Last Monday mid morning, Davao del Norte Governor Anthony “AGR” del Rosario called up more than 20 mediamen for a press conference inside his conference room at Mankilam Capitol. There he declared his independence from any political party. He announced he officially resigned as member of Liberal Party. But he is not yet joining the PDP-Laban party which in the province is led by Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez, the party’s secretary general, and the 1st District congressman who has a running serious rift with 2nd District Cong. Tony Boy Floirendo.
Gov. AGR’s announcement has created ripples across the province. What’s certain is that the Liberal Party in the province fell down and melted away with his decision, making casualties of political futures of LP incumbents such as the District 1 board members clinging still to LP.
I interviewed several political pundits and these are their impressions to the governor’s latest move of going independent, meaning partyless: 1. “He’s playing safe by going political loner”, 2. “He wants to create emotional situation so as to be seen pitiful, he’s engaging in sympathy building”, 3. “He goes independent so he can go to any side, without counting the partyline, so he’s a political butterfly”, 4. “It’s his wisest move, a classic Del Rosario move, alam na this, but how’s the skeleton in the closet?”. 5. “It shows that the Del Rosarios have no end game strategy. The Del Rosarios are back now to zero.”
When he announced he goes independent, free from any political party, his act is first seen as a tactical maneuver to stave off what can be dubbed as a “Chiongkee threat”. Well, senior Compostela Valley Board Member and ex-Gov. Arturo “Chiongkee” Uy has been rumored to be interested running for governor in Davao del Norte from what was first reported that he was eyeing for Tagum City mayorship. What buoyed up this buzz is when he’s reported to be already circulating himself in various places in DavNor “to dovetail with the DavNor people and get some feel of their pulses ” in the words of one highly placed source. AGR said he thought his decision out for one and a half months.
“Stave off” as a phrase would mean “to stop something bad from happening, or to keep an unwanted situation or person away, usually temporarily”.
At the same time, Gov. AGR apparently wants to stave off the emerging powerhouse and formidable alliance of Alvarez, the Uys of Tagum City, Vice Gov. Alan Dujali, Tagum City Mayor Allan Rellon and so far the mayors who go for PDP-Laban – Mayor Al David Uy of IGACOS, Kapalong Mayor Maritess Timbol, San Isidro Mayor Arnel Sitoy and Talaingod Mayor Basilio Libayao, and count New Corella Mayor Rhodora Alcoran, who pledged to be a new PDP-Laban party member just on Thursday in the mass oathtaking of the party in Panabo City.
The Uys of Tagum would mean senior Comval BM and ex-Gov. Chiongkee Uy and former Tagum City Mayor Rey “Cee O” Uy, who is still very much influential for having at least the supermajority of incumbent barangay captains in the city trooping under his leadership though he is non-incumbent at present.
I have also this one old Tagumenyo political turk who asked not to be named saying that the alliance of leaderships of Alvarez and Uys backed up by incumbent mayors with the vote-rich city of Tagum and the five other mayors who have switched sides to Alvarez camp and the plus factor of ex-Vice Gov. Baby Suaybaguio and his big Suaybaguio clan is a powerhouse dream team formidable enough to defeat the Floirendos and even with the Del Rosarios in the 2019 election.
“For one, it would be for the first time in the history of the province that the combined resources of Floirendos and Del Rosarios can now be matched with the combined resources of Speaker Alvarez and Uy,” he reckoned. That’s in electoral context.
Alvarez has been often talked about in rounds awash with funds because being a Speaker naturally enables him to have access to vast government resources under the congressional power of the purse, more so as he has a supermajority in Congress under his beck and call, thus making him as truly a President’s protégé Speaker.
I’m getting endeared to the President when he breaks the back of oligarchy in the provinces. One wag said that Gov. AGR is actually a constraint to this anti-oligarchy drive of Duterte administration if he becomes one of the allies of the Speaker. The wag said “tell it to the marines” when the former Gov. Rodolfo Del Rosario said that he’s solidly behind the leadership of Speaker Alvarez. He projected that in the end after the AGR’s furlough of being independent he’ll support Floirendo simply because “blood is thicker than water.”
An insider source shared his A1 info that actually all the conditions of Gov. AGR were given as when he asked that he be formally invited to join the PDP-Laban. That would mean in written form, and then a protocol was followed that the invitation would come from national PDP-Laban President, in the person of Senate President Koko Pimentel. The invitation reached the governor before the Aug. 28 mass oathtaking in Tagum City. And when the time came when he was asked of his decision, the governor accordingly withheld his decision.
The Aug. 28 Tagum mass oathtaking was attended by Senate President Pimentel, and according to the source, the Speaker had “a displeasure” over AGR’s apparent ambivalence to join PDP-Laban, so much so that there was a text message from a mayor sent to another mayor that belittled PDP-Laban and indirectly, ergo, Alvarez leadership. That text message inevitably reached to the Speaker’s cellphone, the source said. So then AGR’s subsequent intention to join PDP-Laban was already being cleared, thought out much by Alvarez, and AGR’s joining appears headed to be nixed by Alvarez, guessed the source, given the past charge of political lobotomy made by the Del Rosarios to Alvarez when they supported former Cong. Arrel Olano (against Alvarez in 2004, and against his estranged wife Emily in 2007 and 2010 polls).
Alvarez political affairs officer Rose Garcia said to the press last Tuesday a day after AGR announced his independence there’s no conflict between the speaker and the governor and that the speaker has not been heard to be closing his door to AGR’s joining to PDP-Laban. She said that the issue would be resolved at the national level of PDP-Laban.
Meantime, words “loyalty check” came up from AGR during his presscon last Monday. He said he is against to that loyalty check. He did not name names.
Now this quarter has this penultimate impression in query form: Has Gov. AGR just preempted the inevitable Alvarez rejection of his joining to PDP-Laban after the loyalty check when he declared he’s going independent and partyless for now to save face? That’s apart from staving off both the so-called “Chiongkee threat” and the fast emerging powerhouse PDP-Laban alliance and dream team in Davao del Norte. It seems I have three impressions here, guys and pundits alike.