Since 1957 Occidental Negros had not a single senator in the Philippine Congress. When the Philippines was granted autonomy status under American rule and the Senate was created in 1916 we already had senators, in fact two, Manuel Lopez of Silay and EsperidionGuanco of Hinigaran. Every time there was an election for the six -year term, we had senators. We had Gil Montillaof Isabela, Mariano Yulo of Hinigaran, Isaac Lacson of Talisay, Ramon Torres of Bago who served together with Pedro Hernaez of Talisay. Hernaez would later serve at the same time with Enrique Magalona of Saravia. Jose Locsin of Silay served together with Magalona. Locsin was the last Occidental Negros senator. He completed his term in 1957.
Why didn’t we have a senator for 62 years considering that Occidental Negros is one of the most populous provinces in the country with thousands more living outside? Is it because there is no political figure with status enough to stand before the nation and earn the trust of the rest of the country? Or is it because there is truth to the belief that the people of this province are divided, politically?
Note that all of the senators from Negros excelled in that Chamber. Montilla, a former Speaker was a president-maker, Locsin was a physician but was likewise an economist while Torres was a champion of labor and spent time as Secretary of Labor. Locsin was also Secretary of Health.
Are they representatives of our province only for the years gone by? Indeed, many believe that we lagged behind in certain areas of development because our congressmen paled in comparison with the others in the legislature. Negros does not have a strong voice and therefore with little clout to take a larger share of the national budget.
One reason for the easy election for the Senate prior to the war was that the candidates were elected by senatorial districts. For instance, Occidental Negros belongs to the 8th District with small provinces of Oriental Negros, Antique and Palawan. It was an easy win for us. Now the senators had to campaign nationwide requiring a national stature and well-funded organization for election.
In the May 2019 election, we have several senatorial candidates with direct and indirect links to Occidental Negros. However, only one is a resident of Bacolod – Neri Colmenares whose face and voice is well-known among the masses but does not appeal to the landed here so that many of the so-called rich have no soft spot for him. Particularly he is vocal in espousing social justice issues thus is not funded by millions from vested interests. Indeed he expresses and fights more for the interest of the people than the other candidates.
We have also Rafael Alunan of the landed gentry of Bacolod and Talisay, a well-experienced man in government but he appears “shy” and even “aloft” to many, a tag he must overcome.
Grace Poe is not from here but her mother, Susan Roces, a native of Bacolod, is extremely popular and Grace has proven herself a great asset in the Senate that all surveys show her at the top. She is running this time as an independent which I believe is good because she owes her loyalty only to the people, not beholden to Malacanang or other political parties.
Mar Roxas has his family roots here in Bago where his mother, Judy Araneta comes from. The name itself suggests what the family had done for the province but more than this genealogical link, he has proven himself worthy of his grandfather, the first President of the Philippine Republic, Manual Roxas and his father, the late Senator Gerry Roxas. As we might say, public service runs in the blood. More so, he has no taint of corruption in office like Grace Poe and Neri Colmenares who had also served as congressman.
Senator Poe and Mar Roxas are doing fine in the surveys and Alunan has been included in the slate supported by President Duterte. Colmenares,a human rights lawyer and Congressman championed for more benefits especially pensions for SSS members. He deserves more support.
Our province has 2.431 million voters as of 2018. This is a big chunk that can help our senatorial candidates who have links in Occidental Negros. Here is a chance to regain a glorious past and show our unity.