ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – He was the most powerful man in Zamboanga City for nine years and also represented the 1st District in Congress for a total of 12 years on two separate occasions.
Now, the aging former mayor Celso Lobregat is going from one place to another, like a busker or a street preacher, to campaign for the mayoral post again.
The 74-year-old Lobregat, the scion of a political family in Zamboanga City, literally walks the talk these days – he drags his trolley speakers as he campaigns from one area to another – and speaks to whoever cares to listen to his message.
He said his strategy now is literally “going the extra mile,” just two weeks before Election Day.
Lobregat has capitalized on his being endorsed by presidential survey front-runner, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
When Marcos campaigned in the city on April 1, the presidential candidate raised Lobregat’s hand on stage.
Before a crowd in Talisayan, Lobregat asked, “Quien aqui ay bota con BBM pagka president (Who among you here will vote for BBM as president)?”
When his listeners responded, “BBM (Bongbong Marcos),” Lobregat told them he was taking pride that Marcos favored his candidacy over another mayoral bet, Councilor John Dalipe.
Dalipe, who is running under the People’s Reform Party (PRP), had sought Marcos’ endorsement during his visit to Zamboanga City early this month. He did not get endorsed.
“Matagal na kaibigan si Celso Lobregat. Kami ni Celso second generation na kami kaalyado. Matagal na kami magkasama, hindi lang po sa politika,” Marcos told a crowd in Zamboanga during his April 1 campaign sortie.
(Celso Lobregat and I have long been friends. We are second-generation allies. We have long been together not only in politics.)
Lobregat’s late mother, Maria Clara, was closely associated with the Marcoses and was even their bet when she ran for a seat in the Batasang Pambansa, and lost to the late mayor Cesar Climaco in 1984. She later became Zamboanga’s first female mayor, and also served the city as a congresswoman.
Celso is running against several younger incumbent officials for the mayoral post: Zamboanga 1st District Representative Cesar Jimenez Jr., Vice Mayor Rommel Agan, and Councilor Dalipe whose brother Manuel Jose is the city’s 2nd District congressman.
Mayor Maria Isabel Climaco has endorsed the mayoral bid of Jimenez whose congressional seat she is seeking.
In 2019, Lobregat challenged Climaco’s reelection bid but lost to her by 32,741 votes.
Lobregat has remained optimistic that he would get elected as Zamboanga’s mayor again, claiming that he secured the support of several groups, including the Zamboanga United Public Market Vendors Association on Saturday, April 23.
He said the majority of the association’s officers and members have decided to endorse his mayoral candidacy, a claim Jimenez and Climaco merely brushed aside. – Rappler.com
Frencie Carreon is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship