THE officials of Bogo city in northern Cebu took their oaths of allegiance to One Cebu, the provincial political party led by Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, marking the end of the over two-decade-long feud between the Martinez and Garcia families.
The Cebu Provincial Government announced that on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, siblings Bogo City Mayor Carlo Jose Martinez, Vice Mayor Maria Cielo “Mayel” Martinez and Provincial Board Member Celestino “Tining” Martinez III, along with 10 city councilors, and all 29 barangay captains and 242 barangay councilors were sworn in under the One Cebu party at the Bogo City Hall Complex.
The Martinezes and Garcias used to be allies, as the patriarchs of the two families were colleagues in Congress and running mates.
Former congressman Celestino “Junie” Martinez Jr. was the running mate of governor Pablo “Pabling” Garcia in the May 14, 2001 elections, a decade after the two crafted laws together, such as the Local Government Code of 1991, during their time in the House of Representatives.
But political differences led to their acrimonious split, and Junie Martinez ended up running for governor against Pablo’s daughter, Gwendolyn, in 2004.
“This decision came easy for me tungod kay ever since nagkakuyog mi ni Gov. og trabaho adtong 2019, si Gov. Gwen has been really welcoming gyud sa akoa,” Mayor Martinez said Monday about joining One Cebu, according to Capitol’s online news portal, Sugbo News.
(This decision came easy for me because ever since the governor and I worked together since 2019, Gov. Gwen has been really welcoming of me.)
Despite the fact that Garcia and the mayor were not political allies, the mayor said the Capitol had funded at least eight infrastructure projects in the city.
The governor was joined at the event by her brother, Rep. Pablo John “PJ” Garcia of Cebu’s third district, who serves as One Cebu’s secretary general, as well as two other Provincial Board members, Kerrie Shimura and Mela Franco, who served as witnesses.
Congressman Garcia called the two sides’ reunification historic.
“This is indeed a historic event, one that 20 years ago would have been thought of as impossible,” he said.
“I am happy, especially as the son of Pabling Garcia, to be here today to fulfill his dream of unity,” the congressman said.
Governor Garcia said if the province of Cebu was to develop further, then no one should be deprived of projects. All in Cebu should rise together, so that Cebu would never be divided.
How the feud began
The Martinezes and Garcias were allies. Proof of this is that in 1998, when Pablo Garcia was governor and Tining Martinez was municipal mayor of Bogo, Tining was elected president of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines-Cebu Chapter, the Capitol report said.
SunStar Cebu archives show that in the 2001 elections, former congressman Junie Martinez was the running mate of Pablo Garcia. Garcia was reelected to a third straight term as Cebu governor, but Martinez lost the race for vice governor to John Gregory “John-john” Osmeña, son of then senator John Henry “Sonny” Osmeña.
The gap between the two families was caused by the elder Garcia’s friendship with Sonny Osmeña and the regional Alayon party that Osmeña led. The friction came amid Garcia’s move to form a coalition of all local political parties to ensure President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s win in 2004.
On June 10, 2002, administration party Lakas, chaired by President Arroyo, held its first meeting in Cebu. Martinez said the mayors requested the meeting after noting that governor Pablo Garcia, the party’s provincial chairman, “failed to reactivate” Lakas-NUCD (National Union of Christian Democrats) in Cebu because of Garcia’s “unification” dream with the Alayon Party of Sonny Osmeña, father of John-john, who had defeated Martinez in the 2001 polls.
Garcia’s friendly relations with Senator Osmeña and his allies strained the governor’s relationship with Lakas members in Cebu, who believed that the governor’s move would benefit only Garcia’s family who may enjoy peace with Alayon local party co-founder Sonny Osmeña, while placing the rest of them at the losing end.
At the June 10, 2002 Lakas meeting, some party members attacked Garcia’s alliance with Osmeña. Junie Martinez was elected secretary general, which Garcia did not recognize.
Martinez subsequently declared his intention to run for governor in the 2004 polls.
John-john Osmeña said the root of the strained relations between the Garcias and the Martinezes was the Martinezes’ apprehension over the Lakas-Alayon alliance’s impact on them.
In late 2001, there had already been talk of a team-up in the 2004 polls by John-john Osmeña for governor and Pablo’s daughter Gwendolyn Garcia, who was then Capitol consultant on systems, promotion and development, for vice governor—which Pablo did not dismiss, even if Pablo had earlier said he was already “committed” to Martinez in his bid for the gubernatorial post in 2004.
After Pablo Garcia called the June 10 Lakas meeting a “gathering of losers,” their feud descended into name calling with then Cebu 4th district representative Clavel Asas-Martinez, wife of Junie, calling Pablo “tiguwang, nagsalimuang” and “giango-ango (old, delirious and senile),” for uniting with people who would work for the downfall of Lakas members, and for strengthening other parties instead of theirs.
Later in 2002, Junie Martinez joined forces with Sonny Osmeña, after the senator rejected ties with the governor. Senator Osmeña had been angered after Pablo Garcia reportedly told top Lakas officials in Malacañang that if John-john is really unacceptable to the local administration group, then his daughter, Capitol consultant Gwendolyn Garcia, could fill the void.
In November 2002, Junie’s son “Tining,” who was then Cebu Mayors’ League president, explained their family’s willingness to help Sonny Osmeña. Tining said even if the senator had been considered their fierce opponent, at least both camps had “respect” for the leadership that each commanded, while Tining felt that Garcia “belittled” and took their group for granted after they were “faithful” and “worked hard and gave everything” to him.
Gwendolyn Garcia defeated Junie Martinez in the race for governor in the 2004 polls.
In early 2005, Clavel Asas-Martinez joined moves to divide Cebu into four provinces.
Then representatives Simeon Kintanar (2nd district), Clavel (4th district) and Antonio Yapha Jr. (3rd district)—all on their last term and ineligible to seek reelection—filed House bills to convert their districts into the provinces of Cebu del Sur, Cebu del Norte and Occidental Cebu. This would have reduced the size and power of the remaining province of Cebu.
The Provincial Board voted, 8-7, in support of the split. But Governor Garcia vetoed that resolution.
In 2007, Gwendolyn won her second term as governor with Gregorio Sanchez, who had been Junie Martinez’s running mate in 2004, as her running mate. Sanchez defeated Clavel, Junie’s wife, in the race for vice governor.
In 2008, the first time Bogo City took part in the Suroy-Suroy Sugbo since its inception in 2004, Junie, who by then was Bogo City mayor, described Gwendolyn in his welcome address as, “atong pinalanggang gobernador (our beloved governor)” with whom the city would cooperate on projects.
In turn, Gwendolyn pledged unceasing help for Bogo City (“way pu-as nga pagtabang sa Provincial Government”), saying they both had the same goal, which was Bogo City’s development.
But in 2010, Junie supported the Liberal Party’s gubernatorial bet Hilario Davide III. The race again went to Gwendolyn Garcia.
Martinez also supported Davide in his successful bids for governor against Gwendolyn’s brothers, PJ Garcia in 2013, and Winston Garcia in 2016; and in Davide’s successful bid for vice governor in 2019.
However, in 2021, Bogo Mayor Carlo Martinez, Junie’s son, endorsed Gwendolyn Garcia’s reelection bid in the 2022 polls, saying she had given the city projects despite their not being political allies.
Last Jan. 12, Tining Martinez was reelected president of the Liga ng mga Barangay Cebu Chapter, retaining his seat at the Cebu Provincial Board, where he had been an ex-officio member since 2013.
The patriarchs, however, did not live to see the reunification of the two families, as Pabling Garcia passed away in 2021 and Junie Martinez in 2023.