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Monday, May 29, 2007

 

SPECIAL REPORT : Unexpected wins, painful defeats  

Governor’s win staves off Cebu breakup

By Godofredo Roperos

THERE was an almost overwhelming collective impression among Cebu’s electorate that incumbent Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia would be running in the May 14 midterm elections without an opponent.

Two months before the official start of the campaign, the tandem of Garcia and Vice-Governor Greg Sanchez was without a challenger. It was the same with Mayor Tomas Osmeña and Vice-Mayor Mike Rama in Cebu City. It was a political situation that had never occurred before in the history of Cebu politics. Not once in the heydays of the Cuencos, the Ramas, the Osmeñas, the Brioneses, and even during the terms of Governors Eduardo Gullas and Pablo Garcia did it ever happen that no one had stood up to challenge the incumbent governor months before the election.

On the last day of the filing of certificates of candidacy, the opposition joined forces with other smaller groups who could not take the leadership of the incumbent governor, and pushed through the candidacies of Rep. Antonio Yapha of the third district, and of Rep. Clavel Martinez of the fourth district, for governor and vice-governor, respectively. It was a powerhouse tandem.

Yapha and Martinez, however, were two of three Cebu lawmakers who, months earlier, had filed separate bills in Congress proposing to make their districts into three separate provinces, with the remaining three districts as the fourth province. The other lawmaker was Rep. Simeon Kintanar of the second district. Their move was generally opposed by the people, and they christened Yapha, Martinez and Kintanar as the “sugbuak” congressmen. In Cebuano, “buak” means “to break.” Sugbu is the literary way of saying “Cebu” in Cebuano. Sugbuak therefore forms a pun that means “Break Cebu” or “Broken Cebu.”

The motive behind the three congressmen’s proposed “Sugbuak” bills was clearly political. They were all third termers in Congress who, instead of bowing out of political power gracefully, had wanted to become the first governors of their own little turfs. Garcia and Sanchez countered the three’s move by creating the One Cebu political party. It was against them that Yapha and Martinez were forced to run.

There were frequent discussions during the early part of the campaign about the political strength of the Yaphas. Running for Yapha’s congressional post was his wife, Dr. Estrella Yapha, an incumbent provincial board member. They were quite a powerful political combination, being both medical practitioners on whom many a Cebuano voter had run to, and got, immediate medical assistance. The third Yapha in politics is their son, Jeffrey, the mayor of their hometown, Pinamungahan.

The third district includes the towns of Tuburan, Asturias, Balamban, the city of Toledo, Aloguinsan, and Barili, all in the central west coast of the island. With the support of then-Sen. John Henry Osmeña who had once represented the district in the House, it seemed there was nothing more the Yaphas could ask for.

But there is. Yapha wanted to be governor of the “whole” province of Cebu. If he had won, would he still allow Cebu to break up into four provinces? Would he have presided over the “death” of the original province? This would have been interesting to know, but this has now become moot and academic since Yapha lost heavily in the voting.

It was one abject lesson for the lesser political dynasty in Cebu. Dr. Estrella did not fare any better as a congressional candidate. Perhaps, the Cebuanos did not want their province to be partitioned. Or perhaps, it was because the Yapha couple did not have political appeal to Cebu voters, in the same sense that a woman has sex appeal and attractiveness.

The Yaphas were fully supported by former Sen. John Osmeña. Even when Sonny had “retired” from politics, his political shadow as their political guru never still loomed over the Yaphas. But Osmeña’s glow had considerably dimmed this election. He even lost his senatorial battle in Cebu, so how could he have helped the Yaphas when even he himself was struggling hard to keep himself politically alive, to keep his nose above water? The end finally did come for the Yaphas, as it did to their patron.

   

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Severino O. Frayna Jr., Benjie Dela Rosa
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