LOCAL political leaders claim that Cebuano voters will go for the presidential candidate they are supporting, like what happened in the 2004 polls when Cebuanos overwhelmingly voted for President Arroyo.

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña and his Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) are supporting Liberal Party presidential bet Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. Tomas’s brother, senatoriable Serge Osmeña, claimed that Cebu is still a Cory Aquino country and thus will support Noynoy.

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The opposition Kugi, Uswag Sugbo (Kusug) headed by former mayor and now mayoral candidate Alvin Garcia is for Manny Villar of the Nacionalista Party (NP). Kusug and NP have forged an alliance. In the province, first district Rep. Eduardo Gullas boasted that Cebu will go for Villar.

While some political leaders in the province have shifted their political allegiance to Villar, Gov. Gwen Garcia and her One Cebu Party is sticking it out with Lakas-Kampi presidential bet Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro, saying she has “palabra de honor.” Gwen threw her support for Gibo even at the start of the campaign period.

But the lady governor is set to cross party lines because she is expected to endorse today NP vice presidential bet Loren Legarda and selected senatorial bets from different political groups.

What happened in 2004 when Cebuanos went all the way for PGMA won’t be repeated this year, as the Cebu votes will be split three ways considering that local political personalities are supporting three different presidentiables.

I am not an expert political analyst like my good friend and fellow columnist Frank Malilong. (Daghan pa kog kaonon nga bahaw una ta maka-ambas sa undanon ug malantip nga mga hunahuna ug panahom sa pulitikanhong isyu ni Attorney Malilong).

But consider this: In 2004, Cebu went for President Arroyo because local politicians supported her. Tomas and his BOPK backed PGMA. The gubernatorial race in the province was declared “zona libre” because the three major contenders, Gwen Garcia, former vice governor John-john Osmeña and Celestino Martinez Jr. (now Bogo City mayor) were all for Arroyo. All the congressmen in the city and province also supported her. Opposition presidential bet Fernando Poe Jr. only had Fred Tuadles, a candidate for governor, as leader.

But it's a different ballgame now. I am sorry for the other presidential bets. I am just stating the political reality in the city and province. It is very important for national political parties to tie up with local groups. A national party needs a local party for its candidates to be included in the sample ballots.

Philippine elections are about local attachment and personal loyalty. Voters follow what their local leaders tell them to do partly out of loyalty. Voters don't care much about candidates for national positions because to them they are the same politicians.

Mag-Noynoy lang mi kay ingon man si Mayor Tom. Mag-Villar mi kay maoy sulti ni Sir Eddiegul. Gibo mi kay Gibo man si Governor Gwen. These are what we usually hear from ordinary voters.

On the other hand, a local party needs to affiliate with a national party to get campaign funds. Only few local politicians can finance their own campaign using their own resources. Most of them solicit campaign funds from national bets and business groups. This is politics, Philippine style.

(bobby@sunstar.com.ph/bgnalzaro@gmanetwork.com)