COMMENTARY: Sarangani politics: Brewing political storm

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/19 August) — With barely two months before incumbents and candidates for the 2013 elections start filing their certificates of candidacy, a lot of horse trading and maneuverings are already stirring up a number of hornet’s nests and wracking the nerves of those with political ambitions and interests to protect.

Sans a credible opposition group following the reported decision of Gov. Miguel Rene Dominguez to quit local politics after having already served three uninterrupted terms, the once monolith People’s Champ Movement (PCM) appears to be imploding from within with several party mates being eased out by a core of hardliners who want to tighten their political grip in the province.

A lot of these self-styled political players are however rubbing off old political allies of Rep. Manny Pacquiao who founded the PCM.

The biggest casualty, by far, is Provincial Board Member Nene Saguiguit who, despite being an incumbent, has been left out in the lineup for the provincial slate for next year’s election.

Saguiguit is the elder sister of Malungon Mayor Reynaldo ‘Bong’ Constantino, a longtime ally of Pacquiao whose friendship with the 8-division world boxing champion dated all the way back to his struggling days as a campaigner in the lower weight classes and before he became a global crossover sports superstar.

In 2007, Pacquiao bankrolled Constantino’s candidacy to the tune of P26 million, according to several sources.  Malungon is the biggest of Sarangani’s 7 towns.  It also has the biggest number of registered voters in the province.  That year, Pacquiao ran for a seat in the House of Representative in General Santos City but lost to then re-electionist Darlene Antonino Custodio.  Custodio is now the mayor of General Santos.

Mayor Constantino practically confirmed the junking of her elder sister which, according to party insiders, was instigated by his sister’s fellow Board Member Eugene Alzate.

Alzate made a political comeback in 2010 after he failed to get re-elected in 2004.  He was implicated in a multimillion fund scam in the province which led to his defeat.  Alzate was named in several graft cases during the administration of former Gov. Miguel Escobar. Among them was a local government funded study tour in Cebu which reportedly coincided with his wedding.  He even reportedly brought a government-issued vehicle owned by the province to Cebu during his wedding.

Alzate was eventually found administratively liable and ordered suspended but the Ombudsman order became moot and academic as he lost in his re-election bid.  Alzate’s graft case involving his criminal liability is now with the Sandiganbayan.

The irony of Saguiguit’s junking is that it was she who reportedly pushed for Alzate’s inclusion in the lineup of PCM in the 2010 elections.

Incumbent Vice Gov. Steve Solon is reportedly grooming Alzate to be his running mate.  Solon will run for governor of the province next year.

While Dominguez has been reported to be contemplating a return to private life, he has not made a categorical statement that he is taking a break from politics.  Recently, he said he is still keeping his options open.

Pacquiao and Dominguez last year agreed to trade places but the former changed his mind.  Pacquiao instead egged Dominguez to run as vice governor of Solon.  Dominguez is on his last three -year term and is no longer eligible to seek re-election.

Several mayors have reportedly resented Alzate’s overbearing ways and are hoping a better alternative to Alzate will still emerge before the October deadline of the filing of certificates of candidacy.

Constantino said tensions inside a political party are part of the positioning of allies from within.  He said when all is settled, the party will again be united.

He added that he is leaving it to his sister to decide what is best for her.  He also stated that the family had already discussed the issue.  He declined to elaborate on the matter.

Pacquiao lawyer and longtime friend Franklin ‘Jeng’ Gacal Jr said he also heard of the political rumblings inside PCM but declined to issue any comment.

Gacal reportedly was being groomed to be the running mate of Pacquiao had the latter pursued his plans to run for governor.  Gacal, in fact, has transferred residence from General Santos City to Maitum in Sarangani where his father was originally a resident.  He would have run for vice governor next year.

Asked if he is still interested in running as vice governor, Gacal said it is still an option for him.

With so many concerns outside of politics, Pacquiao will have his hands full addressing brewing political storm inside his otherwise monolith party. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Edwin G. Espejo writes for