Negros Occidental

Negros Occidental governor sees Sara Duterte-backed challenger in 2025 polls

Ambo Delilan

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Negros Occidental governor sees Sara Duterte-backed challenger in 2025 polls

GOVERNOR. Negros Occidental's Eugenio Jose Lacson.

Negros Occidental provincial government

(1st UPDATE) Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson is a key member of the Nationalist People's Coalition in Negros Occidental who joined an alliance with the administration Partido Federal ng Pilipinas

Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson said on Thursday, June 20, he was anticipating Vice President Sara Duterte to field a candidate to challenge his reelection bid in the 2025 polls, with political lines clearly drawn after she resigned from the Marcos Cabinet.

Lacson said Duterte, who is emerging as a major contender in the 2028 presidential elections, is expected to strengthen and expand Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), a regional political party in Davao that she founded in 2018 to support the favored candidates of her father, then-president Rodrigo Duterte, in the 2019 midterm elections.

The governor, who supported the presidential bid of former vice president Leni Robredo in 2022, said he was unfazed by the prospect of the Dutertes fielding someone to challenge his planned bid for a third and final term.

Negros Occidental, including Bacolod City, was opposition territory during Rodrigo Duterte’s administration. His loss in the 2016 presidential election in these provinces was seen as the underlying reason for the dissolution of the Negros Island Region in 2017, two years after its creation by the late former president Benigno Aquino III. The NIR was revived by a law signed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on June 13.

Lacson is a key member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition in Negros Occidental who joined an alliance with Marcos’ Partido Federal ng Pilipinas in May. (A previous version of this story stated that Lacson was a member of the NPC until he joined the PFP. This has been corrected. – Editors)

He said the local coalition of the United Negros Alliance (UneGa) and Love Negros remains strong and unfazed by any future political developments.

Lacson and Bacolod City Mayor Alfredo Abelardo Benitez head Love Negros, while Negros Occidental 2nd District Representative Alfredo Marañon III and Vice Governor Jeffrey Ferrer are the leaders of UneGa.

Before Sara’s resignation as education secretary and co-chair of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, there were already speculations that former Victorias City mayor Francis Frederick Palanca was being groomed by Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP), chaired by former president Duterte, to challenge Lacson in next year’s elections.

Asked about the prospect of the Dutertes fielding Palanca against him, Lacson responded, “No problem!”

Jesus Hinlo Jr., PDP deputy secretary general for the Visayas and Mindanao, said the political situation in Negros Occidental remains unpredictable.

“We are in a wait-and-see status until the Vice President declares her plans,” Hinlo told Rappler on Thursday.

Hinlo, however, noted that Sara has yet to join PDP, a group split into two factions.

Manuel Jaudian, acting secretary general of another PDP wing, told Rappler earlier that there were indications Sara would likely strengthen HNP rather than join the other PDP faction identified with her father. Jaudian’s group is led by Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, who has questioned the legitimacy of the leadership of the other PDP faction.

Rafael Coscolluela, a former Negros Occidental governor, said Sara’s move to quit the Marcos Cabinet has made the political discord in the province and elsewhere in the country more pronounced.

Two days before Sara’s resignation, a photo circulated on social media showing a meeting of former president and now Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her husband Mike, and mayors from the 5th District of Negros Occidental. The former president is a known supporter of Sara.

The Negros Occidental mayors in the meeting included Alejandro Mirasol of Binalbagan, Alme Rhummyla Nicor-Mangilimutan of La Castellana, Ella Celestina Garcia-Yulo of Moises Padilla, Raymund Tongson of Himamaylan City, and Irene Montilla of Isabela.

Provincial Board Member Anton Occeño of the 5th District of Negros Occidental was also seen in the viral photo.

The photo triggered speculations in Negros Occidental that the Arroyos were seeking support for Sara, and setting the stage for Dina Arroyo-Tantoco to run for the congressional seat in the 5th District against Representative Dino Yulo.

Tantoco is the daughter of the late Negros Occidental 5th District Representative Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo Jr., younger brother of the erstwhile first gentleman. – Rappler.com

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