Voters in Manila who booted Mayor Joseph Estrada out of the office Monday highlighted a trend among some cities to vote out political clans that have had a stranglehold over local politics stretching across generations.
In Cebu, Mayor Tommy Osmeña suffered the same fate, as did Roberto Eusebio of Pasig, and other members of political dynasties.
Residents of the capital and areas across the country woke up Tuesday to new, and younger, mayors and elective officials who broke through the bailiwicks of the families that have ruled their towns and cities unchallenged for decades.
With their grip on local politics, the patriarchs of these clans were able to pass on positions to their children and grandchildren as if they were inherited.
While many other clans survived the midterm elections, Estrada’s defeat in Manila to his one-time vice mayor, Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, by a nearly 2-to-1 vote, was stunning.
Nor could Estrada seek solace in his previous bailiwick of San Juan, where his granddaughter, Janella Ejercito, lost to another former vice mayor, Francis Zamora.
The Ejercito-Estrada family has held sway of San Juan politics for nearly half a century.
Another youngster, Victor Maria Regis Nubla “Vico” Sotto, dethroned Eusebio in Pasig, which the family has controlled since 1992.
Osmeña, who has served Cebu as mayor in previous terms of seven (1988 to 1995) and nine years (2001 to 2010), saw his latest three-year term ended by his Vice Mayor, Edgar Labella.
Elsewhere, Estrada’s old buddy Chavit Singson became the new mayor of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur by ending the 30-year reign of the Zaragoza family; the Floirendo-Del Rosario family lost its hold on Davao Del Sur; and the Lobregats of Zamboanga City were denied office by Mayor Beng Climaco and her allies.
“A dynasty can only last so long,” former Ateneo School of Government Dean—and Manila Standard columnist—Antonio La Viña told ABS-CBN’s ‘Bandila’ news program on Monday night.
“This is the positive part of the night. You can actually topple dynasties and giants,” he said.
The success of the mayoral bids of Sotto, Domagoso, and Zamora could be attributed to good campaigns, the lawyer said.
“It’s very simple. [The voters] wanted change, not the old [politicians] and wanted to try something new,” La Viña said.
“In truth, if you also go around the country, that’s the most depressing thing about our politics. It’s the same family, it’s the same family names, and it seems hopeless,” he added.
Yet the victories of Domagoso, 44, Zamora, 41 and Sotto, 30 in Metro Manila provided a glimmer of hope that things can change if the voters will it.
The trend certainly left Estrada, 82, puzzled, even as his sons Jinggoy Estrada and JV Ejercito failed to win seats in the Senate, and his nephew, ER Ejercito was losing his bid for governor of Laguna province.
“I don’t know how this happened… It baffles me until now. The feeling is so heavy,” the outgoing Manila mayor told ABS-CBN on Monday. “Until now, I’m still at a loss as to who had a hand in this.”
Estrada claimed that he was a target of a “project” to unseat him.
“Why should I concede? All surveys, from the start, said I would win. Now all of a sudden, Isko won,” he said.
However, political science professor Julio Teehankee said the apparent end of the Estrada-Ejercito era is part of a “cycle of dynasticism” in the Philippines where political clans eventually lose power after years of dominance.
Teehankee said Estrada might have been ripe for the picking, six years after expanding his political power from San Juan, where he was mayor for 27 years, to Manila, where he won his first mayoral term in 2013 and was running for his third and last consecutive term.
“That is where his problem started, because now he has to take care of two kingdoms,” Teehankee told ANC. “It was a gamble, pardon the pun, on the part of Erap and they went all in and they’re losing big.”
In Pasig City, Sotto broke through almost three decades of domination by the Eusebios.
Sotto, who won election as councilor in 2016, is the son of celebrities Vic Sotto and Coney Reyes.
His party-mate former Rep. Roman Romulo also won the race against Eusebio’s brother incumbent Rep. Ricky Eusebio and is now a returning congressman for Pasig City’s lone district.
Zamora, a businessman, is the new mayor of San Juan City ending the reign of the Ejercito-Estrada clan in the smallest city in Metro Manila.
The new mayor promised to turn San Juan into a highly developed “smart city” with improved services and state-of-the-art facilities.
Francis’ father, Ronaldo Zamora, remains in office after defeating challenger Edu Manzano for a House seat representing the lone district of San Juan.
The Estrada clan took hold of San Juan City in 1969 when Estrada won as mayor. He was succeeded by his sons Jinggoy and JV Ejercito then JV’s mother Guia Gomez, who narrowly beat Zamora in 2016.
The Zamoras and Estradas were family friends for 30 years before the contested 2016 election, which Zamora said was stolen from him.
But the biggest upset was Domagoso’s win in Manila.
Domagoso, who was a scavenger when he was a boy in Tondo, became an actor, then served three terms as a city councilor, another three terms as vice mayor and most recently was as an undersecretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
In a TV interview, Senator JV Ejercito said his family erred by fielding so many candidates.
“I think we just have to be honest about it. We spread ourselves too thin,” Ejercito told GMA News.
In Makati, power stayed in the Binay family after the incumbent Mayor Abigail Binay beat off a challenge from her younger brother, Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr. and four other candidates.
The mayor got 179, 522 votes over her brother’s 98, 653 votes, based on the partial and unofficial counts as of 1 p.m. Tuesday in Makati City.
But Binay’s father and former Vice President Jejomar Binay, lost to former Mayor Romulo Peña Jr. to represent the city’s First District in the House of Representatives.
The elder Binay got 65,229 votes while Kid Peña garnered more than 71,000 votes.
The Commission on Elections proclaimed Peña as the winner in 1st District.
In Quezon City, Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte, daughter of former mayor and House speaker Feliciano Belmonte, was declared mayor. Her running mate, District 3 Councilor Gian Carlo Sotto, became vice mayor.
Belmonte garnered 469,480 votes ahead of her rival Bingbong Crisologo’s 366,215 votes.
Sotto, son of Senate President Vicente Sotto III, got 382,000 votes with a lead of 39,000 votes.
The younger Belmonte will succeed Mayor Herbert Bautista.
READ: #2019PHVote: Metro Manila Mayoralty Race
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