Dolores is a small town in Eastern Samar that faces the Pacific. Its people number less than 45,000; not even the population of our Duljo and Mambaling combined.
It is a third-class municipality. Meaning, as per Bureau of Local Government Finance DO 23-08, its average annual income for the last four years is above P35 million but below P45 million.
And according to the latest census, 53 percent of the town’s population lives below the poverty threshold, which is computed at P10,727 a month for a family of five.
But Dolores hit the news in a big way days after the May 9 elections when 62-year-old Rodrigo Rivera, who Manila-based news websites say was a vegetable vendor at a public market, got proclaimed town mayor.
Rivera, a high school dropout running as an independent, defeated Dr. Zaldy Carpeso, brother of the incumbent mayor and vice mayoral aspirant Shonny Niño Carpeso, by a margin of 562 – 11,508 votes against 10,946.
Dolores has 30,124 registered voters, roughly as many voters as our Barangay Tisa in Cebu City.
Was it a case of the local electorate getting tired of their town’s old political elite and choosing instead a virtual nobody?
Granted, Rivera — whose family resides in an informal settlement called Lanang — did serve nine years as barangay captain before starting to sell at the local public market. He has experience.
If the reason behind the way Dolores voted was indeed this frustration over the status quo, then Dolores might as well be the microcosm of the Philippines in general and Cebu City in particular.
I am not a total stranger to Dolores.
I spent some time there in 2014 as part of the wider humanitarian response after Typhoon Ruby unleashed its devastating payload of 215 kilometer-per-hour winds onto Dolores.
The town, at that time, had not yet fully recovered from the destruction brought by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) on Nov. 7 of the previous year.
To say that things were difficult and remained difficult for several months after would be an understatement.
Our participation in the response then was to jump from area to area with a low power FM transmitter and a studio-in-a-suitcase to broadcast what we hoped was life saving and life sustaining information to the affected communities while communicating their needs to other humanitarian actors.
Having somewhat of an awareness of what the town went through, the way it voted does make perfect sense if indeed those who held the town’s reins after 2014 failed to improve conditions.
Then there is also optics.
Input following a quick message to contacts I still had among Eastern Samar-based journalists said many people didn’t take too kindly to the Carpeso brothers’ act of trying to establish a dynasty of their own.
Politics is a queer bird, one said. It’s not for the young and uninitiated. But it is also not for those who overstay their welcome.
The incumbent mayor Carpeso also did not have the support of local businessmen because, during his term, larger players like Puregold and 578 Emporium were able to enter the local market.
Loyalty to your people matters, another said.
Rivera ran as an independent. This means he did not have the polished political machinery and campaign war chest of the opponent who ran under PDP-Laban. But what he lacked in the two, he more than made up for with people who volunteered their time and effort for the campaign.
Which is not to say that the fight was that clear cut. The local businessmen who refused Carpeso their support must back someone, right?
Borrowing from mayor-elect Mike Rama’s list of oft-repeated quotes: I wasn’t born yesterday.
May 18, 2022
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