At Large

A ‘telenovela’ contest

MUCH OF the coverage and commentary on next year’s elections are currently focused on the leading aspirants for president.

Ruling Liberal Party and presidential endorsee Mar Roxas has already launched a series of coy TV ads extolling the “matuwid na daan” laid down by the Aquino administration, focusing for now on the positive results of the social amelioration program Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4 P’s.


Self-proclaimed, as in being “moist-eyed” for his dream of the presidency, is Vice President Jejomar Binay who trumpets in his ads that what he and his family had done for Makati in the last few decades they will likewise achieve for the rest of the country.

Then there is, of course, Sen. Grace Poe, who maintains a staunch silence on her ultimate political plans; although, in the wake of thinly-veiled attacks on her citizenship status and even her personal life (alcohol and drugs, no less!), she is beginning to sound more and more combative and inching closer to an announcement of her own presidential run. Poe is also emerging as the favorite running mate-to-be of both Roxas and Binay, both of whom she currently outranks in the polls.


Also-rans, or also-mentions, are Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who continues to play coy although that hasn’t stopped him from dropping hints about a presidential run; Sen. Bongbong Marcos, said to be among those being eyed as Binay’s running mate, even if he continues to drop hints about aiming for Malacañang this time around; and Sen. Chiz Escudero, who says his plans hinge on whatever decision Poe makes.

And then there are the other vice presidential possibles: Sen. Sonny Trillanes who says he is simply waiting for the Nacionalista Party, to which he belongs, to “bless” his aspirations; and congresswoman Leni Robredo, widow of the late interior secretary Jesse Robredo. She says that at the moment, she is eyeing a run for either congresswoman (for her second term) or senator.

* * *

ALL these names and personalities, and the many permutations of partnerships and alliances, make for quite an interesting electoral contest. But if and when they or their parties make their final announcements, I suspect it will all be anti-climactic.

Save for Poe making her choice among her many suitors, the competition has little by way of drama or human interest. For all intents and purposes, it will all be business as usual.

But how’s this for telenovela material? The estranged wife of a congressman has announced her mayoral candidacy against her husband’s alleged mistress, who reportedly belongs to a political clan herself. Playing the third wheel in this very interesting contest is a member of the provincial board, who may not have known what hit him when the wife announced her face-off with her husband’s “soul mate.”

A news report in another paper says that Judy Chin Amante, wife of Agusan del Norte Rep. Erlpe John Amante, has confirmed her candidacy for mayor of Cabadbaran City, a post also being eyed by the congressman’s rumored girlfriend, Katrina Mortola, as well as by board member Rey Jamboy.


As if to draw the line between her and the “homebreaker” sharing her husband, the wife told a reporter that her platform will center on “morality, good governance, women’s and children’s rights.”

* * *

THE congressman’s missus alluded to differences between her husband and his sister, incumbent Governor Angel Amante-Matba, adding that she hoped her sister-in-law would support her in the coming elections.

News reports say the differences between the Amante siblings are “irreconcilable,” and those who wish to read into the intricacies of local politics could very well speculate if the estranged wife’s candidacy is not a proxy war between the governor and the congressman. Whatever, the campaign and elections should prove to be ve-r-r-r-y inte-r-r-r-esting indeed in Agusan del Sur!

Whoever wins the mayoral race in Cabadbaran, it would only mean a further extension and sweep of the political power of one of Agusan del Norte’s preeminent political clans.

Both the congressman and the governor can trace their political lineage to their late father, Edelmiro Amante, who served as congressman from 1987 to 1995, save for a brief stint as executive secretary under then President Fidel Ramos, after which he resumed his old congressional post. Father and daughter took turns holding down the congressional post until the elder Amante’s death.

In the years since, Angel and John have been alternating the congressional and gubernatorial posts between them, with sundry relatives running for and winning other posts in the province.

* * *

BUT the Amantes are not the only political power in Agusan. In Agusan del Sur, politics is dominated by the Plaza clan, which likewise has divided the congressional seat and the posts of governor and mayor of the capital among its members. At times, political alliances even crossed borders, with an Amante contesting a post against a Plaza.

So even if better-half Chin Amante does emerge victorious, it won’t mean much in terms of changing the balance of power and privilege in Cabadbaran City or Agusan del Norte, although I’m sure her estranged husband will be having fits of pique.

But if the alleged mistress wins? Then the congressman might feel he has snagged not just an important ally, but even bragging rights among his colleagues and allies.

Then again, this extramarital contest could signal the beginning of the end of the Amantes’ hold on power in their bailiwick.

This outsider can only hope the case of the antagonistic Amantes of Agusan lends even more urgency and importance to the passage of the antidynasty bill in Congress. Although, with the likes of Congressman John ensconced in the legislature, we won’t hold our breath for it.

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TAGS: “matuwid na daan”, 2016 Elections, Grace Poe, Liberal Party, Mar Roxas, nation, news, Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, politics, Rodrigo Duterte
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