ILOILO CITY—Once bailiwicks of the Liberal Party (LP), Iloilo province and its capital, Iloilo City, are shaping to become electoral battlegrounds among politicians allied with President Duterte and the ruling coalition.
With more than three weeks to the filing of candidacy, political clans and key Iloilo officials are realigning to field slates in the 2019 midterm elections.
The Garin clan, which dominates the first congressional district of Iloilo, has announced its support for the gubernatorial bid of Iloilo Rep. Ferjenel Biron of the fourth district.
A member of the Garin clan will be the running mate of Biron, according to family patriarch, former Iloilo representative and now Guimbal Mayor Oscar Garin.
Biron vs Defensor
Biron of the Nacionalista Party (NP), which is part of the administration coalition, is expected to run for governor against Iloilo Rep. Arthur Defensor Jr. (third district), son of Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor who is serving his third and last term.
The Defensors earlier joined the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) along with mayors and other officials who once belonged to LP.
Also among Biron’s supporters is Rep. Raul Tupas of the fifth district.
Iloilo Rep. Arcadio Gorriceta (second district), who belongs to LP and is closely associated with Governor Defensor, said he would honor an agreement among local political leaders to support Biron as their candidate for governor. His son, Mayor Michael Gorriceta of Pavia town, and several mayors in the district have joined NP.
Face-off in capital
Iloilo City Rep. Jerry Treñas (PDP-Laban) has also announced his plan to run for mayor of the capital, a post he had held for three terms before he sought a seat in the House of Representatives.
Treñas is expected to face his brother-in-law, incumbent Mayor Jose Espinosa III (NP), who replaced former Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog.
Mabilog, who left the country last year after he was linked by President Duterte to illegal drugs, was removed from office by the Department of the Interior and Local Government on Oct. 30 last year to comply with an order from the Office of the Ombudsman in relation to a graft case. The former Iloilo City mayor had repeatedly denied involvement in the drug trade.
In the 2016 presidential election, Mayor Duterte came in third in Iloilo province, next to former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas of LP and Sen. Grace Poe.
Roxas garnered 657,940 votes followed by Poe who got 166,480. Mr. Duterte, the eventual winner, had 146,294 votes.
The total number of votes for the President in Iloilo City was less than a third of what Roxas received. Mr. Duterte got 36,680 votes while Roxas had 119,972 votes. Poe, who came in third, had 31,159 votes.
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