RATHER than leave town for a safer life, the eldest son of San Fernando Mayor Lakambini Reluya has decided to run in his late father’s stead as vice mayor.

Ricci Regens, 26, was formally introduced by his mother during the opening salvo of their campaign sortie at the San Fernando gym last Friday, March 29.

Ricci is the eldest of three children of the mayor and her late husband, Association of Barangay Councils president Ricardo Jr.

Ricardo and two others were killed when the van he and his wife were riding in was ambushed in Talisay City last January. The mayor and two others survived.

In an interview with SunStar Cebu on Saturday, March 30, the younger Reluya said he was the obvious choice to replace his father, based on the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) substitution rule.

“When I saw the people who mourned for my father, I realized he had become an important person in San Fernando. The town had become part of him and if we leave, it would mean forgetting my father’s legacy of service here,” he said.

A father’s dream

He admitted that he and his family had contemplated leaving the country following the ambush. He said his younger sister was offered political asylum by Guam Sen. Tina Rose Muna-Barnes.

The two had become close during an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) youth conference, he said.

Even their relatives in the US agreed that Ricci, his siblings and their mother should leave the country for their own safety.

But the younger Reluya said he would rather stay in San Fernando to continue his father’s plan.

“My father loved the people of San Fernando. To leave it behind would be an insult to my father’s dream. Should we ever meet again in the next life, I hope to tell him that I did my best for the people of San Fernando,” Ricci said.

Ricci is not new to politics. He served as the town administrator when his mother assumed office in 2016.

He admitted that he was hurt by allegations thrown by the camp of San Fernando mayoral candidate Ruben Feliciano, especially claims that his parents were “narco-politicians.”

“When my mother won as mayor in 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte was also starting his first term. If my parents were narco-politicians, why would they deal with those involved in illegal drugs during President Duterte’s term knowing that illegal drugs were being eradicated in all levels?” he said.

Canoy-Sabalones connection

He also accused the opposing camp of refusing to admit that they supported the candidacy of San Fernando Vice Mayor Fralz Sabalones and three other councilors allegedly involved in illegal drugs during the 2016 elections.

Sabalones, who is the brother of self-confessed drug lord Franz Sabalones, served as running mate of defeated mayoral candidate Micko Canoy, who is the son of former mayor Antonio Canoy.

Ricci is up against the older Canoy in the vice mayoral race.

Aside from Sabalones, the Canoys supported the candidacy of Councilors Alfonso Donaire IV, Erwin Villaver and Reneboy Dacalos, whom police suspected of being involved in the illegal drug trade.

The three secured fresh terms after 2016, but Donaire and Dacalos could not seek reelection after they were gunned down in separate shootings earlier this year. As for Villaver, he has not returned to his duties since the shootings began.

Although Ricci admitted that he and his mother were afraid for their lives, he said he did not plan on going down without a fight.

As a parting message, the younger Reluya urged San Fernando voters to re-examine his mother’s first term as mayor.

He said she was not able to implement her projects because of constant politicking from municipal officials allied with the Canoy group.