In a matter of 14 months, the next elections loom large.
For the first time in our provincial political history, a father and son put their political fate on the chopping block. They are now testing their theory that at last the people of Quezon are not a thinking lot. The days of dynasties have come to roost.
Not only that. Our people are gradually being hypnotized by an emerging father and son who are trying to be, by investing a lot of money, transforming themselves as movie and TV personalities out to snatch a greater part of the voters enamoured by the glitter of show business.
By gambling on their fate, the father believes that he has all the aces up his sleeves. He was heard saying that he owes nobody of his present political fortune. There was no debt to pay, logistical or political, from the likes of the Enverga or Marquez group. In fact, in 1998 he divided his peninsula like a hotdog, the upper part where his Unisan is, was given as a token to his former patron the late Benny marquez, the middle was offered to Mayor Emralino, and the rest reluctantly to the now sitting governor.
Suarez was all by his lonesome when he made a political comeback in the Bondoc Peninsula politics in 1992 after his debacle in the 1984 Batasang Pambansa elections, running from the coattails of the unlamented dictator, Ferdinand Marcos. His economic fortune after the devastating loss was in shambles. But just like the phoenix and the right connect, he rose again with a vengeance.
In his second try in politics, he humoured the Marquezes. He suggested to the late Benny Marquez that the latter threw his hat on the gubernatorial contest by painting the incumbent then, Eddie Rodriguez, as a patsy, being a mere creation of the late congressman. He massaged the ego of Benny Marquez that with the advent of the Local Government Code, a governor is much powerful and influential than a mere congressman. Falling on this tack, Benny slugged it out with Rodriguez in 1992 and in the process suffered his first mild stroke and lost miserably against Rodriguez. Losing no time and bandying about in the peninsula that he had the singular blessing of Buddha, the Suarez patriarch swaggered and claimed the congressional post by the skin of his dentures. It would have been Tol Recuesto of Agdangan, but the latter proved to be an idealistic one and succumbed to his mistaken idea of what politics was all about. Judge Serrano of Catanauan was heard saying that it would have been Recuesto had the latter pumped in the needed logistics at the last hours of the 1992 elections. Suarez with his last hurrah opened the valve of his pockets and drowned the pretenders in Bondoc politics. He was right, letting money loose is an art. He is a believer of the dictum that in politics there are only three rules: the first is money and the second and last spell money as well. He brings his carcasses where the crocodiles are.
The patriarch is tired of being a local leader from the backwoods of an impoverished province. Now he sets his eyes as a national figure with, well, some creditable ideas. At one time he floated his name as a Speaker wannabe. But there are some colleagues of his in the House who recoil with his undisguised trial balloons knowing that there is an agenda somewhere. He was tagged as a prominent figure of a gang of congressmen during the time of President Estrada. The old Suarez never signed the impeachment complaints against President Estrada and GMA. His wife however signed openly the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Davide. A few days ago Congressman Ronnie Zamora was interviewed over DZMM that a new impeachment complaint is in the works versus GMA. Only that they are working silently in getting the mandatory 73 votes. Asked why they were working sub rosa, Zamora replied that where their process is made open, a lot of Congressmen would commercialize it and earn big time. (The reader may Google on what this Gang of Four is all about. As an aside, some crooks think that they can ostrich themselves after enjoying a great verboten feast. But the internet is quick in storing the data for the consumption of posterity).
Suarez has another talent. He himself or his handlers were quick in quelling the fires of the tittle-tattle as what happened in the past. He believes that his voters, bedazzled by the present and the current meal, are beyond the league of the city dwellers.
There were talks that Suarez wanted a cabinet post. But nothing came out of it. He was pretty overqualified. His nest is politics in Quezon’s third district. Senator Johnny Enrile, once the Chair of the Senate’s Ways and Means, was once heard saying that he could not understand nor divine what the gentleman from Quezon was saying.
From the way he talks, one can see the confidence of a man fading in the horizon. After bench warming his better half, he came back to his district and reclaimed it like Legazpi, the Conquistador. One by one all who mattered in the Bondoc were sideswiped by the Suarez Hummer. Now, there is a Sherman tank blocking Suarez view from the town of San Narciso, the current district chairman of the Liberal Party, Drilon Wing, Mayor Victor Reyes, the brother of Buenavista Mayor, Ramon Reyes. Both are sons of the late comprador, Domingo Inggo Reyes, the patriarch and owner of the vast CARP untouched 6,000 hectares Hacienda Reyes and Viva Shipping.
After the demise of Inggo Reyes, Suarez was heard saying that the Reyes family’s last chance of reclaiming their lost economic glory was thru politics implying that his current nemesis is dead bankrupt. He added that the Reyes resurrection shall never be at his expense, and while he is still alive. He has an empire to protect he built brick by brick since 1984. He wanted to be sure that his descendants, like the Zobels and the Sorianos, continue his legacy. Making sure that his name shall be remembered, he caused the naming of the peninsula circumferential road after his late father. Nobody knew it, except when the law surfaced and the DPWH hurriedly churned out the signages.
On his third term in 1998 words spread that Rodriguez, since he was already on his last term as governor, was coming home as a congressional contender. It was the wiles of Suarez that made Rodriguez backpedalled and locked horns with a neophyte, Raffy Nantes. In retrospect, Rodriguez was saying he did not know what made him agreed with Suarez in his first district foray. The rest was history.
Raffy Nantes, the man who wants to be governor, is now on tenterhooks. He does not know what hit him against his prospect with the upstart JJ Suarez, the hijo muy bonito of Danny.
The young Suarez has the savvy of a good vote getter. It looks like for every million of the Suarez group, Nantes has to ante up five million. That is the attractiveness of youth. Youth has magic, mystery, and vigor. It is worth US$2M in Philippine currency. As Vice Governor, the young Suarez has his office to spread his face and voice. His money follows suit. In Calauag, for instance, one local school celebrated its 75th anniversary attended by practically all of its alumni from here and abroad. The event was a bestseller as all the barangay townsfolk trooped to the town plaza to witness the historic and of course, festive event, backstopped by the music of the famed Babat Orchestra. The young Suarez was there and chipped in a paltry P20, 000.00 but was nonetheless welcomed by the hospitable local folks. Easily, thousands were converted by the young Vice Governor. Multiply these simple events in 40 towns and 30 barangays of the City of Lucena, four times a month, and that would make Nantes, or whomsoever is the challenger of the VG is in 2007, sleepless in Seattle.
We have to admit that the technique of the young politician is novel or was patterned after that of the Zubiris of Bukidnon. He makes himself visible in the boob tube gracing popular programs like the top seller program of Channel 7, Extra Challenge, and Pinoy Big Brother of Channel 2 by adopting a cumprovinciano, which is the right thing to do as it boosts the morale of the youth. The young face of the Vice Gov flashes on every living room in the far away Alibijaban, Pangahoy, Cagbalete, and Kinabuhayan. From Nantes point of view, duplicating it is physically taxing and expensive. Nantes has to pour out this early eight digits, and what confounds him is he is still behind the young contender.
Nantes was on ego trip last 2004 when he refused to slug it out with Willy Enverga for the governorship. He reasoned he still had unfinished business in the Commission on Appointments, being one of its ranking members. Last 2004 was the best time to square off with the wheelchair bound governor. 90% of the barangay captains were disillusioned with the sitting provincial official. The same holds true with the mayors. In fact, the president of the barangay chiefs discovered an anomaly committed by the sitting governor when the latter snatched a substantial fund from Malacanang earmarked for tractors and fumigation machines.
Had Nantes threw his hat that early in 2004, he could have won by a landslide hands down against the lazy and sickly official. A budget of P20M-P30M in 2004 could have done the trick, plus the shove of GMA who was pissed off with Enverga who was openly aligned with the late FPJ. This however was not read by Nantes. He was looking at 2007 like Alexander the Great salivating at the sight of the top provincial post with nary a credible opponent. But he unwittingly nurtured his strong rival in 2007 in the person of the young Suarez who was ingratiating himself openly in the first district in all the rallies sponsored by Nantes. Truth to tell, Nantes felt it in his bones that the young Suarez is a problem in 2007.
Had Nantes contested the gubernatorial slot as early as 2004, and ran alongside JJ Suarez as his Vice Governor, in a Nantes-Suarez Liberal Party tandem, Nantes political future is etched deep in stone. The young Suarez naturally would toe the line and wait for the term disqualification. The young wily politician piggybacked on the formidable machine of Nantes in the first district, and slowly, as an elected provincial official from 2004 up to the present has gnawed, like a termite, out on the strong footing of Nantes. Even the Senior Suarez was amazed by these turn of events. Now, the factotum of Enverga, Kelly Portes of Pasig City, a barometric indication that Enverga believes on the strength of the Suarez family, has joined the bandwagon. Some observers believe that with the alignment of Enverga with the machine of the Suarezes, the worst black propaganda would soon creep the landscape. This early innocuous text messages circulate the province against Nantes with a negative implication on his source of wealth.
As things now turn out, some mayors and barangay captains from Nantes’ district have allied themselves with the rising politician with lots of logistics from the deep pockets of his father, the man whom GMA called (only in Unisan) a “genius” with his alignment of the road users tax to GMA’s “kalsada mo, aalagaan ko” and created thousands of instant supporters prior to 2004 presidential elections. And no vote buying, please. With the road users tax in billions of pesos one does not need a serving of the measly fertilizer rip-off.
Nantes is right now busy filling up his coffers, in nine digits, which he knows is still inadequate given the onslaught wrought by the young David. Budget-wise, the Suarezes prepare eight digits as against Nantes’ nine digits and going north. The philosophy of the old Suarez holds sway, “spending the people’s money is an art.” Suarez does not spend a single centavo to the local media of Quezon which he considers marginal, if not mendicant. Nantes on the other had is a sucker of this group.
When the dust settles in 2007, the people will be witnesses to a teary eyed politician who wagered his future and fortune to an elusive ambition that was not for him to keep.
Under this primitive politics, provincial development again takes the back seat. Another nine years are sure would be wasted. We have lost the last nine years under a remote control leadership. From the camps of both parties, we have not heard their road maps on where this poor province is going.
Elections, thereafter, in this Godforsaken place will never be the same again.