MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 16 May) – The outcome of the battle for governor of Bukidnon between 4th District Rep. Rogelio Neil Roque and 3rd District Rep. Manuel Antonio Zubiri, which the former won, may suggest something about the future of the Zubiri dynasty. Is it losing control and influence over local politics? Are people looking for new faces?
Let’s take a look at the numbers.
Out of Bukidnon’s 20 municipalities and two component cities, Malaybalay and Valencia, Zubiri won in 16. But he got a drubbing in Roque’s home turf, Valencia, where he trailed by 60,000 votes and lost in Malaybalay by 8,000 votes.
Worse, Roque beat Zubiri, albeit only by a margin of 62 votes in Maramag, the latter’s home base and supposed bailiwick in the 3rd District.
Clearly, it was the one-sidedness in the vote distribution in Valencia that decided the outcome in Roque’s favor even if out of Bukidnon’s four congressional districts he only managed to win in the 2nd District and in his own district comprising Valencia and the towns of Kalilangan and Pangantucan.
In the 1st District, Roque won in Baungon by over 300 votes but lost in Libona, Talakag, Manolo Fortich, Malitbog and Sumilao by almost 24,000 votes overall.
As expected, the 3rd District, except for Maramag as cited earlier, went for Zubiri. He obtained respectable leads in Kitaotao (9,000), Damulog (8,000), and Kibawe (7,000). Don Carlos town gave him an edge of less than a thousand votes, Quezon 5,000, and Dangcagan 2,000. These and the rest of the figures were rounded off.
In the 2nd District, Zubiri’s cumulative lead of around 7,000 votes in Lantapan, Impasugong, San Fernando and Cabanglasan towns was negated by his loss in Malaybalay. His biggest lead in the district (5,000) came from Impasugong.
Zubiri’s loss in the 2nd District can be attributed in part to the influence of its lawmaker, Rep. Jonathan Keith Flores, who allied with Roque. Besides, Malaybalay, the vote-rich area in the district, spurned his father, outgoing Gov. Jose Maria R. Zubiri Jr. during his first time to run as governor. And, in 2019, former Malaybalay mayor Ignacio Zubiri, the governor’s nephew bowed to Flores in the congressional race. In short, losing in the 2nd District was already a given.
What’s ominous is the younger Zubiri losing in Maramag and getting a slim lead in neighboring Don Carlos.
For his part, the outgoing governor only obtained a margin of 1,139 votes in Maramag and 668 in Don Carlos against board member Arlyn Ayon in the House race. Moreover, his overall lead of 36,000 votes against Ayon is a far cry from his earlier performances in the polls. In 2001, he first won as governor by trouncing former governor Nemesio Beltran with a margin of 100,000 votes. In 2007, former 1st District Neric Acosta lost to him in the gubernatorial contest by a difference of around 70,000 votes.
One factor perhaps is that compared to the other municipalities in the 3rd District Maramag and Don Carlos are more affluent as emerging commercial centers that could rival Valencia’s growth in the future. People in relative prosperity think more independently, and rely less and less on politicians. In contrast, poverty drives people into a patron-client relationship with the wielders of power, exactly the environment that fosters and strengthens dynasties.
The question now is whether or not the Zubiris still stand a chance to recapture the Capitol in 2025. With the patriarch turning 84 by that time there are doubts he’d still be able to withstand the rigors of a province-wide campaign. The youngest son, Juan Miguel Zubiri, will serve as senator until 2028, and so isn’t likely to run for governor. And, there is none among their allies who look capable of challenging Roque in the near future.
Moreover, Roque’s wife, Laarni Lavin-Roque, has succeeded him as 4th District representative while a major ally, Flores, was reelected as 2nd District congressman. In the 1st District a Zubiri ally, Joeman Alba, husband of outgoing Rep. Malou Acosta-Alba won against his brother-in-law Neric Acosta.
That makes the four congressional districts of Bukidnon evenly divided between the Roque and Zubiri camps. However, the 2nd and 4th Districts enjoy the advantage of having Malaybalay and Valencia, the proverbial jewels of the crown with their large voting populations.
Things could go from bad to worse for the Zubiris if many of their allies shift their allegiance to Roque now that the patriarch is nearing the twilight zone.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)