By Jun Ledesma

A great divide in Davao del Norte

January 14, 2021, 3:13 pm

HE said a mouthful against the administration of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte and finally, on November 15, 2020, resigned as a member of PDP-Laban where he served as Secretary-General for almost five years. Former Speaker now incumbent Representative of District 1 of Davao del Norte, Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez then proceeded to resurrect from the catacombs the forgotten Reforma Party to launch what he claimed as an “apolitical” voters education advocacy. 

Last January 10, 2021, his birthday, he issued invitations for a forum on “Voters Education”. Only this time a huge tarpaulin with “WE NEED A LEADER, 2022” became the centerpiece. Boldly written in the tarpaulin is the litany of what he claims are: the failures of the government in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic; the inability of the government to stave off the impact of the pandemic on the economy; and closures of business and job losses and the mishandling of the South China Sea issue.  It also put the blame on the government for why overseas Filipino workers are losing their jobs in countries where they work.  It sounded like the issues were copy-pasted from the opposition. 

Having laid those premises, the manifesto defined the qualities of the leader for 2022, among these are: 1. May Utak (with brains); 2. May Puso at Damdamin (With a heart and compassion for the people); 3. May Bayag (with balls); and 4. May Paninindigan (with political will).

Any which way you look at it, the premise was a veritable attack against the Duterte administration only neatly interwoven in a Voters Education package. The clincher, the definition of a leader,  tells of a lot of innuendos.  For Alvarez to say that the forum on Voters Education is apolitical, is actually as deceptive as the claim.  Reactions from the social media and local commentaries were varied largely denouncing Bebot Alvarez for being critical of President Duterte which made him Speaker of the house. It also revived the issue of how he turned against his bosom friend, former Rep. Antonio Floirendo, who, against all odds, supported him all the way for his bid to get back to congress but later filed cases and campaigned against him. 

Of course, there are those who cheered Bebot for his change of heart and affiliation and these, understandably, are from the opposition.  

But there is more to what meets the eye in that birthday bash and political forum. Recall that in the last midterm elections, Bebot Alvarez was able to assemble a political force versus a long time ruling Floirendo and Del Rosario clan.  Backed up by a campaign war chest that incredibly dwarfed those of the later,  Alvarez team wiped out nearly all the political vestiges of Floirendo and Del Rosario. His team won on all fronts. In the mayoral race, his bets won in all 13 towns and cities except in the towns of Carmen and Dujali.  He swept the congressional seats. The Governor and Vice Governor including those on the provincial board were his teammates. 

That was midterm elections 2019.

Does Bebot Alvarez still have their loyalty? The attendance in the forum and in his birthday celebration tells a story. Of the 13 mayors in Davao del Norte, only the host mayor, Allan Rellon of Tagum, was present. Congressman Alan “Aldu” Dujali and Vice Gov. Rey “CO” Uy were absent.  Speaking of Rellon, rumors are rife that he was not happy with the turn of events as it was transformed from voters' education to political opportunism.  There was a sprinkling of barangay leaders who were in limbo as to what the meeting was all about aside from being a birthday party. Others were surprised why there were politicians from Tarlac, Agusan, Makati, and Bulacan who flew all the way to Davao del Norte. 

Me. I am curious why Lito Banayo, flew all the way from Taiwan where he heads the Manila Economic and Cultural Office. Well,  aside from the fact that the event is still another Covid spreader after “Translasyon” it tells us of the great political divide happening in the banana republic.  However, it did not merit any reaction from President Duterte and neither from Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Dutere, who has no “balls” but can knock out the fourth most powerful person in the Philippines. 


About the Columnist

Image of Jun Ledesma

Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.