UNLESS something happens to scuttle the reported unity between the two leading political groups in Occidental Negros, there will be only one slate for governor, vice governor and possibly, for the district representatives in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. They will all belong to a team that united Love Negros headed by 3 rd District Cong. Alfredo Benitez and United Negros Alliance of Governor Alfredo Marañon, Jr. The agreement for unity took several months of negotiations but as Shakespeare wrote, “all thing’s well that ends well.”
The reported unified ticket will field Vice Governor Eugenio “Bong” Lacson for governor. He belongs to Love Negros, in tandem will be former 4th District Cong, Jeffrey Ferrer of UNeGA. The duo was rivals for vice governorship in 2016.
Ferrer was the initial candidate of UNeGA for governor for 2019 but he later agreed (he preferred, reports said) to run for vice governor thus paving the way for unity. Lacson, from the beginning, was adamant in his intent for the gubernatorial post; the only obstacle was the possibility that Benitez would also run if he op-ted out of the senatorial race. Marañon quickly expressed support for his senatorial bid. That would have reduced obstacles in the provincial contest and eased the way for a united ticket.
However, surveys said Benitez would not make it to the Senate. That added fuel to the possibility that he would run for governor and into “conflict” with Lacson who was, however, confident there would be no rivalry between him and Benitez. That is now immaterial since the congressman is reported no longer interested in the Senate nor in governorship. Thus the unity team was, more or less, clinched.
Benitez is a recognized leader among the Visayan legislators and the formation of the One Visayas political block or party can very well be his focus. If he played it well, this group will be a significant force in national politics and life. In fact, this group is long overdue considering the Luzon groups and the most recent, those of Mindanao. He is young and he can bide his time for the right moment, say in 2022.
This team is clearly a unity for convenience, a kind of union that is common among Filipino politicians. Groups are formed without an ideology that distinguishes one from the other. The voters thus choose only from a personality stand point and in many cases, on how much the candidate can give as inducement. Political parties revolve around personalities, mainly those with the money to spend generously. Kinship plays a big role but we know that politics is thicker than blood or gratitude.
The unity of the two parties creates the belief, and rightly so, that there will be no opposition and thus the two will walk to the Capitol next year unchallenged.
Political operators, ward leaders and media players are unhappy with this unity. Money will not flow as usual in an election year. This is good as it will not add to the inflation. But as true that there will be an election next year, there will be political fights in other areas, in towns and cities and in congressional districts. Of course, the unity ticket can be a pivotal factor.
Even so, to many, the gubernatorial election next year will not be an election but merely an anointment.
That is good for the candidates as they can keep their millions in election money but not good for our system of government. We are here creating a political monolith with a danger for a government established by consensus among partisan leaders to whom the elected will be beholden. It can become a close association of self interests eschewing non-members.
We hope this will not happen but our history tells us many lessons in this kind unity of convenience with a power center that controls and dictates the political landscape.
Is there an outsider who will challenge this unified ticket? Who has the means and the guts to provide the people of Negros with a choice? Winning could be difficult under this monolithic team but the best challenger is one who is willing to lose for the moment for a longer stake. Such men and women are high in the esteem of the people. Any takers?