SARANGANI, Philippines – There can only be one election loser in a quaint town in Sarangani’s western end.
Unlike other places, all bets in the town of Malungon are on the candidate people think would get the distinction as the one and only loser in their municipality the May elections.
There are only 11 candidates vying for 10 elective local positions in Malungon, making the municipality at the bottom of the list of areas in the province where election rivalries are a matter of concern.
In fact, there is nearly no election rivalry to speak of in Malungon, where the top two officials are running unopposed.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) registered 74,875 qualified voters in the town, about 40% of whom are members of the indigenous Blaan and Tagakaolo tribes.
The reelection bids of Malungon Mayor Maria Theresa Constantino and Vice Mayor Mariano Escalada Jr. are unchallenged.
Instead of campaigning for themselves, the two officials were doing the rounds to ask voters to support their fellow candidates in the Pacquiao family-led People’s Champ Movement (PCM).
Based on the law, an unopposed candidate still needs to get at least a vote to be proclaimed as a winner, said Malungon elections officer Francisca Josol.
Josol said all 11 candidates in the town have forged a pact to uphold clean and honest elections.
Of the nine other bets, eight are running for town council seats under the PCM, and only one – Tagakaolo tribe member Renny Boy Takyawan – is seeking a seat in the local legislature as an independent candidate.
Had it not been for the 33-year-old Takyawan, the PCM would have been assured of a clean sweep in May.
A newbie in politics, Takyawan was supposed to be fielded in the race for seats in the Sarangani provincial board under Aksyon Demokratiko. He had a change of mind at the eleventh hour and decided to run in his hometown instead.
A known coffee farmer and active community and humanitarian worker, Takyawan poses a threat to the local PCM ticket’s bid to win all seats in the municipal hall.
“It’s an uphill battle, and a challenge to go against a group of old hands in local politics,” Takyawan told Rappler on Friday, April 29.
It’s either Takyawan makes it or fails in his bid to win a seat in the town council against PCM candidates Bing Alegario, Erwin Asgapo, Toto Constantino, Beboy Nallos, Victor Padernilla, Rodrigo Palec, Romel Retuya, and Eddie Yuzon.
But Takyawan said he has remained friends with the PCM candidates, and that his reason for running is to give members of the town’s indigenous people a voice in the local government.
“Almost half of our population are Blaan and Tagakaolo peoples, but we have no voice in the municipal council for quite a time now,” he said. – Rappler.com
Rommel Rebollido is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship