“HONESTY is such a lonely word, everyone is so untrue. Honesty is hardly ever heard....”
This phrase came from a song that dates back in the days of my youth. Mayor Inday Sara Duterte touched on the issue of honesty as a rebuke for those who claim to be simon-pure. This strikes hard the solar plexus especially when candidates that mount the hustings unabashedly describe themselves as lily-white and their adversaries black as a kettle.
But honesty is not the only overused word in political campaigns. The other is worn out phrase “kitang mga kabus” or “tayong mahihirap” (we the poor). In Davao del Norte, where names like Floirendo, del Rosario, and Uy are associated with the rich families the over-exploited phrase by their opponents is “kitang mga kabus” as if to be rich is anti-poor.
But these political personalities did not become rich overnight. The patriarch of the Floirendos, Don Antonio Floirendo Sr., sweat it out to success. He was a Ford salesman, transport operator, a hog raiser, an abaca and banana farmer who developed his farm in Marapangi, Toril in Davao City, and Tadeco in Sto. Tomas, Davao del Norte from a virtual swampland to a productive Cavendish banana plantation which later became the biggest employer outside of Metro Manila.
Rey “Chong” Uy is from a bond of brothers who worked their way to the bone taking advantage of the gold rush, ventured into transport, travel agency services, and other varied services. Their siblings have become leading entrepreneurs among them Dennis Uy who is fast-becoming a Davao-based taipan with investments in petroleum, telecommunications and port construction.
Former governor Rodolfo “Dolfo” del Rosario was a gasoline boy in a gas station owned by his pioneering brother-in-law Antonio Floirendo Sr. He later managed the Villa Bus Transportation Corporation concurrent to his position as Manager of Davao Motors Sales Corporation (Damosa). He was the most trusted man and the workhorse of Floirendo in all his corporate ventures.
Later, he was made to run and serve as governor of Davao del Norte as a way of returning all the good fortunes that the corporate ventures have achieved in the province. Dolfo briefly served as Minister of the Department of Energy and Natural Resources under Marcos and returned as governor of the province.
All these political personalities I cited remained rich and that includes Tonyboy Floirendo Jr. who, after earning his educational degrees, was made to work in the Anflocor companies and worked he did. He entered politics but was made to serve as barangay captain first. This is the kind of discipline that the venerable Don Floirendo honed his children, Dolfo the governor included.
Now let us look at those who claim to be “kabus”.
They are ousted Speaker Bebot Alvarez, who is seeking reelection, a certain Edwin Jubahib who claims to be an engineer and running for governor and Alan Dujali who wants to be congressman in the second district.
But are they really that poor to say “kitang mga kabus”? Let’s look at Dujali first. The Dujalis are creation of the Floirendos and this started with Gregorio Dujali who the old man Floirendo nurtured to be governor. He trusted Dujali and the latter reciprocated with impeccable records as governor. He remained true and loyal to the man he owed a lot of how he and his family became. A town was named after him where Alan later became mayor with the support of the Floirendos. In the 2016 election, Mayor Alan was nominated by Tonyboy to run for Vice Governor. He won. He might not be in the league of the Floirendos but he is definitely not poor. Not “kabus”. In fact he must have accumulated some fortunes he is now running against Tonyboy.
And there is this Edwin Jubahib. He was first introduced by his media handler as an Engineer but later downgraded it to “kuya”. He is virtually unknown but suddenly hit the front pages when he went on a buying spree of about 300 hectares of land in the Island Garden City of Samal and Talicud Island. He now owns more land than Del Rosario and Floirendo combined. He addresses the crowd “kitang mga kabus”. This nouveau riche or new rich must have good connections with the Bureau of Internal Revenue as the agency seemed to be blind or deaf or plainly dumb they are not surprised where the moolah is coming from.
The wealthiest among the “kabus” is Bebot Alvarez. Always a perennial loser, he managed to woo Tonyboy in 2016 polls to endorse and support his bid for congress. Tonyboy did against the objections of his uncle Dolfo who had some misgivings about Alvarez. Tonyboy went all the way by supporting Bebot to become Speaker of the House.
Among Bebot’s first act was to file an information against his bosom friend before the Ombudsman alleging that Tonyboy influenced the decision of the Bureau of Prisons to renew the joint venture agreement between Tadeco and Bucor over a flimsy reason that Tonyboy owns (less than one percent) share in Tadeco. The JVA had been renewed several times during its existence for over five decades.
Before he was ousted as Speaker, Bebot had accumulated vast tracks of lands in Siargao and in Davao. By some estimates he is richer than the Del Rosarios and even if he wears cheap t-shirts and shorts with rubber slippers to complete his poor man’s image, Bebot can outspend his friend Floirendo in elections expenditures. But the word “kitang mga kabus” is often spoken as frequently as the number of three-kilo bags of rice he distributes to the electorates in the 1st District of Davao del Norte.
All three are running under PDP-Laban Alvarez-wing to be distinguished from the PDP-Laban which, in their campaign sorties for the senate race, is often led by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte himself has, in many occasions enunciated both in pictures and in video recording, that his candidates in Davao del Norte are Rodney del Rosario for governor and Anthony del Rosario and Tonyboy Floirendo for congressmen in the 1st and 2nd District respectively.
Honesty indeed is such a lonely word especially when this comes out from those who in just a span of two years have become ultra-rich beyond anyone’s imagination. And like the lamentation in the song ... “everyone is so untrue” especially when this comes from those who say “kitang mga kabus”.