Ecleo out; Dinagat’s new governor is human rights lawyer Kaka Bag-ao

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 15 May) – The reign of the Ecleo dynasty in Dinagat Islands is over.

Two-term Representative and human rights lawyer Arlene “Kaka” Bag-ao is the new Governor of the 12-year old province, ending a succession of four terms held by the Ecleos who had long ruled Dinagat before it was carved out of Surigao del Norte to constitute a province.

According to the Commission on Elections’ partial, unofficial results based on 100%  or election returns and posted by ABS-CBN’s Halalan 2019, Bag-ao (Liberal Party) won 29,869 votes against the administration PDP-Laban candidate Ben Glen Ecleo’s 26 843 but her running mate Carlos Eludo lost to PDP’s Nilo Demerey who garnered 27,833 votes against Eludo’s 21,857.

This photograph, with the provincial capitol of Dinagat Islands as backdrop, was posted on the Facebook page of Arlene Bag-ao, with this caption: “Mga Dinagatnon, ang atong bag-ong Gobernador, !” (Dinagatnons, our new Governor) Arlene “Kaka” Javellana Bag-Ao!” (Dinagatnons, our new Governor)

For the post of lone district representative to Congress, Alan 1 Ecleo, who got 26,746 votes, won by a margin of only 488 votes against LP’s Ann Pinat’s 26,258.

Bag-ao is a human rights lawyer who served as Executive Director of the alternative law firm, Balaod Mindanaw. She served as lawyer for the farmers who marched to Manila from Sumilao in Bukidnon in 2007, and served from 2010 to 2013 in Congress, as Akbayan party-list Representative. She was elected Dinagat’s lone representative to Congress in 2013 and was re-elected in 2016.

She also won against an Ecleo in 2013, earning her the title “dragon slayer.”

Geraldine Ecleo-Villaroman was elected as the first governor of Dinagat Islands in 2007 while her mother Glenda Buray Ecleo was representative. Glenda ran for Governor in 2010 and is completing her third term on June 30 this year.

In 2010, Ruben Ecleo Jr. succeeded his mother Glenda as 1st district Representative but was dropped from the rolls of Congress on May 31, 2012. The fugitive Ecleo was convicted in a graft case, which he appealed before the Sandiganbayan but was denied with finality, and was also convicted in a Cebu City court in 2012 for killing his wife.

With Ecleo Jr. out, Bag-ao, then Akbayan party-list representative, was appointed caretaker of the province’s lone congressional district in late 2012.

Her stint as caretaker, she said, gave her the platform “to show that government can work for the people and that the resources of government can change the lives of the poor and the marginalized sector.”

Sumilao farmers walk across the Mangima Canyon in Bukidnon October 10, 2007, the first day of their two-month march that will bring them to Northern Mindanao, then Visayas, until they reach Manila on Dec. 10, 2007, in time for the International Human Rights Day. Dinagat’s newly-elected governor was among the lawyers of the Sumilao frarmers. MindaNews file photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Bag-ao implemented projects and programs in the province, which included P120 million worth of infrastructure projects, P8 million worth of scholarship for the youth and P3 million worth of free medical assistance. She also distributed 77 brand new multicabs and 33 pump boats to the different barangays in the province.

“We launched a showcase of how things can be different here in Dinagat. We made our message clear and simple such that even little children can understand,” she said.

“Sabi nga nila (They said that) it would take a miracle for us to win in the last elections, and that miracle happened. The miracle was not me, the miracle that made the impossible a reality was because of all of you,” Bag-ao said.

In the 2013 election, Bag-ao presented herself to the electorate go give her the mandate to represent the lone congressional district.

She won against Gwendolyn Ecleo, former mayor of Dinagat town.

In that election, Bag-ao ran with an Ecleo – Geraldine, the Vice Governor who ran for governor against her mother Glenda. The matriarch won the race by a slim margin of 625 votes.

“It is not impossible to defeat a dragon if you are on the right path in the quest for change and hope,” Bag-o then said during her oathtaking in 2013.

Of seven towns in Dinagat, the Ecleos won in two towns: Ozzy Ecleo (PDP) won the mayoralty in Basilisa against Dondon Ensoy (LP) while in San Jose, Yngwie Ecleo (Ind) won against the PDP’s Joslyn Ecleo.

But in Dinagat town, Craig Ecleo (PDP) lost the mayoralty to LP’s Yoyo Leyran.

In Cagdianao, Denden Longos was elected mayor against the PDP’s Boy Cagape; in Libjo, the unopposed Sammy Llamera (PDP) won; in Loreto town, the PDP’s Doan Ladaga won by a margin of 35 votes against Nena Quijano-Ladaga (LP); whle in Tubajon, independent candidate Fely Pedrablanca won against the LP’s Geng Vargas. (Carolyn O. Arguillas /MindaNews)