Tacloban City — For a market vendor to win against a physician in the mayoralty race in Dolores, Eastern Samar is like the biblical account of David and Goliath.
For Rodrigo Rivera, 62, his chances of winning the election were very slim without machinery, budget, and support from current village officials.
“I asked for help and thanked God. I thanked Him for granting my prayers. This victory is for the people, to provide the services that the people need, a service from the government available to everyone,” Rivera, speaking in Waray, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in a phone interview Thursday night.
Since May 11, his Facebook account has been filled with posts about being grateful as he vowed to give genuine public service.
Rivera earned 11,508 votes, beating the 10,946 votes garnered by physician Zaldy Carpeso of the ruling PDP-Laban party.
His rival is the brother of outgoing Mayor Shonny Niño Carpeso, who ran unopposed for the vice mayoralty post.
Rivera, who just completed two years in high school, was an independent candidate with no vice mayor and town councilor on his team of volunteers and supporters, mostly family members and relatives.
Now that he is the mayor-elect, his team is preparing plans on how to address the problem of the town once he assumes the post on June 30.
Among these concerns are clogged drainage, dark streets, lack of classrooms, poor access to health services, and poor water system.
Although victorious, Rivera must face the reality that the members of the municipal council are all allies of the defeated candidate.
Rivera said he has accepted the fact that there may be differences between him and the municipal council during his term, but he already called for support to achieve their goal of serving the people.
“It is possible but since we are elected and voted by the people, we should give them what they deserve, the services of (the) government they deserve, for the improvement and progress of our town,” he added.
Rivera was the chief of Gap-ang, a remote village in Dolores town, for nine years.
After his term ended in 2010, he started selling fish and vegetables at the public market.
His family resides in a community of informal settlers in Lunang village.
“We were hesitant when we learned that he decided to run because we thought it was impossible for him to win,” his daughter, Crisanta, recalled. “But since he was very keen on running for the mayoralty post, we supported him.”
She noted that her father’s victory is proof that being poor is not a hindrance to seeking an elective post.
Dolores is a third-class town in Eastern Samar province, located 185 km. northeast of Tacloban, the regional capital.
The coastal town has a population of 44,626.