On Monday, 13 May 2013, voters all over the archipelago will troop to the polling stations to choose from among a mixture of the serious and the buffoon; the rich and the poor; the ignorant and the educated; the authentic and the false idol; the generous and the greedy; and the honest and corrupt candidates who will lead this country for the next three years.
The choice is ours, no one else's.
So, if the election results to the victory of the buffoon or the false idol and he or she brings us to the abyss of hopelessness; if the greedy and the corrupt wins and he or she moved Romblon backward, not forward, then we only have ourselves to blame, no one else. Our choice is a mirror of ourselves.
Of course, our choice is influenced by many factors, including personal affinity to a candidate, past favors given or received, or, in the political currency of the times--by a promise of something that is yet in the future. Politicians in many parts of the country, Romblon not an exception, thrive on promises. Very few, after they have won, live to redeem them, validating the observation that 'promising' politicians tend to be very forgetful.
Regardless of the outcome, the election in Romblon will be a gauge of the Romblomanons' political maturity. It will--even if we refuse to acknowledge--boil down to one single question: Have we outgrown our immature political ways and embraced the cause of genuine reform?
The answer is, 'No. Not yet.'
Ask Rep. Eleandro Jesus F. Madrona who continues to dance politics his way like a maiden pirouetting in the music of traditional folklore.
Ask Gov. Eduardo Firmalo who has abandoned all pretensions of principled politics and entered into a marriage of political convenience with Madrona that every time he explains it, his explanation only buries him deeper in the quicksand of disbelief and to further questions about his motive.
Ask former Agriculture Secretary Bernie Fondevilla who prances about as if a savior, reminding Romblomanons of past favors he freely dispensed, but with an eye of collecting this back in the form of vote dividends.
The problem is that Romblomanons could no longer remember Fondevilla's favors, but are instead asking questions where he got the resources to procure these favors in the first place. Now, Fondevilla is a shell, hollow and ringing empty, lost in the wilderness of Romblon's thick political forest. He has no plan, telling Cajidiocanons last week during a fiesta that he has in mind something to do if he wins, but could not tell what it is. He is not only secretive. He is also regarding Romblomanons with contempt, while aloft in his high horse thumbing his nose in us.
Ask Natalio Beltran III, the former governor, whose lieutenants say he is in the running. In the running for what? He has spent three years spending the people's money and he believes he needs another three years, this time in the House of Representatives, to dip his childish hands into, well, the people's pocket.
Ask all the other candidates if we have politically matured as a people and chances are great they will hold their breaths for a second and . . . .
Well, readers may say that asking Romblomanons to become mature politically is wishful thinking. But isn't this the reason why losing politicians who are outspent by their winning opponents come back and try to bounce from a bad loss?
Look around you, didn't the losers in the election of 2010 lament, after their opponents were declared victorious, that Romblomanons need change and reform so that vote buying could be minimized?
This is what Madrona said when Firmalo outmuscled him in their first fight. This is what Firmalo said when Madrona defeated him in their return bout. This is what most losing politicians shed crocodile tears: they hope voters would not be bought in the election. Yet, when it is their turn to win, they easily forget what they hope for. Not only that. They also buy their way to political office.
This is why in the campaign for the 13 May election, I resisted the temptation of giving money to the candidates whom I pray for to win. I don't have money to buy votes in the first place. But I wanted them to win fair and square, on the strength of their platforms of governance and advocacies for change and reform. I wanted them to win on the strength of their sincerity and ability to serve, not on their capacity to drown pseudo leaders and their wards in liquor. Instead, I provided them free advice and encouragement and some proven and tested strategies on how to mount a credible campaign.
And there are only very few of these candidates, most of whom are independents, non-mainstream, and faithful to God and to the people. I chose them over their opponents not because they are friends or relatives , but because I can see in them the characters of transformative leaders--simplicity in their ways, studious, compassionate, with unshakeable moral integrity, fiercely independent, authentic public servants, and are without greed for power for power's sake. They are also genuinely interested in Romblon's development.
Foremost among them is our mayor in Sibale, Lemuel Cipriano, whom Madrona, Firmalo, and Fondevilla are trying to sway to their political side, trusting falsely that because Mayor Cipriano has received favors from them in the past he will be susceptible to their machinations. They are grossly mistaken. Cipriano is his own man, accountable only to the Sibalenhons.
Then there is Briccio Fajutnao, currently the vice mayor of Odiongan. Fajutnao, who is peaking just rightly, is proving to all and sundry that lack of resources is not a barrier to communicating to the people his message of hope. With his industry and integrity, Fajutnao is waking up a lot of Odionganons from their deep slumber to re-discover their true strength in self-reliance, a virtue which Romblon, the capital town, eyes with deep envy because as the province's political weathervane, it has ceded to Odiongan its sense of intellectual superiority, not the least, economic clout. I will not be surprised if Odionganons, despite the wads of money that seems to inundate the town just this time in the campaign, will replace Odiongan's anemic leadership with one who understands what the Odionganons want, who articulate their dreams and aspirations, and who will act on these dreams if he is given the mandate. I will root for Fajutnao because he has a teflon candidacy, unaffected by Fondevilla's comedic run.
It is no secret I have been storming heaven with prayers for my pare, Harold Feudo, to win as a member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. Feudo is a year ahead of my class in high school. In our time, he did not stand out in the crowd but he demonstrated courage to stand up for the downtrodden. He is not one who accepts meekly the status quo. Had he won in 2010, the debates in the halls of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan would have been lively and vigorous, not stale as it is now with only Atty. Fondevilla producing the fireworks, however shallow, incredulous, and unbelievable Bernie Fondevilla's brother is.
In Corcuera, I will take Mayor Raquel Banares any time. Direct and exceedingly stubborn, Mayor Banares is a Mayor Cipriano in a woman's garb. She has transformed Corcuera from a lethargic town to a vibrant community using traditional and parochial means to achieve her progressive goals. Local politicians dislike her style, but they could not question her honest governance. They could not even parry her sharp, lawyerly arguments expressed in simple everyday language. I would know. It was I who encouraged her to a life of politics.
Banton has been in the tail-end of development among the Tres Islas because Mayor Jory Faderanga has seen it all but has also been blinded by it all. His tenure as a traditional politician must come to an end in the hands of Decoroso Fadri, who has aroused the participative spirit of Banton's youth with his reformist agenda.
Abandoned by Gov. Firmalo for an expedient alliance with Madrona, Fadri has vowed to 'localize' his politics, an inward focus that can do Banton good. The educated intellectuals in Banton should be happy.
I have only heard about Linda Jean Moreno of San Agustin, but from the snippets about her improbable run as a candidate for mayor, she deserves not just a second look. She must be deserving of full term in the San Agustin munisipyo which has been lorded over by the Madronas for the longest time, and hence, has has not shown any demonstrable progress, unlike its neighbor, Calatrava.
As a port town, San Agustin could have been a model in economic development. However, its growth has been stunted by the likes of Mayor Toto Madrona who is a clone of Rep. Budoy in political practice: parochial and a true-blue trapo.
My column space is limited to enable me to write at length about the other candidates for vice governor, SP member, mayor, vice mayor, and councilor, many of whom are friends, so I just wish them good luck. I could not say I hope you will win for I have no time to read all your platforms, if you have any. But even if you don't, don't despair. There is another election in 2016. I will see you around.