Peace deal gone wrong revives Marcos-Fariñas clash in Ilocos Norte

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The rival Marcos and Fariñas clans wanted political peace in the upcoming 2019 elections, but a last-minute substitute candidate for Laoag City mayor seemed to have ended the temporary ceasefire.

A showdown between Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative Rodolfo “Rudy” Fariñas and Ilocos Norte 2nd District Senior Board Member Matthew Marcos Manotoc, son of Governor Imee Marcos, in next year's gubernatorial race was not supposed to happen.

According to the former House majority leader, he and former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr had agreed on at least two things.

First, that the Marcoses – who command the so-called “Solid North” provinces – will not field any candidates against Fariñas’ daughter Ria Cristina Fariñas, incumbent 2nd District senior board member who is seeking to replace her father in Congress.

In turn, the Fariñases will let the Marcos family matriarch and Ilocos Norte 2nd District Representative Imelda Marcos run unopposed for governor. 

“Our agreement was for political peace between our families, and that Ria and Mrs Marcos would be unopposed,” Fariñas told Rappler.

The Marcos and Fariñas families had fielded token candidates – people who were obviously going to be substituted later on – for Ilocos Norte 2nd District congressman and governor, respectively.

Fariñas said his daughter is facing off with Marcos ally Ryan Remigio, "the same guy they pitted against me in 2016, who got 3,205 votes against my 138,196."

The Fariñas family patriarch, meanwhile, fielded former Barangay Bengcag chairperson Jesus Arimbuyotan for governor.

A source privy to talks between the two families said the agreement was for the token candidates to go to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) office in Laoag on Thursday, November 29, to withdraw their respective candidacies together. November 29 is the last day  for filing substitutions.

The source said it was the Fariñas camp who supposedly sought out the Marcoses to strike a peace deal.  

Around two weeks ago, the source said the Fariñas camp gave a call to Gregorio Araneta III, husband of Imelda’s daughter Irene Marcos-Araneta, to inform the Marcos family about their peace agreement offer.

Bongbong reportedly agreed. The source said Farînas had even personally met with Bongbong in Manila on Monday, November 26, to discuss the peace deal.

Everything was set until the last few minutes before 5 pm on November 29.

The deal breaker

Former Ilocos Norte governor Michael Marcos Keon, Bongbong’s cousin, decided at the last minute to run for Laoag mayor. 

Fariñas said Keon managed to get a certificate of nomination and acceptance from the Nacionalista Party (NP), substituted another token candidate, and challenged reelectionist Laoag Mayor Chevylle Fariñas, the wife of the late Laoag vice mayor Michael Fariñas.

Michael Fariñas is said to be the favorite nephew of the family patriarch.

“Chevylle had a token opponent but at the last minute, Keon, who had filed for councilor, substituted to challenge Chevylle. How could we have political peace with that challenge?” said Fariñas. 

The source said Keon’s last minute bid for Laoag mayor irked Fariñas. But Keon supposedly made the decision without informing Bongbong. 

“Originally, wala naman talagang intention na galawin ang Laoag (Originally, there was no intention to touch Laoag). But Keon makes his own decisions,” said the source. 

After Keon’s filing, Fariñas said he and Bongbong met inside Comelec. It was during this meeting that Fariñas told Bongbong that the peace deal was over and he would run against the Marcos matriarch.

“So I rushed to the Comelec to initiate my substitution for governor, and BBM came there to talk to me, saying they did not know about Keon’s filing,” said Fariñas in a separate message to House reporters.

“I told him I’ll just proceed with my own filing since there was a minute left before the deadline, but we will continue talking about peace,” said Fariñas

He said that Bongbong later gave him a call to say that the latter “will do his best to make Keon withdraw.”

“So, I told him if Keon withdraws his, I’ll withdraw mine, too,” said Fariñas

The log sheet from Comelec showed that Fariñas signed up at exactly 4:30 pm to run for governor under the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, substituting Arimbuyotan. 

Four minutes later, Matthew signed his name in the log sheet, indicating that he would run as NP’s gubernatorial bet, substituting his grandmother Imelda.  

Matthew originally filed his candidacy for vice governor, but Board Member Mariano “Nonong” Marcos substituted him in that race. Nonong is the son of Pacifico Marcos, the younger brother of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

Come May 2019, who will emerge victorious in Ilocos Norte’s game of thrones? – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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