Sunday, July 10, 2011

Political Developments, Second Quarter of 2011, Part I: More Setbacks for the Jalosjos Clan and the Push for a Third Congressional District in Zamboanga del Norte Province

In "Portrait of a Warlord, Part II: Romeo Jalosjos Sr." I chronicled the fascinatingly bizarre life of a cheesy television producer cum Congressman cum child rapist and the political dynasty he is trying to create on the Zamboanga Peninsula. The quinessential Mindanowan strongman, Jalosjos positioned his three children in the 2010 Election and must have felt on top of the world when they not only all emerged victoriously, but also decimated the clan of his arch nemesis, ex-Governor of Zamboanga Sibugay Province, George Hofer Sr. However, Jalosjos wasn't smiling for long as one petition after another was lodged with COMELEC, the Philippine electoral authority, trying to snatch each and every one of the clan's victories.

On Monday, April 4th, 2011 it was COMELEC's turn to file a petition when it asked the Supreme Court to uphold COMELEC's ruling that disqualified Romeo "Jon Jon" Jalosjos Jr.'s victory for the 2nd District Congressional seat in Zamboanga Sibugay Province. On June 3rd, 2010 COMELEC had ruled that Jalosjos shouldn't even have been permitted to enter the race, let alone win it. The sticking point was the prerequisite Residency Requirement which mandates that any potential candidate must have resided in the elected position's AOR, or Area of Responsibility, for 12 consecutive months prior to an election.

In filing his Certificate of Candidacy Jalosjos listed his address as Barangay Veteran's Village in the municipality of Ipil, the capital of Zamboanga Sibugay Province. After both he and his brother, who also emerged victoriously from that same May of 2010 Election, the Barangay Captain of Veteran's Village, Dan Erasmo Sr. filed two petitions with COMELEC in which he said he had never even seen either man visiting the barangay, let alone living in it. After gaining his Congressional seat Jalosjos thumbed his nose at COMELEC and its June 3rd ruling saying that since he had already been sworn into office it was out of the agency's hands. If anyone was to address the issue of Residency, or any other objectionable issue, they would have to do so via the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, or HRET. COMELEC responded that when Jalosjos had been sworn into office the issue of Residency had been pending with the agency and so the mandate clearly lies with COMELEC.

In fact, the controversy had begun as soon as the Jalosjos Clan's intentions became clear. Barangay Captain Erasmo had gotten Jalosjos removed from Ipil's List of Registered Voters on September 11th, 2010 in a Regional Trial Court Ruling in Pagadian City. Boosting the Residency issue was the fact that Jalosjos was then serving as Mayor of Tampilisan, in Zamboanga del Norte Province. Here he is insisting that he is living in Ipil, even though the barangay captain of his registered domicile has never even seen him! To boot, he is. Serving as the mayor of a municipality in another province! Either he lied about Tampilisan OR he lied about Ipil, you can't simultaneously live in 2 municipalities in 2 provinces. On September 30th Ipil's Election Registration Board issued a pointed Resolution that formally scrubbed Jalosjos from the race. Jalosjos of course didn't take that outcome lying down and so filed to have his name restored. On November 26th the Court of Appeals 22nd District sitting in Cagayan del Oro City in Misamis Oriental Province Ruled in Jalosjos favor. Here is the extremely interesting part: With the cut off for adding one's name to the Election Registration Board List being 5PM the next day, November 27th, the Sheriff in Cagayan del Oro City boarded a helicopter that landed in Ipil at 2PM on the 27th! At 4PM he handed the Court of Appeals Ruling directly to the Election Registration Board and when the books closed at 5PM Jalosjos' name was restored! Obviously a significant amount of cash was given for the Ruling, how else to explain the personalised messenger service provided by the Sheriff?

On November 28th Jalosjos filed his Certificate of Candidacy for the 2nd District of Zamboanga Sibugay Province. The incumbent, Dulce Ann Hofer, daughter of George Sr., opted to run for the Governor's seat being vacated by her father who had reached his 9 year term limit. Meanwhile, her brother, George "Jet" Hofer Jr. was running for Dulce Ann's vacated Congressional seat, with Jalosjos shouldering himself into the race as mentioned earlier.

In a recent "Political Developments" entry I had discussed clan patriarch Romeo Jalosjos Sr.'s push to reorganise Region 9, the Region comprised of the three Zamboangan Provinces:

1) Zamboanga del Norte

2) Zamboanga del Sur

3) Zamboanga Sibugay

The Jalosjos scheme involves adding Misamis Occidental Province, or rather re-adding it since it had in the past been joined with the region. The plan also called for the renaming of two of the Zamboangan Provinces and a couple of other less important facts. As if that isn't a radical enough face lift there is now a push for the addition of a third Congressional District within Zamboanga del Norte Province. The 3rd District would cover Za$boamga City.

Zamboanga City Councilors Rommel Agan, Melchor "Mel" Rey Sadain, and Cesar Jimenez Sr. along with former Councilor Al Jihan Edding and ex-Vice Mayor of Zamboanga City Manuel "Mannix" Jose Dalipe met with Congressman Erico "Erbie" Basilio Fabian of Zamboanga del Norte Province's 2nd District to try and strengthen their hand. Fabian is still on the fence and merely saying that he will keep an open mind. Ex-Vice Mayor Dalipe says that Congresswoman Maria Isabelle "Beng" Climaco Salazar of Zamboanga del Norte Province's 1st District has climbed aboard and has hosted at least one forum on the initiative. According to Dalipe, most attendees at that forum supported the plan.

Spokesman for the scheme is Councilor Rommel Agan, who is also an attorney as well as being the son of another former Vice Mayor of Zamboanga City, Vitaliano Agan. For all the support thus far, the province's most powerful politico, Mayor Celso Lobregat of Zamboanga City, is dead set against it. Lobregat argues that creating a Congressional District solely for Zamboanga City would end up dividing the municipality, given all the outlying barangays and offshore islands and islets within the city's borders. In fact, Lobregat firmly controls all but a 4 person clique in the City Council so that Councilor Agan doesn't have much of a chance of gaining more support within Zamboanga City. In fact, at a self-orchestrated press conference to disseminate this initiative Agan whined about Lobregat's political machine. According to Agan, anytime any one of the four Opposition Councilors table anything beneficial to their constituency, Lobregat and his allies soundly trounce it. Agan is no political neophyte, experienced on his own as well as being an insider during his father's stint as city Vice Mayor, so why the sob story? This is how the game is played, no suprises.

Currently, each of the two Congressional Districts in Zamboanga del Norte Province receive P70 Million ($1.4 Million), plus hundreds of millions of more Pesos in development and pork. The Local Government Code of 1991 mandates that any new Congressional District must have a minimum population of 250,000. The city now has 800,00.

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