2022 Philippine Elections

Mike Defensor to challenge Joy Belmonte for Quezon City mayor

Dwight de Leon
Mike Defensor to challenge Joy Belmonte for Quezon City mayor
Defensor has accused Belmonte's city hall of overpriced purchase of food packs for beneficiaries, a claim which Belmonte says is part of a smear campaign against her

Anakalusugan Representative Mike Defensor, who attracted media attention during the pandemic for being one of the most vocal advocates for the shutdown of broadcast giant ABS-CBN, is now seeking to lead the city where the company is based.

Defensor, a former two-term representative of QC’s 3rd district, filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) before the local office of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday morning, October 7.

He will run under the banner of Malayang Quezon City, with incumbent councilor and former three-term congressman Winnie Castelo as his running mate.

Malayang Quezon City is “a broad united opposition coalition that is fielding a full local slate in the 2022 elections,” according to a press release earlier sent by Defensor’s office.

Mayor Joy Belmonte, meanwhile, already filed her COC on Tuesday. She is seeking a second term under the banner of the Serbisyo sa Bayan Party, with Vice Mayor Gian Sotto as her running mate, like in the 2019 midterm elections.

Defensor was one of the main accusers against ABS-CBN during the House deliberations on the company’s franchise renewal application in 2020.

The House’s refusal to grant ABS-CBN a license to operate for another 25 years led to the retrenchment of thousands of employees and service providers during a pandemic.

In 2021, Defensor was notable for pushing for the distribution of experimental drug ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment.

In the House, Defensor, who also serves as vice chairperson of the children’s welfare panel, has authored at least 119 House bills.

In September, Defensor accused Belmonte’s city hall of overpriced purchase of food packs for beneficiaries, a claim which Belmonte said was part of a smear campaign against her.

Belmonte, meanwhile, also did not have an easy time leading the pandemic response of the Philippines’ most populous city, and often had to answer for controversies hounding the city.

These included a chaotic distribution of supplemental aid in April, and the mauling by local officials of a fish vendor not wearing a face mask outdoors in 2020.

Belmonte also gave a “second chance” to a city task force official who posted a “shoot-to-kill” threat online against quarantine violators, despite the mayor calling his statement “appalling.”

In July, Quezon City was among those lagging in Metro Manila in terms of their vaccination rate, but city officials said it was due to the problems that come with its big population.

The pace of inoculations, however, has already improved since then. By September, the city has partially or fully inoculated over 2.8 million people against the coronavirus.

Belmonte also drew praise for making COVID-19 testing free in her city, as well as building its own molecular laboratory to speed up the release of results.

Online, observers have also taken note of her pushback against the red-tagging of community pantries. Progressives also welcomed her efforts to hold talks with activists over the safe conduct of rallies during the State of the Nation Address in July.

Quezon City has 1.3 million registered voters as of 2019. – Rappler.com

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers local government units and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.