Ecleos still dominate Dinagat politics

SAN JOSE, Dinagat Islands (MindaNews/16 May) — Despite having one family member lose the race for Dinagat Islands’ lone congressional district, the Ecleo family has remained the dominant political force in this island province.

Dinagat town mayor Gwendolyn Ecleo (Nacionalista Party) lost the House race to Liberal Party’s Arlene Bag-ao.

Tubajon and Loreto towns delivered votes for Bag-ao and other Liberal Party candidates. But the five other towns went for the Ecleos or their allies.

In a rare intra-family matchup though, Gwendolyn’s mother, Glenda B. Ecleo, won by a slim margin of 625 votes against her daughter and Bag-ao ally Geraldine “Jade” Ecleo who had already conceded.

“I am happy of course. To my (fellow) Dinagatnons, I am thankful for your help that’s why I won. I hope and pray to God that He will bless us all and keep us healthy,” Glenda or “Mommy Glen” said after her proclamation at about 4 p.m. Tuesday.

His son and running mate, Benglen, trounced Liberal Party candidate Merly Lagroma.

“I am sad and happy because my sister lost. But she fought an honorable fight,” Benglen, younger brother of fugitive former Dinagat congressman Ruben Ecleo Jr., said.

Ruben Jr., who evaded a prison term for the murder of his wife, became “supreme master” of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA), which was founded by his father and namesake.

Allan Ecleo II, who was re-elected as San Jose town mayor, said the family is happy with the results but also expressed regrets over Gwendolyn’s loss.

Asked to react on Bag-ao’s win, he said the congresswoman had the advantage as an incumbent aside from enjoying the President’s support.

Allan Ecleo I, Allan II’s twin brother, won as mayor of Basilisa town.

Glenda made use of her role in making Dinagat Islands a province to ensure continued support from her constituents who are mostly PBMA members. Considered one of the poorest in the country, the province used to be part of Surigao del Norte.

Dinagat Islands’ creation as a province faced a legal challenge before the Supreme Court. But on Sept. 20, 2012, the High Tribunal upheld a 2011 decision declaring as constitutional the law creating the province.

PBMA, widely regarded as a cult for its mystical beliefs, is the Ecleo family’s main political base. According to a report by Rappler, the group has around 140,000 members in the country and abroad. (Vanessa Almeda/MindaNews)