Changing dynamics of Negros electoral politics-A A +A
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
IT IS good but it has a long way to go before it could achieve some significant and meaningful reforms.
Electoral politics in Negros is still largely elite-dominated politics and whose conduct remains largely governed by personality, money and political expediency.
In rural areas where landed warlords and feudal fiefdoms exist, media and progressive groups are absent or less felt, electoral politics is governed by open and blatant use of guns, goons and gold that often turns into violent intramurals. This becomes marked when a well-entrenched warlord family and clan is challenged by secondary political families or by progressive candidates.
This is typical of the interior and mountainous areas of central and south Negros Occidental and Oriental ruled by the families of Montilla, Peña, Trebol, Acua, Alvarez, Benedicto, Zayco, Ascuna, Limkaochiong, Teves, Arnaiz, Montaño, Montenegro, and the far north of Negros Occidental by the Marañon, Javelosa, Palanca, Bantug, Barcelona, Yap, Lacson, Ledesma, Gustilo, Escalante.
In rural areas and less urbanized town centers, where the concentration of traditional power is confined to few big landed and agribusiness families and clans, electoral politics is dominantly characterized by negotiated election between and among them.
In cases where this can be hardly worked out, the politics of guns, goons and gold also take place.
Typical examples are towns and small cities in central and near north Negros and those in the periphery of Dumaguete.
In main cities and urban centers where centers of power are diverse, the middle class, and political organizations and media are relatively strong, electoral politics usually take more sophistication and civility, and yet the campaign politics is often focused more on issues of personality than on platform, expediency than on principled organization.
In some cases where interest stakes are high, resources of contending candidates are huge, campaign becomes intense, too personal and at some points becomes violent.
In Bacolod, electoral politics had always been a convenient way of power sharing among old rich families and clans, like the Montelibano, Yulo, Lacson, De la Peña, Amante, Villanueva, Coruna, Montalvo, Dizon, Cordova, Benarez, Rojas and Guanzon.
The crisis that had struck Negros sugar economy in the 80s had temporarily diverted the attention of ruling elites to look for cautionary measures. With this development, this opened the doors for the local middle class personages and those coming from Iloilo to enter local politics.
Although these middle class personalities still need the right family and clan name or connection to ascend to higher echelon of power and ambitions, this did not deter some of them to reinvent Bacolod politics and political conduct.
Basically, two types of middle class dominated the Bacolod local politics after EDSA.
One is the power aspirants who wanted to establish their own political turf in support of their incipient economic interests, and therefore must expand their bureaucratic services to accommodate wider patronage. These are the likes of the Leonardias, Ramos, Espinos, Noveros, Orolas, Puentevellas and Tans. More names surfaced in the 90s and the present decade.
The other is the circle of middle class personages with progressive orientation; they mostly belonging to the mass movement of the 60s and 70s. They advocate of new politic, wanted a more progressive governance with more power to the middle class and the marginalized sectors. Prominent in the list are Villamor, Baribar, Valdez, Hagad, Batapa, among others.
These two groups became the new power bloc, organized into new political machinery.
In addition, the presence of a number of quite active left mass organizations, party lists, and left personality figures in the city have, in some ways, contributed to the dispersion of power center in the city.
However, this did not necessarily mean the democratization of power, because the bignames in local economy remain as the chief political patrons of elite politicians and new breed of elitist middle class.
Still, there is clearly a shifting trend towards a multi power centers, not only in Bacolod, but also in both provinces and, in these multi power centers, is the emerging new political power.
In Bacolod, it is the Montelibano and Guanzon that dominated local politics in the 80s to 90s. It shifted to Leonardia and Puentevella in the first decade of this century.
Apparently, they are fading. Today, new power centers are emerging. This time, they seem to revolve around Sayson, Golez and the First Five.
In the province, the centers of power are shifting too, from Marañon and Alvarez, to the Ferrers and Benitez-Bantugs. Or could they be more?
The more important matter is, are these changes leading to the empowerment of the real majority poor people of Negros?
I don’t think so. Not yet. We still need a social moral revolution.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on October 02, 2012.