Aga Muhlach clashes with 105-year-old Fuentebella dynasty

Rhadyz B. Barcia

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The popular movie star is perceived to be the toughest opponent for the Fuentebellas of Camarines Sur, the oldest political dynasty in the Bicol region

LEGASPI CITY, Philippines – Will the stars shine in movie icon Aga Muhlach’s favor in the 2013 mid-term elections?

The popular movie star is perceived to be the toughest opponent for the Fuentebellas, the oldest political dynasty in the Bicol region.

But how Muhlach can convert his popularity into votes is itself an uphill battle. The Fuentebellas have the political machinery and loyal mass base nurtured in the 105 years they have ruled in Camarines Sur, particularly in the province’s 4th district.

Running for public office for the first time and as the ruling Liberal Party bet, Muhlach’s congressional bid in the 4th district of Camarines Sur, also called the Partido district, pits him against Felix William “Wimpy” Fuentebella.

Wimpy Fuentebella, who is running as Nationalist People’s Coalition’s bet, is the son of Deputy House Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella, and a 4th generation member of a political clan that has been in power since the American occupation of the country.

This battle between the two could make or break the Fuentebellas.

Long history

The Fuentebellas are the longest reigning political clan in Bicol. The family patriarch was Don Mariano Fuentebella, a former gobernadorcillo of Sañgay town and was Governor of Ambos Camarines during the American occupation.

His sons — Manuel, Jose, and Felix — followed his political footsteps. Jose helped found Nationalista Party during the American occupation and has been associated with former President Manual L. Quezon and President Sergio Osmeña, the first two presidents of the Philippine Commonwealth.

All 3 sons served as representatives of the 2nd and 3rd districts of Camarines Sur, and held various local positions. Felix was governor from 1976 to 1986.

They passed on the baton to the next generation of Fuentebellas. Felix’s son, Arnulfo Fuentebella, is the current representative of the 4th district and currently the de facto leader of the clan. The Deputy House Speaker entered politics in 1978 as representative of the 4th district in the Batasang Pambansa during the Martial Law era. After losing the 1984 election, he made a comeback in 1992.

After Arnulfo finished his maximum 3 terms in 2001 – which included a 72-day stint as speaker of the house from November 2000 to January 2001 – he fielded his son Wimpy, who served one term in Congress. Wimpy was part of the “brat pack” who initiated the move to impeach former Chief Justice Hilario Davide.

After Wimpy’s 3-year term, dad Arnulfo ran again and won the 2004, 2007, and 2010 elections, cementing his grip on the 4th district.

Wimpy ran and lost against Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte in the gubernatorial race in 2004.

Aga Muhlach and LRay are friends, with the actor spending a lot of time at the the Camarines Sur Watersports Complex, a sports tourists’ hub that LRay helped establish.

On the right track

If Muhlach is nervous about his chances in this election, he doesn’t show it. He told reporters he is confident of his chances, banking on his popularity and the backing of the LP.

“I would like to think I’m on the right track now. They say my opponents are rich and hard to defeat but the people here are tired of their governance already. We have 6 towns but 4 of these lack roads. This is what pushed me to fight him. I’m inspired,” Muhlach had told reporters in an interview.

He was almost disqualified from running after his voter registration was nullified by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) due to his lack of residency. The Comelec’s decision, however, was reversed by the Court of Appeals. 

The 4th district of Camarines Sur has 227,106 registered voters this 2013, spread out in 10 towns. –

Read more about politics in Camarines Sur: 
In Camarines Sur, it’s the Villafuertes’ show
CamSur: Among the poorest, with no new choices

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