PHILSOUTH LINE: Two journos-turned-solons and the 2013 Zambo mayoralty race

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/07 August) — The incumbent Congressional representatives from the two legislative districts of Zamboanga City are both eyeing the mayoralty seat of Asia’s Latin City for the May 2013 elections. Thus pronounced, first, District 1 Rep. Maria Isabelle ‘Beng’ Climaco-Salazar, concurrent Deputy House Speaker of Philippine Congress, and recently, District 2 Rep. Erico Basilio ‘Erbie’ Fabian.


Both started their public career as members of Zamboanga media:  Erbie as the star reporter in the coverage of the Rizal Alih short-lived takeover of Camp Eduardo Batalla on January 5, 1999, and among the once-existing DXLA lead broadcast journalists; and Beng with her Castilian beauty as the lead anchor then of Dateline Zamboanga, a Golden TV-11 news and public affairs production.  To date, both solons host their respective public affairs shows.


But the race to be Zamboanga’s chief hizzoner was first entered into by a newly-declared Zamboanga resident (of three years, as reported), Zamboanga del Norte Congressman Romeo Jalosjos, who served thirteen years in jail following a conviction for statutory rape. Since his pronouncement for his intent to file his candidacy, he has been a daily newsmaker, with his every movement followed by a pool of media reporters whom he so favors with privileges and perks.


Jalosjos has the money to spill around Zamboanga, where people generally do not have the capacity to splurge and those who do, do not, por delicadeza—a value so strong among Zamboangueños. Jalosjos has time to kill these weeks, not being duty-bound to report to government office yet, and he has been spending more time with community folk.  (He also splashed money while in jail, donating infrastructure that should have been afforded by the national government, to alleviate the lives of prisoners like him, and earned a reduction of sentence from two life terms to 13 years.  His release was dubbed by Gabriela, a women’s rights advocacy group, as a “mockery of justice”, Jalosjos having been freed without any statement of concern nor sign of remorse for the 11-year old girl he had sexually abused.)


During the launch of media colleague Charlie Apostol’s book, “Erbie,” the reporter-turned-lawmaker has declared his non-intention of seeking another political office.  Having gotten married then to Melinda “Dinggay” Villanueva, he had thought of turning his back to politics after his last term.  But that was the tune he sang years ago.   Erbie, an ex-mayor himself, remains a byword in Zamboanga households for his daily line, “Amor con amor se paga (Love begets love)”  in all of his radio and television programs then.


Beng, also a former vice-mayor, would have been the “(wo)man to beat” where Jalosjos is concerned, with her morally stainless record; however Erbie’s entry into the race is set to split her votes, and speculations are rising that Jalosjos paid off popular Erbie to do so.  No one confirms the hush-hush, but the fiery Climaco spirit in Beng is now properly opposing the filing of candidacy of Jalosjos on ground of absolute disqualification to run for public office, based on Article 30 of the Revised Penal Code.


These are the issues on top of Zambo’s political iceberg.  Somewhere in Ciudad Latina de Asia, mi bella Zamboanga, stands a sheepishly grinning Padre Damaso, the silent hands of Sino-Español oligarchs who do not intend to unleash their greed on power and economic control, and a general public still taking siesta (afternoon nap), to be followed by merienda (snack), before a good paseo (stroll), and passively shrugging, “masquin quien ya (whoever).”


But people in the Zamboanga Peninsula should wake up and brace for the rise in power by the Jalosjoses in the region.  Their bailiwick, Zamboanga del Norte, has extended to Zamboanga Sibugay, with the election of Gov. Rommel Jalosjos.  Another Jalosjos is set to fearlessly pit against the Cerilleses next year in Zamboanga del Sur, as former Congressman Romy Jalosjos is busying himself in Zamboanga City. Should we take this passively, then we shall see the eventual rise of a political dynasty in west of Mindanao.


If ever that happens, it would be frustrating to look back to this day when two media persons who have been good reporters, were made to contend against each other to let one whose political leadership “skills” are gauged on the money he uses to run a government, to sweeten the citizenry, and worst, to cajole the media as the Fourth Estate—not to mention to maneuver his sentence commutation via  a debt of gratitude—become Mayor of Zamboanga City. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Frencie Carreon of  Zamboanga City is editor of PhilSouth Angle and a candidate for PhD in Peace Journalism at The University of Sydney).