2022 Philippine Elections

Siao eyes Iligan’s top post vs priest turned vice mayor

Bobby Lagsa
Siao eyes Iligan’s top post vs priest turned vice mayor

SIAO. Iligan Representative Frederick Siao (left) announces his bid for the city's mayorship while former congressman Vicente Belmonte Jr., and businessman Marianito Alemania look on.

Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

Siao formally announces his candidacy under the Nacionalista Party-National Unity Party

Iligan Representative Frederick Siao on Saturday, September 25, launched his bid for the city’s mayoral post against Mayor Celso Regencia’s preferred successor, Catholic priest turned Vice Mayor Jemar “Monsi” Vera Cruz.

Siao formally announced his candidacy under the Nacionalista Party-National Unity Party ticket that includes his predecessor, ex-congressman Vicente Belmonte Jr., who will campaign to reclaim his old post.

Siao is still serving his second term as a congressman, while it will be a comeback for Belmonte, who kept his distance from Iligan’s last two elections. 

The group has allied with the Hugpong ng Pagbabago party of Davao Mayor Sara Duterte.

Belmonte’s bid rekindled an old rivalry between him and Mayor Regencia, Iligan’s former police chief, who has also been positioning for the city’s lone congressional post. 

Regencia is serving his third and final term as mayor while Vera Cruz, still referred to as monsignor or “monsi” in Iligan, is still on his second term as vice mayor.

There is bad blood between Belmonte and Regencia, which resulted in a long drawn-out legal battle beginning in December 2014, when the then congressman’s convoy was ambushed near the Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental.

Several of Belmonte’s aides were killed and the then congressman was wounded in the ambush, which he blamed on Regencia, an accusation denied by the mayor. 

The court has already dismissed the multiple murder and attempted murder cases filed against Regencia, but Belmonte maintained that the Supreme Court has yet to rule on his motion for reconsideration.

Businessman Marianito Alemania, who challenged Regencia’s 2019 reelection bid, announced that he would run for vice mayor under the Siao-led ticket. 

That year, Regencia won by a landslide against NP’s Alemania, a hotelier and owner of the Madelicious chain of bakeries.

Alemania would be facing Vera Cruz’s likely running mate, Councilor Ian Uy, in the 2022 elections.

“Iligan City has been kind to me. This is where I established myself, raised my family, and started my business in 1990,” Alemania told Rappler.

Jose Pantoja, city hall’s spokesman, said the Regencia-Vera Cruz group would make a formal announcement about their ticket this week.

Pantoja said the ticket was just finalizing a plan given the legal battle between two factions of the administration’s party, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan.

“We’re with the PDP-Laban Cusi wing,” said Pantoja, referring to the faction led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.

Cusi’s group has asked the Commission on Elections to declare the PDP-Laban wing of senators Manny Pacquiao and Aquilino Pimentel III as “illegitimate.”

The NP-NUP ticket would field Belmonte’s councilor daughter Queenie as a reeelectionist. Its list of candidates for the city council includes Betsy Zalsos, Simplicio Larrazabal, III, Samuel Huertas, Rene Orbe, Eric Capitan, Marlene Young, Mariza Go-Minaga, Bernard Pacaña, Providencio Abragan Jr., Michelle Sweet, and Ramil Emborong. – with reports from Herbie Gomez/Rappler