Monday, November 12, 2012


In the staid, often predictable and conservative world of Lianga politics where the right to run for public office is traditionally reserved for the more senior and often elderly members of the town's established political clans, the one-on-one showdown between Roy Sarmen and Sammy Dollano in next year's local mayoralty elections should be garnering a high degree of local interest and anticipation.  After all, both are relatively young politicians with much of their political careers ahead of them and both are locking horns in an election where, for the first time, a new wave of younger leaders may be finally dominating the local political arena once the exclusive domain of what is clearly a fading and increasingly irrelevant generation of aging town fathers.

That is, however, not the case and why that is so is a question that begs to be answered.

Roy Sarmen is only in his late forties but he is already a veteran politico who belongs to a big political clan in Lianga.  This can be a decisive plus factor in a culture where voting for political candidates on the basis of blood and family relations is commonplace. He is a former barangay captain of the poblacion barangay and a former municipal vice-mayor who in 2008 succeeded the late Vicente Pedrozo as mayor after the latter succumbed to a lingering illness before he could complete his term as mayor of Lianga.  In 2010, he was elected to his first full term as mayor. His father, the late Leonor Sarmen Sr., also served as town mayor for a couple of terms.

Sammy Dollano had been this town's municipal agricultural officer for some years and was formerly a municipal councilor prior to resigning that post to accept appointment to head Lianga's municipal agriculture office.  He also comes from a political family and his father, Meneleo Dollano, used to be active in local politics during his time.  He is also considered to be well connected politically and has familial links, through his wife, to both Rep. Philip Pichay (1st District of Surigao del Sur) and his brother, Prospero "Butch" Pichay who together with the Ty-Pimentel clan is the dominant political force in Surigao del Sur.

If there is something that is damping the enthusiasm of the local electorate for the upcoming contest between these two personalities, it is the widespread perception here that despite the fact that both men have already established careers in the field of public service, both have yet to really convince jaded voters here that either of them has the far-reaching vision, the iron will, the personal integrity and solid commitment to progress and prosperity that Lianga so desperately needs for the future.

Of course, the official campaign period for local candidates is still more than two months away and both contenders still have plenty of time to brainstorm and strategize and then ultimately sell their candidacies to the voting public.  But in the case of these two already experienced politicians whose personalities and public service track records are not exactly unfamiliar  to most of the people here, the noticeable lack of palpable excitement over what should be a landmark contest between two, young and up-and-coming political mavericks should be a cause for concern for them and their supporters.

One thing is crystal clear, though.  Lianga is fast coming up a crucial crossroads in its political history and it behooves us, its citizens, to make sure that the very people who seek our mandate to lead us for at least the next three years are the very best and most qualified people we have among us.  We also have the obligation to encourage the development of of a local political culture that encourages both full and open participation as well as accountability and excellence in public service, where candidates are elected to office because they are actually the best there is and not because, the choices being limited, the only bet possible must be those on who, in the final analysis, are the lesser evil.

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