After a two-year on-the-job training, performing a job that he did not aspire for in 2010, Gov. Roel Degamo obtained an overwhelming mandate from Oriental Negrenses in last Monday’s election.
Garnering 212,252 votes, Degamo beat closest rival Josy Sy-Limkaichong (LP) by 50,891 votes and Gary Teves (NPC) by 63,648 votes.
Degamo, a fisherman’s son who studied to become a mechanical engineer, was elected as number one Provincial Board Member in 2010. He was elevated to the vice governorship after Vice Gov.Agustin Perdices succeeded the late Gov. Emilio Macias II. Seven months later, Perdices died and Degamo succeeded him as well.
Identifying himself with the grassroots and adopting the style of Fernando Poe Jr., Degamo would shake hands by extending a handshake with one hand followed by an embrace with the other.
Degamo’s political party, the PDP Laban, did not have a war chest the size of the LP and the NPC, who flew their candidates around in helicopters.
Limkaichong and Teves are political heavyweights in their own right, as well. Limkaichong had earned the reputation as a “dragon-slayer” for beating the 21-year reign of the Paras brothers Jacinto and Jerome in the 1st district of Negros Oriental with the support of only one out of the nine mayors of that district. She is currently serving her second term as congresswoman of the 1st District.
Teves, on the other hand, is a former three-term Congressman of the 3rd District of Negros Oriental, where his nephew Henry now sits as Congressman.
Teves also had the support of 2nd District Cong. George Arnaiz, whose candidates lorded over the 2nd District in last Monday’s elections.
To conventional political strategists, Degamo was seen as a weak candidate. He had no strong political organization (his supporters organized their organization in Zamboanguita town barely one week before the elections) and he had not have the open support of a single mayor from the Province’s 20 towns and five cities. Neither did he get the vaunted endorsement of the Iglesia ni Cristo, who threw their support for Teves.
But he had an ace up his sleeve — he had the support of both the Roman Catholic and the Protestant churches. Degamo had been openly endorsed by priests and pastors, beyond the prying eyes of the established political organizations.
Dr. Reynaldo Rivera, a political scientist and dean of Graduate Studies at Silliman University, said the support of the Catholic and Protestant churches was a big factor for Degamo’s victory because their organization reaches down to the grassroots. The masa identity was a sharp contrast to the other candidates identified with the professional group, in a Province whose voters largely belong to the “class D” crowd.
Rivera also attributed Degamo’s phenomenal victory to his being the incumbent Governor. “He campaigned through his performance.”
The third factor, Rivera added, was probably the fact that “he is a new face” in Negros Oriental politics.
Still astonished by his own victory, Degamo said it was really a result of their trust in God. “The voters are now getting wiser,” he said.
But Degamo’s popularity could not bring his running mate, Dr. Henry Sojor, to victory.
While Sojor, former Board Member and former president of the Negros Oriental State University, posted a wide margin over rival Dr. Mark Macias (LP) in the 2nd District, his wins were overshadowed by the overwhelming victory of Macias in the 1st District, the bailiwick of Limkaichong.
Macias was proclaimed Vice Governor with 160,650 votes as against Sojor’s 137,527 votes, and incumbent Vice Gov. Apolinario Arnaiz Jr.’s 119,653 votes.
While he is the grandson of the late Cong. Lamberto Macias and son of the late Gov. Emilio Macias II, the younger Macias is a newcomer to politics, having practiced and honed his medical skills in orthopedics in Metro Manila.
Dr. Mark Macias gave up his medical practice in orthopedics, and relocated to Negros Oriental with his family three years ago, where he started his medical practice at the Silliman Medical Center.
But the invitation of Limkaichong to be her running mate seemed too hard to resist. “I could say I was already living a comfortable life when this opportunity to be of service to the people of Negros Oriental came.” Following his father’s footsteps, Dr. Macias also decided to take the road less travelled and threw his hat in the ring.
The decision meant he would have to semi-retire from being a doctor, which, for a self-made man, meant a substantial loss of income.
Macias could not mount a parallel campaign but had to rely on Limkaichong every step of the way, going wherever his gubernatorial candidate went.
Macias’ strong showing, even in the early surveys, surprised even the seasoned political strategists in Manila. “Didn’t you say he is the candidate with no money and no (parallel) organization?” asked a political management expert who came to Dumaguete last April to show the survey results.
Aside from acknowledging the strong support of Limkaichong for his vice gubernatorial bid, Mark Macias credited his victory to his father Dodo. “The people of Negros Oriental still love my father, and I won because of my name,” Macias admitted. He said he now needs to work hard to make a name for himself.
Degamo has no ally among the Congressmen-elect, namely: Manuel Iway (LP-1st District), George Arnaiz (NPC-2nd District) and Pryde Henry Teves (NPC-3rd District).
Neither does he have any ally in the Provincial Board which is made up of four Liberal Party members: Dr. Liland Estacion, Georgita Martinez, Jessica Villanueva, and Clyde Lim; and six NPC members: Erwin Macias, Mariant Escano -Villegas, Mellimoore Saycon, Rommel Erames, Peve Obaniana-Ligan and Edmund Dy, promising tight check-and-balance dynamics between the executive and legislative departments.
Macias, however, said he is looking forward to working harmoniously with the executive department, adding that they did not join politics to look for a fight. “We are here to serve the people,” he said.