Running scared-A A +A
Saturday, September 22, 2012
TRUST Erap Estrada to put a spin to anything that could gain him or his group any sympathy or advantage. Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia might drop out of the senatorial race because of the graft charges recently filed against her in connection with the Balili land purchase, he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer last week. “It’s a possibility,” he said.
We all know better, of course. The charges had nothing to do with the governor’s quitting the race. She knows and swears that she’s innocent and she’s represented by the best lawyers, including her daughter, so why should one case scare her out of her senatorial aspirations? And the fact that she is still running for public office completely demolishes Erap’s fear factor theory.
Even the supposed clamor from the mayors of the province’s third district had very little influence, if at all, on her decision. Garcia is not the Don Quixote-type politician but a pragmatic one whose decisions are based on practical considerations. Her decision to quit the Senate race was a tactical one.
“I have to pick my battles,” she told me over the phone last Tuesday. The Senate is a very tempting adventure, she said, but “we might end up losing Cebu in the process.”
She realized that she had spent more time outside of Cebu than in it during the last few months, she explained, and “it is unfair” to her brother, Pablo John, who is still eligible to seek another term as third district congressman but whom she had convinced to run for governor instead.
She said that while PJ has no problem in his district, he is a relative newcomer to other parts in the province. She also admitted that the defection of Nito Durano’s Barug to the administration camp also helped shape her decision to assume her “Big Sister” role. “I have to be more active in helping him,” she declared.
Because of this, she had decided to run for PJ’s seat in the third district instead. “I have already talked to Alex Binghay (the Balamban mayor who was earlier groomed to succeed PJ) and he graciously gave way.”
Garcia had planned on formally announcing her decision to withdraw from the senatorial contest during a press conference later in the week, which was why she requested me not to break the story about her decision. But Vice President Jejomar Binay beat her to it by announcing it in Argao, where he was attending the inauguration of a housing project.
The UNA had tapped Garcia, hoping that she would draw the support of the huge Cebuano-speaking bloc in the electorate. But the response to her candidacy had not been as enthusiastic as might have been expected.
Garcia humbly acknowledged this during our conversation, saying that her bid was hobbled by her low public awareness rating. She may be ripe for the Senate but the nation doesn’t seem to be ready for her yet.
Her decision to stay in Cebu will probably disappoint thus who thought they had gotten rid of her when she agreed to being drafted by UNA for the Senate. The Garcias had been a dominant force in the province for nearly two decades, with Gwen at the forefront of the clan defense in the last three gubernatorial polls.
She has admitted, albeit impliedly, that they see a threat to their political dominance. It’s both good and bad news to their opponents. Good because it acknowledges that the opposition is strong; bad, because the Garcias are particularly dangerous when they’re running scared.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 23, 2012.