Fun run in Davao

Sun.Star Davao - - VIEWS - JUN LEDESMA One can feel the elec­tion sea­son as com­pe­ti­tion heats up in Davao del Norte Pres­i­dent

Elec­tions are months away but in Davao del Norte in­tense un­der cur­rents are felt in not a few towns with the epi­cen­ter in District 1, the main bat­tle ground that pits in­cum­bent Gov. An­thony “AGR” del Rosario and ex-speaker Pan­ta­leon “Be­bot” Al­varez in the con­gres­sional derby.

As we all knew, AGR and Be­bot, in­clude 2nd District Rep. An­to­nio “Tony­boy” Floirendo, were a team. A for­mi­da­ble one. In Hili­gaynon we de­scribe that al­liance as “isa lang ka tuhog”, in Ce­buano “usa ra ka tuhog” while in Ta­ga­log we say “isang tik­lis lang”. But also not alien to us was the sud­den and sur­pris­ing exit of Be­bot from that ac­cord. While spec­u­la­tion was that the cleav­age was about women, that ru­mor was and is far­thest from the truth. Be­tween Be­bot and Tony­boy, women can never be a fac­tor in their friend­ship. There was some­thing which the walls that con­fined them record but I will leave that part to the read­ers to dis­cern.

The “tik­lis” or the cord that binds them snapped soon after Be­bot be­came Speaker. He filed an in­for­ma­tion be­fore the Om­duds­man charg­ing his in­ti­mate friend Tony­boy in the re­newal of the half-a-cen­tury old Joint Ven­ture Agree­ment be­tween Tagum Agri­cul­tural De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (TADECO) and the Bureau of Cor­rec­tion (BUCOR). The JVA com­pre­hends of the de­vel­op­ment of what used to be a marsh­land in the Davao Pe­nal Colony (DAPECOL) which is un­der the su­per­vi­sion of BUCOR. Be­bot com­plained that Tony­boy had a share in Tadeco when the lat­ter was con­gress­man and al­leged that he in­flu­enced the de­ci­sion of the ap­proval of the JVA. I will not com­ment on that ei­ther as the case is in the Sandi­gan. What I knew is that the pros­e­cu­tion rested its case. Be­bot was no show in the last hear­ing and Tony­boy’s camp is mov­ing to file a de­mur­rer. A de­mur­rer is used to chal­lenge imp­toper or ir­rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion. Aban­gan. What strange bed­fel­lows have the two be­come, or, this is just an­other ex­am­ple of ‘fa­mil­iar­ity bridge con­tempt’.

Some­where in be­tween the spat of the two, AGR was not spared by Be­bot. He charged the del Rosar­ios of malfea­sance and throw­ing ev­ery­thing on AGR in­clud­ing the kitchen sink. AGR be­came a col­lat­eral dam­age and re­sented the al­le­ga­tions of Be­bot the Speaker. But the in­nu­en­dos are all sound bytes. When AGR ran for gov­er­nor he was per­son­ally en­dorsed by then Pres­i­den­tial Can­di­date Ro­drigo R. Duterte. I should know be­cause I was per­son­ally re­quested by Duterte to put on video his en­dorse­ment of AGR. Said Duterte in that mes­sage, “the po­lit­i­cal con­stituents in Davao del Norte will never go wrong if they vote for An­thony del Rosario. A hard-work­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive An­thony has the most num­ber of bills filed in Congress”. AGR won that elec­tion over­whelm­ingly.

(My read­ers in Lu­zon and Visayas might won­der how in heaven’s name can Duterte, a PDP can­di­date en­dorse An­thony del Rosario who was with the Lib­eral party. Well, in Re­gion 11, politi­cians are not preg­nant about party ban­ners. They care about how they can push the de­vel­op­ment of the re­gion. Be­bot has be­come an ex­cep­tion.)

In the mean­time, Speaker Be­bot closed the spig­ots of the con­gres­sional funds of his friend Tony­boy and fund­ing al­lo­ca­tions for the prov­ince. He pro­ceeded to ter­mi­nate the mem­ber­ship of Tony­boy from the joint Con­gres­sional Com­mit­tee on Ap­point­ment. Hav­ing done these he came about town, and dis­trib­uted good­ies to barangay cap­tains in District 1 and food packs to some of his be­nighted con­stituents. Looked nice. But as the mil­len­nial would love to ask, “meron bang for­ever?”

Know­ing how in­ti­mate they were, I can­not com­pre­hend how all the ties that bound them cul­mi­nated this way. I have to con­fess here that I called on Tony­boy first to ask why and all he can man­age to say is “I don’t know, hindi ko alam kung bakit”. And so I called on Be­bot and asked the same ques­tion. His an­swer: “Jun, this is no longer about friend­ship, this is about jus­tice.” Pe­riod.

Too in­con­se­quen­tial as I am, I opted to stay away from the con­flict. Ta­ga­log has a more apt de­scrip­tion for this: “nag-u-umpu­gang bato”.

But the feud did not end there. TADECO, the re­gion’s big­gest em­ployer and the ma­jor dol­lar-earn­ing agri­cul­tural firm in the coun­try be­came a ca­su­alty. Some con­gress­men, al­lied to Be­bot, namely Rep. Johnny Pi­mentel of Suri­gao and Rey Umali of Min­doro whose re­spec­tive prov­inces are among the most de­prived places in the coun­try crossed po­lit­i­cal bound­aries and abra­sively or­dered the dis­man­tling of quar­an­tine sta­tions on TADECO.

The Chief of Staff of Be­bot, a cer­tain Hubahib who now wants to run for gov­er­nor, led the de­mo­li­tion crew aided by some el­e­ments from DPWH and PNP.

Pi­mentel and Umali in­clud­ing Hubahib stupidly ig­nored the ne­ces­sity of those quar­an­tine sta­tions. The bur­geon­ing ba­nana in­dus­try in Davao re­gion and Cota­bato had been un­der se­ri­ous threat of the ex­tremely fa­tal ba­nana dis­ease called Fusar­ium Wilt, a soil-borne virus that wiped out the en­tire ba­nana plan­ta­tions in Panama. The dis­ease is also known in the in­dus­try as “Panama dis­ease”.

If these con­gress­men and Be­bot’s un­der­lings thought that their ac­tions will only af­fect the busi­ness of Floirendo and about 12,000 em­ploy­ees, they are fa­tally wrong.

There are more than 50,000 hectares of Cavendish ba­nanas in the en­tire Min­danao and ex­pos­ing these farms to the dreaded dis­ease will ac­tu­ally cause mas­sive eco­nomic dis­lo­ca­tions not only to small and in­de­pen­dent ba­nana grow­ers but over a 100-thou­sands em­ploy­ees and la­bor­ers in the in­dus­try. And you will have trou­ble in Min­danao that can­not be con­tained by mar­tial law.

Un­like the dele­te­ri­ous log­ging in­dus­try that thrived in Min­danao for sev­eral decades, ex­port earn­ings from the ba­nana in­dus­try cir­cu­late in Davao and Cen­tral Min­danao. I would like to stress that the un­prece­dented eco­nomic growth in Davao re­gion for ex­am­ple is stim­u­lated by the in­dus­try. Those re­cip­i­ents of small good­ies like a kilo of rice and tinapa are not aware that with­out the job op­por­tu­ni­ties and sup­ply of agri­cul­tural in­puts and al­lied ser­vices that the in­dus­try also gen­er­ates they would have been beg­ging in the streets in­stead.

An or­di­nary con­gress­man can­not pro­vide funds even for small-time barangay projects. Let’s face the facts. When ex-Pres­i­dent and in­cum­bent Rep. Glo­ria Ma­ca­pa­gal Ar­royo was an or­di­nary mem­ber of Congress, she, just like Rep. Tony­boy Floirendo was not given the con­gres­sional al­lo­ca­tions

As we all knew, AGR and Be­bot, in­clude 2nd District Rep. An­to­nio “Tony­boy” Floirendo, were a team. A for­mi­da­ble one.

and de­prived of Com­mit­tee Chair­man­ships. Be­bot had these clipped as he held the purse of congress. On the other hand Be­bot was very gen­er­ous to some barangay cap­tains in his district. When PGMA be­came Speaker of the House, she re­stored the funds for all mem­bers of Congress and for her District in Pam­panga the lion’s share of P2.4-bil­lion!

Such is how the wheels of for­tunes swing in congress. Be­bot is now an or­di­nary mem­ber of the House he once lorded over. What will now hap­pen to the funds he com­mit­ted to his barangay cap­tains? I do not think he will auc­tion his prop­er­ties to fund these projects. In the mean­time Hug­pong ng Pag­babago, whose founder, Davao City Mayor In­day Sara Duterte-Car­pio is said to be the Chief Ar­chi­tect of the ouster of Be­bot, had estab­lished a for­mi­da­ble al­liance with Speaker Glo­ria.

In­day Sara, whose pop­u­lar­ity and tough­ness can only be equaled by her fa­ther the Pres­i­dent, is un­op­posed in her re-elec­tion bid. Her po­lit­i­cal team­mates in the City are vir­tu­ally un­op­posed too. I heard she will spend a long va­ca­tion in nearby Davao del Norte to cam­paign for her HnP col­league dur­ing the elec­tion sea­son.

What of Tony­boy? Just a few weeks after he was re­stored to his po­si­tions in Congress when PGMA took over as Speaker, his bill for the es­tab­lish­ment of Land Trans­porta­tion Of­fice in Pan­abo City and a corol­lary bill in the Se­nate had also been ap­proved. Tony­boy had just re­turned from Is­tan­bul where he headed a del­e­ga­tion of Philip­pine leg­is­la­tors in the Asian Par­lia­men­tary Fo­rum. His po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­sary pit­ted against him by ex-Speaker Al­varez is Alan Du­jali, the in­cum­bent Vice Gov­er­nor of the Prov­ince. A pip­squeak ac­tu­ally given the fact that like Be­bot, the po­lit­i­cal for­tune of Alan had al­ways hinged on the Floiren­dos. The cre­ation of their barangay into a town and nam­ing this after the late and for­mer gov­er­nor Gre­go­rio Du­jali were at the be­hest of the late Don An­to­nio Floirendo and for­mer gov­er­nor Rodolfo del Rosario. I need not say more for this is of pub­lic knowl­edge.

But some po­lit­i­cal fig­ures in the prov­ince are en­joy­ing their Christmas hol­i­days this early. Rod­ney del Rosario who is run­ning for Gov­er­nor in lieu of AGR and for­mer Tagum City Mayor Rey “Chiong” Uy are tak­ing their cam­paign in stride or lit­er­ally like a walk in the park.

The play­ful Fates that guide the des­tinies of the po­lit­i­cal char­ac­ters in Davao del Norte will have their fun. And so shall we.

Jun Ledesma Colum­nist

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