongapo, the same post Magsaysay’s second eldest son, 28-year-old Vic-Vic Magsaysay, is aspiring for.

Even within Gordon’s clan, rivalry persists. His nephew, Olongapo Councilor James “Bugsy” delos Reyes, is running against Gordon’s sister-in-law, Anne. Media reports said it is the first time in Olongapo’s history for two Gordons to oppose each other.

Within the Magsaysay family, Mitos is running for senator under UNA while his uncle-in-law, former Sen Ramon “Jun” Magsaysay Jr, is a candidate of the ruling Liberal Party (LP).

UNA was forced to deal with the situation as it prepared for its senatorial slate’s sortie in Zambales on Thursday, February 21. 

“Pamipamilya, iyan ang problema,” UNA’s campaign sortie manager Henry Caunan told Rappler. (Family against family. That’s the problem.)

Caunan said he realized the extent of the rivalry while preparing for the event.

“Problema ang rally. Sino ang aakyat sa stage? ‘Di papayag si Mitos [na] paakyatin ang kapatid ni Gordon. What we agreed was for the vice mayoral race, puwede pa paakyatin ang anak ni Gordon,” Caunan said. (The problem is the rally. Who will go up the stage? Mitos will not agree to have Gordon’s brother there. What we agreed upon was that in the vice mayoral rice, Gordon’s son can be there.)

Based on the Commission on Elections’ list, UNA’s official candidates are the Magsaysay sons. Gordon’s brother is running under the LP while the former senator’s son is independent.

Caunan said UNA’s stand is simple. “Hindi kami makikialam sa local issue.” (We won’t interfere in the local issue.)

VICE MAYORALTY CANDIDATE. Vic-Vic Magsaysay, son of senatorial candidate Mitos Magsaysay, is running for Olongapo City vice mayor. Photo by Ayee Macaraig

‘Live and let live’

Gordon is a former mayor of Olongapo City and chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), while Magsaysay is a 3-term representative.

While UNA has the benefit of having two candidates from the province, the alliance also has to deal with their families’ long-running rivalry.

Yet for UNA campaign manager and Navotas Rep Toby Tiangco, the local dynamics is not a problem.

“The two senatorial candidates, they haven’t raised it as an issue. We don’t talk about it. They just live and let live. Both affected parties are not complaining, so why should we enter the fray?”

Tiangco added: “They’re mature enough to know the local issues and not to bother the national leadership with these. I’m very happy with them.”

The UNA secretary-general said that UNA is fielding Magsaysay’s sons because the congresswoman was already its provincial chair even before Gordon joined UNA.

Like the UNA leaders, Gordon and Magsaysay just shrug off the competition between their clans.

Gordon told Rappler in a previous interview: “Mitos and I, we talk every day. We beso. Tapos na iyan eh, ang labang pulitika. (That’s over, the political rivalry.) She has never been my enemy or even my wife’s enemy. I never treated her with disrespect. That’s the way it should be. Shouldn’t it?

“Of course, I may not agree with some of the antics of her father-in-law, but we always talk too with [former Gov] Vic Magsaysay. Disagreement doesn’t mean she’s my enemy.”

Asked about their relatives battling it out in May, Gordon said: “We are a democracy. You have to assume that. We’re not killers. We don’t kill our enemies.”

Magsaysay said as much in an interview in October 2012.

Alam mo para sa akin kung anuman po ang naging political issue namin ni Sen Gordon, noong araw, tapos na po iyon. That is local politics. To be an effective public servant, dapat matuto kang maging mature,” Magsaysay told Rappler. (For me, whatever our political issue was, that’s over. That is local politics. To be an effective public servant, you must learn to be mature.)

“We have already proven our worth, each of us, we’re both qualified and credible, so I’m happy na magkakasama kami sa Senado (I’m happy we can be together in the Senate),” she added.

Will their relatives also just shrug off the issue on the campaign trail? – 

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