Hashtag #nochoice: Agusan del Sur’s entire slate unopposed

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /27 March) — As in past elections, it’s still all in the family in Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities but Agusan del Sur has made history this year as the only province where candidates running for Governor, Vice Governor, 10 Provincial Board members and two Representatives need not campaign for the May 9 elections: they are all running unopposed under the National Unity Party (NUP), Commission on Elections (Comelec) records show.

“Hashtag #nochoice kami dito” (It’s hashtag #no choice for us here), said a resident.

Agusan del Sur has matched Maguindanao’s 2007 record of unopposed provincial slate under then reelectionist Andal Ampatuan, Sr. But it has yet to surpass Maguindanao’s 2007 record of 90.09% of its municipal slates (20 of then 22 towns) running unopposed.

As in the past, too, the Plazas continue to retain control of Agusan del Sur politics with Governor Adolph Edward Plaza assured of a third term (his fifth, actually since he served as Governor from 2001 to 2007 and 2010 to 2016), and sisters Ma. Valentina Plaza-Cornelio and Evelyn Plaza-Mellana, also assured of a third term as representatives of the first and second district, respectively.

Agusan del Sur has 13 towns and one component city – Bayugan.

In Bayugan City, only the post of mayor has two candidates (two-term mayor Kim Lope Asis of NUP and independent candidate Ferdinand Marcus Banosia). Only one is running for vice mayor (Charles Anggayong) and only 10 are running for the 10 council seats.

Also unopposed are mayor-vice mayor teams in six of Agusan del Sur’s 13 towns: Bunawan (Edwin Elorde and Sylvia Elorde), Esperanza (Leonida Manpatilan and Eric Sioson) Loreto (Ligay Otaza and YM Magadan), Prosperidad (Albin Magdamit and Frederick Mark Mellana), San Francisco (Jenny de Asis and Solomon Rufila) and Veruela (Myrna Mondejar and Edgar Brigole).

The Bunawan team has been mayor and vice-mayor since 2010. Edwin is the brother of former mayor Gilbert Elorde. Sylvia is Gilbert’s wife. Mellana is the son of second district Rep. Evelyn Plaza-Mellana.

One more vice mayor is a sure winner: Victoria Plaza in the town of Trento.

The Plazas of Agusan del Sur have been in power since the 1950s. Like the Dimaporos of Lanao, del Norte, they are the longest-surviving political clans in Mindanao, having ruled their areas for at least six decades, interrupted only briefly when the People Power revolt ousted the Marcos dictatorship in 1986, replaced local chief executives with OICs (officers–in-charge) and elected a new set of officials in 1988.

Agusan del Sur has a voting population of 373,500, according to the Comelec’s Philippine 2016 Voters Profile as of November 2015.

Nationwide, it is the 10th province with the highest poverty incidence among population, at 54.8 as of the first semester of 2015, up from 48.6 during the same period in 2012, records from the Philippine Statistics Authority show.

It is also 10th with the highest poverty incidence among families at 44.7 in the first semester of 2015, up from 38.6 during the same period in 2012, based on the records of the PSA. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)