In the Philippines, only a very thin line separates show business and politics. Having three showbiz personalities in the senate, not counting the wife of Joseph Estrada, the former president, it’s only natural that eyes will be on showbiz personalities come next year’s local elections.
In Makati, it’s a battle royale for the mayoralty race between the incumbent Jejomar Binay and Lito Lapid, currently one of the three showbiz senators. Straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, Senator Lapid had confirmed his desire to lock horns with the formidable Mayor Binay who is being perceived as an immovable object in the arena of Makati politics.
Always underrated, Lito Lapid started as a stuntman before rising to stardom. As a fringe benefit of his popularity, he had sired a son by Melanie Marquez, a Miss International in the 1980s. When the movie industry showed signs of waning, Lito Lapid broadened his horizons by winning the seat of vice governor of Pampanga. The subsequent election for the governorship made Lito Lapid an underdog because he was pitted against Bren Guiao, father of basketball coach Yeng and a known follower of then very popular Tita Cory. The amiable action star defied the odds and served as governor of Pampanga for three terms amid the several (politically motivated) suspensions issued by DILG under the presidency of Joseph Estrada. In the year 2004, not a few eyebrows escalated when Lito Lapid ran for a senate seat thus leaving his post to his son Mark. And fate had decided that Leon Guerrero would be a member of the Philippine senate.
Also an underdog especially during the times he was a free legal aid lawyer, Jejomar Binay was a former activist who surfaced to the limelight after the EDSA people power in 1986. After serving as mayor of Makati for nine years Binay relinquished his post to Dr. Elenita, his wife. After a three-year, the wife gave back the throne to its rightful claimant. In that election, Jejomar Binay defeated no less than Edu Manzano, a popular and respected movie star who was Dr. Elenita’s vice mayor before the said election. Edu Manzano is now the chief of OMB (Optical Media Board), the government arm that is trying hard to curb video piracy.
With Binay’s various meaningful projects and grassroots stronghold, political pundits are one in saying that Lito Lapid doesn’t have a Chinaman’s chance against the diminutive mayor. Magnifying the disadvantage, the moment Lito Lapid makes official his intention to run as mayor, his remaining three years in the senate will go to naught. In the same radio interview, the humble senator intimated that he is uncomfortable in senate work and that he prefers an administrative job like the one he was handling in Pampanga. His only notable bill, which is still pending, is the prohibition of the use of staple wires in food packets and wrappings. Despite his lack of higher education, Lito Lapid had proven his skills in administrative work as a topnotch governor. He belied speculations that he was ordered by Malacañang for a head on collision with Binay albeit he is just too eager to serve Makati’s residents in his own little way. In another radio interview, the soft-spoken Mayor Binay sincerely bids Senator Lapid good luck that ended with a chuckle.
The 2007 Thrilla in Manila is another much awaited event. Expected to figure out prominently in the race for the mayor’s seat are Danilo Lacuna, Senator Ping Lacson and Ali Atienza, the son of Mayor Atienza and currently chairman of Youth and Sports Development. Lacuna is the reigning vice mayor and Lacson is an opposition senator at present. But more interesting is the fight for the vice mayoral seat.
Power to the People, so goes the commercial of Cesar Montano. There is no confirmation yet but word is out that Cesar is being eyed by both Senator Lacson and Vice Mayor Lacuna. Buboy, as Cesar is fondly called, is a respected movie star known for his portrayal of Jose Rizal and lead role characters in mostly quality films.
Power of the people may be an apt slogan of Manny Pacquiao who is loudly rumored to run as vice mayor of Ali Atienza. Originally from Dadiangas, now General Santos City, Manny is an adopted son of Manila and was gifted by Mayor Atienza with a condominium unit hence making him a bona-fide resident of Manila.
Odds makers may be at odds on who to select between Cesar and Manny. Santa Ana in Manila’s district 6 belongs to Cesar Montano. He was already popular in Plaza Hugo even before he entered the movies. Of course, Cesar will ride on his star popularity with the backing of his wife, Sunshine Cruz, and probably the entire Cruz clan, not to mention his friends in the entertainment industry. Not to be discounted, Manny is undisputedly the most popular Filipino at this time and a valedictorian in commercial endorsements. On the other hand, Manny may not have a single relative in Manila. Contrary to tradition, the Manila derby will be decided by the winning vice mayor with hope that they would pull their mayoral candidate along the winning line.
Adding spice to the Thrilla in Manila are showbiz politicians like Isko Moreno and Robert Ortega, who are both councilors in their respective districts. Robert is expected to run to retain his councilor seat but Isko is contemplating for a higher position. Cita Astals, another incumbent councilor, is aiming for a congressional seat. Lou Veloso, a former councilor who failed in his attempt to be a congressman, is also a potential runner.
In Quezon City, reliable sources had confirmed that Herbert Bautista will be the running mate of Mayor Sonny Belmonte in affirming their positions in the 2007 elections. The seemingly unbeatable duo has no named opponents yet but many are expecting that the Mathay group will be putting up a decent fight. It can be recalled that Mayor Belmonte surprised the electorates when he defeated Rudy Fernandez, another popular actor, in the 2001 elections. Running for re-election as councilors are incumbents Aiko Melendez, an awarded actress, and Lala Sotto, daughter of Senator Tito Sotto.
In Bulacan, Richard Gomez will test the durability of Governor Josie Dela Cruz. It was said that Richard had declined to run as vice mayor in Manila perhaps thinking of his roots and greater winning chances in Bulacan. In the last elections, Richard spearheaded MAD, a group against illegal drugs, which would have made Richard a party list representative in congress if not for the disqualification of MAD.
In the province of Rizal, Jestoni Alarcon, a former Board Member and presently the vice governor, is still hesitant on whether to run for governor. Considering the political streak of Casimiro ‘Ito’ Ynares, the present governor, Jestoni may just opt to remain as vice governor. Governor Ynares is the father-in-law of Andrea Bautista, the little sister of Senator Bong Revilla. In mimicry of Binay’s style, Ynares yielded the governorship to his wife then reclaimed it in the last elections.
Laguna, specifically Pagsanjan, is the bailiwick of Mayor E.R. Ejercito a.k.a. George Estregan, Jr., also the president of KAPPT (Kapisanan ng Artista sa Pelikulang Pilipino at Telebisyon). It is a cinch that Mayor E.R. will be reelected. Dan Fernandez, who lost to Laguna Governor Joaquin in 2004, may not opt to run again due to the family scandal brought out in the open by his wife Sheila Ysrael.
In Pampanga, Mark Lapid is another shoo-in for reelection as governor. Going against the trend, Mark started as a politician before entering showbiz. After his first movie Apoy Sa Dibdib Ng Samar with Christine Reyes, Mark had a follow up movie which was shown just two weeks ago.
Film director Joel Lamangan will try his luck as mayor in Cavite. He had joined the LP (Liberal Party) wing of Senator Drilon. True to the showbiz tradition, Joel’s initial step was filled with intrigues because his hand was raised by Manila Mayor Atienza hence people thought that he had changed political color. Direk Joel emphasized that he remains an opposition and that it was only a coincidence that Mayor Atienza was there when he professed his intention to join LP.
Political aficionados were dismayed when Sharon Cuneta had declared her intention NOT to run for any elective position. The same can be said of Vilma Santos who, like Sharon, is already contented with a senator in the family. Pablo Cuneta, Sharon’s father, was the longest serving mayor of Pasay City while Vilma Santos is a second termer mayor of Lipa City.
Indeed, Philippine elections are always interesting because of the colorful personalities involved particularly that of entertainment celebrities. We just hope that winners, be they showbiz people or not, would not renege on their promised political platforms.
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