Wednesday, May 15, 2013


The local slate of municipal candidates under the Liberal Party, as expected, dominated the local elections in Lianga in the May 13 general elections.  Mayor Roy Sarmen and Vice-Mayor Jun Lala convincingly trounced their opponents and won their re-election bids.  At the time of the writing of this post, at least five of their candidates for the municipal council are set to win new three year terms.

There was some speculation here before and during the official campaign that Sammy Dollano, Sarmen's lone rival for the mayor's seat would be able to mount a strong challenge to the incumbent chief executive (see previous blog post here).  Rumors had flown thick and fast that Dollano was stockpiling a sizable war chest and was on the verge of forming a well organized political machine that was capable of unseating Sarmen.  In the end, nothing of that sort happened and Team Sarmen which is allied with the provincial slate of the Liberal Party under Governor Johnny Pimentel largely ruled the day.

In the race for the eight seats in the municipal council, the LP also managed to get a fresh mandate for at least five of its candidates, all  of them serving incumbents.  Two independents and one from the LAKAS party (allied with former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and incumbent Rep. Philip Pichay of Surigao del Sur's first district who incidentally is leading the vote count against his main opponent, Abet Ty-Delgado) who made it to the winners' circle, however, all made a strong showing and ended up grabbing three of the top four slots.  For an updated list of the winning candidates here in Lianga in the May 2013 local polls you can go here.

The one -on-one race for the vice-mayoralty post which pitted close relatives against each other resulted in Jun Lala, the incumbent vice-major, burying his opponent, Ernie Layno who had already previously served three terms as a municipal councilor, in a lopsided, landslide victory.  Lala is actually a paternal nephew of Layno yet the contest between these two men had been a bitterly fought and closely watched fight (see related blog post here).  It had sharply divided and split branches of the extended Layno clan which had once been a dominant force in Lianga politics in the past decades.

The results of the May 13 elections have seen the clan's political influence diminished as two scions of its most prominent and leading family, namely Ernie Layno and Ricky Layno (who ran as municipal councilor under the LP and Team Sarmen) all lost their political bids. Whether the clan can again get its act together and recover politically in the future is something that has yet to be seen.  The emerging consensus here is that it's once vaunted clout can now be considered to be on the wane and this is a significant development, if that observation is indeed valid, since this town's politics has always been the exclusive playground of influential family and clan groupings and one where many people consider blood and familial relations as a prime basis for choosing their leaders.

On the whole, the elections in Lianga has been peaceful and orderly.  Except for the usual complaints on delays largely caused the occasional malfunctioning PCOS (precinct count optical scanning) machine and the local voters' unfamiliarity with the new voting procedures under the automated voting system, the local polls can be called a procedural and technical success.

But it is obvious to me as it is to many concerned citizens and political observers here that many of the other problems that have always plagued elections in the past are still present despite all the modern technological advances and enhancements being brought into the voting process.  There was still rampant vote-buying and  many reported incidents of voter intimidation as well as other less overt and subtle forms of electoral malfeasance here in Lianga and elsewhere in the province.  Political families and clans still rule over many areas here and political violence continues to exist.

It is, therefore, clear that the use of modern technology to modernize the electoral process alone and by itself cannot solve what is wrong, corrupt and dysfunctional about our existing political culture and our current political system.  Even if the present use of PCOS machines and other forms of voting automation can finally be proven to be a fast, efficient and accurate alternative to the old manual balloting process, there is still a lot that needs to be done to ensure that future elections will finally be safe, free, credible and truly reflective of the will of the people.

But that can only happen if we ourselves want positive change.  The desire and the demand for reforms must come from the masses and the majority of the electorate.  The present defective and morally ambiguous political culture and the corrupt political system that it has spawned continues to exist not just because there are corrupt politicians who make use of it, and thrive on it but because we, Filipinos, whether here in Lianga or elsewhere, have been sitting idly by, allowing it to flourish and even grow strong, resilient and well entrenched.

We must first learn to firmly say no to all that it represents and then work together and hand in hand to permanently eliminate it and those that support it.  Only then, as a body politic, can we truly say that we have indeed changed and moved forward as we should,


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