Pichays-Pimentels rivalry in Surigao Sur heats up in coming polls

TANDAG CITY (MindaNews / 9 Oct)  – The rivalry of once political allies in Surigao del Sur has heated up as both camps are locked up in the tug-of-war in getting support from the incumbents in the local races for next year’s polls.

Mayor Carla Pichay of Cantilan, Surigao del Sur, is now running for governor. Photo from Mayor Pichay’s Facebook page

Since last year, Cantilan Mayor Carla Pichay, wife of Rep. Prospero “Butch” Pichay of the first congressional district, has been making the rounds in the province to draw support from the incumbent mayors, vice mayors, town councilors and even punong barangays in a move to solidify her base for her first bid to run as governor.

Carla, who is under the Lakas-CMD-Team Gugma, will challenge reelectionist Gov. Alexander Pimentel of Hugpong Surigao while Butch is seeking reelection against Construction Workers Solidarity Party-list Rep. Romeo Momo in the first congressional district.

Momo was undersecretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways before he retired from government service to represent CWS in the 2019 polls.

Second District Rep. Johnny Pimentel, the governor’s brother, will be pitted against Edmund Estrella, scion of a political family based in Bislig City.

Dr. Primo Murillo, former long-time governor, will be Pichay’s running mate and will be pitted against incumbent provincial board member and former vice governor Manuel Alameda.

Rep. Pichay was once a strong ally of the Pimentel siblings, who have been lording it over the politics in the province for decades.

Incumbent Vice Gov. Librado Navarro, who was embroiled in the alleged investment scam controversy, was no longer picked by Gov. Pimentel as his running mate. Navarro now wants to retake his former post as mayor of Bislig City, where he served for three terms.

The split of the Pichay-Pimentel political alliance has taken its toll on the relationship among the Pichay siblings.

Butch’ s elder brother Philip Pichay, former Cantilan mayor and representative of Congress, has now sided with the Pimentels.

Philip parted ways with his brother after Butch fielded Carla to be mayor of Cantilan when he was still incumbent mayor and lost in the 2019 elections.

Philip is getting a crack anew in the mayoralty race in Cantilan under the Pimentels’ Hugpong Surigao party while Team Gugma fielded former mayor Genito Guardo.

Guardo was mayor from 2010 to 2016 and agreed to slide down to a vice mayoralty post when Philip decided to run as mayor of Cantilan while the latter was still in good terms with Butch.

Ironically, Guardia was the mayor who did not allow mining in their town when Pichay and the Pimentels were at it on the mining investments with Pichay having a stake at Claver Mining Company while the Pimentels were operating the CTP Construction and Mining Corporation in neighboring Carrascal town.

In 2010, more than 3,000 Cantilan residents signed a petition opposing the entry of Marcventures Development Corporation and Guardo denied the mining company a business permit.

Philip was unseated as congressman of the first district by his opponent, Mary Elizabeth Ty-Delgado, after the Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal by affirming the complaint of Delgado that a political candidate can only run for public office after five years of conviction of libel case.

Losing candidate Delgado, who garnered the second highest number of votes, filed a quo warranto case. She pointed out that Philip Pichay was convicted of four counts of libel – a crime involving moral turpitude – in 2011. Citing Section 12 of the Omnibus Election Code, she said a person convicted of such crime can only be eligible to run for office again after five years. (Chris V. Panganiban / MindaNews)