Saturday August 18, 2018

Malilong: Gullas versus de los Reyes 3

IN 2013, Eduardo Gullas lost the election for Talisay City mayor to JVR de los Reyes. The margin was slim, 736 votes to be exact. The upset was of epic proportions.

Alan Bucao, who also lost the vice mayoral race to JVR’s running mate, Romeo Villarante, said their defeat, particularly Eddiegul’s, was shocking. He was right. Nobody gave JVR a chance of winning when the campaign started and for good reason. He had sought public office in six past elections and had been resoundingly rejected each time. He took on the challenge of running against Eddiegul because nobody else dared.

But there he was, with 39,453 of the votes cast for mayor to Eddiegul’s 38,717 when the canvass ended. Eddiegul promptly conceded, according to him against the advice of his friends and lawyers who urged him to file an electoral protest. As a sportsman (basketball coach of the year in 1958) he had gone through many wins and losses and had graciously accepted each result. He was not about to behave differently.

To say that JVR’s reign was controversial is an understatement. He employed his relatives in City Hall, “importing” some of them from his home province, Zamboanga del Norte. He quarreled with his campaign handler and vice mayor. He antagonized the city council. He made very poor decisions, which showed how unprepared he was to run a city.

In 2016, JVR ran for reelection against two challengers: Gullas and Villarante. For three years, Eddiegul had been itching for a rematch and had prepared assiduously. Villarante, who had been accused by a JVR son of plotting against his father because he was eyeing the mayorship, knew that he lacked resources but ran just the same, perhaps to teach his former ally a lesson.

When the smoke of battle cleared, Gullas had clobbered de los Reyes, 58,068 to 22,855, for a whooping margin of 35,213. As expected, Villarante placed third with 12,524 votes. The emphatic victory in a way validated Eddiegul’s decision not to protest his loss three years earlier.

JVR had wisely kept himself out of the limelight since his loss until recently when he announced that he has decided to again seek the office that he held for three years but eluded him in 2016. This was going to be his swan song, he told SunStar, referring to next year’s election. And he is not going to commit the same mistakes he did the last time.

He obviously likes his chances. He will not have to face his tormentor anymore; Eddiegul has announced that he was not going to seek reelection. He will probably return to Congress as first district representative, trading places with grandson Samsam.

I have bad news for JVR though. Samsam may have been in politics for a shorter period than Eddiegul or, for that matter, de los Reyes but he is no pushover. The results of the last congressional elections will attest to that. He garnered very nearly twice the votes received by his opponent, 182,363 to 91,251.

What is notable about the runaway win is that the young Gullas earned it with little, if at all, help from his grandfather who was busy running his own challenge against JVR. Without doubt, Samsam owes his first election to Congress to Eddiegul but he came of age, politically, three years later.

“Segurista” was how Eddiegul described his grandson. “He has been to places in the first district that I have never visited,” he once told me with unrestrained pride. JVR is in for a dogfight.