Thursday, May 10, 2012


The announcement via a live, phoned- in address by Dr. Primo Murillo to the delegates of the 8th Murillo Family Congress in Cagwait town last April 14 of his plan to ran in next year's local polls after more than a decade of absence from local politics may have raised a few eyebrows but the news did not really come as a surprise to many political observers here.  It was, in more ways than one, an announcement much anticipated and predicted as result of the changes and shifts in the local political power structure brought about by the rise of the Liberal Party under of the new administration of President Noynoy Aquino together with the exit from power of the Lakas Party associated with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

With Prospero "Butch" Pichay, the Lakas stalwart and former Arroyo confidant, supposedly out of government and facing possible legal prosecution for corruption and other anomalous acts allegedly committed during his tenure as chairman of the Local Water Utilities Administration during the Arroyo administration, there are many here who feel that the Pimentel-Pichay alliance that has ruled the province for the past decade may have now been substantially weakened and that the Surigao del Sur provincial capitol in the capital city of Tandag may be ripe for the taking next year.

Of course, Governor Johnny Pimentel and Rep. Philip Pichay would probably laugh off such speculations as sheer nonsense.  The Pimentels and Pichays have been consolidating their hold on power over the province since 2001 and have successfully fended off all challenges to their supremacy since then.  Dr. Greg Murillo, the younger brother of Primo and himself formerly a three term mayor of Tago town, banking on the residual populist appeal of the Murillo name, had sought, in three local elections since then, to restore his family's political fortunes only be thwarted every time by the ruling powers' almost total dominance of the province.

Johnny, of course, is on his second term as governor after succeeding his brother Vicente Sr., the man who with Butch Pichay in 2001 oversaw the defeat and fall from power of Primo Murillo who had previously reigned as governor for three uninterrupted terms in the 1990's.  Philip is also on his second term after suceeding his brother Butch who many will recall made a lavishly funded yet unsuccessful bid for the Philippine Senate in 2010 but eventually became a close adviser to then President Arroyo and thereafter LWUA chairman.

The prospect of a possible rematch between the Pimentel-Pichay political machine and the same Primo Murillo who in the 1990's had so dominated Surigao del Sur politics is causing such a hype and anticipatory fever here among the electorate that it has, in effect, obscured by its very drama the sobering fact that it is essentially a development (if and when it happens) that, in these modern, 21st century times, only serves to emphasize how traditional, twisted, backward and corrupted democratic politics remains in this part of the world.

In truth, provincial politics in Surigao del Sur like in most provinces all over this country remains the exclusive domain of the locally entrenched political clans and the economic elite.  The political leadership of this province in its entire history has always been in the hands of such ruling clans like the Pimentels, the Tys, the Castillos in the past, the Murillos, the Pichays in recent years and a few other families  who have by chance or by means of  their economic and political clout have abrogated for themselves the right to lord it over their province mates.

In my view, all this "kilig" and eager excitement among the locals here in Lianga and all over the province concerning an anticipated return bout between veteran politicos from two eminent local political families represents misplaced enthusiasm and energy that should be more fruitfully and rightfully directed elsewhere - towards the establishment of a truly people powered, truly democratic order where critical public issues, real grassroots-based and ideology centered political parties, personal competence and integrity, and an informed and actively involved citizenry voting in free and honest elections determine who should be the political leaders in a society or political constituency rather than the mere accidental possession of a noted family name, the prerequisite political pedigree or coveted membership in what actually amounts to a modern day political, oligarchic aristocracy.


  1. Anonymous12:43 PM

    the question here is - are the people of Surigao del Sur, 1st district in particular, are happy with Cong. Philip Pichay? How about's Johnny Pimentel?

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