Trader runs for Davao City’s House seat, goes against Garcia dynasty

DAVAO CITY, Philippines—“It’s like fighting the Gods of Olympus,” businesswoman Joji Ilagan-Bian describes how it is to run against an established political family who dominated the city’s second district— the area stretching from Agdao, Buhangin to Bunawan —in the last 21 years.

She was referring to the Garcias, whose daughter, Mylene Garcia, is running for reelection. Mylene, who succeeded her brother Vicente Garcia, is now on her second term. Her brother, Vicente, held the post for three terms, from the 12th to the 15th Congress, succeeding their father, Manuel Garcia, who held the post for three terms since 1992.

“They wield power like it is their birth right, they threaten people who don’t openly support them,” said Bian, who expressed dismay at the sight of her torn posters or a number of barangay supporters whose work appointments and job contracts were terminated for openly supporting her.

But this was not the first time she ran for politics. The former chaiperson of the Mindanao Business Council and two-time president of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industries Inc. (DCCCII) first ran for the city’s congressional seat for the second district in 2001, where she lost to Vicente Garcia.

When Garcia’s term ended, she ran again in 2010 under the political line up of former House Speaker Prospero Nograles who was running for mayor. Bian lost to Garcia’s sister Mylene, staunch ally of Duterte, Nograles’ political rival.

Now, Bian said she decided to run again for the third time to give way, she said, to the “people’s clamor for change.”

“I am the only person willing to take up the challenge to face a formidable 21-year-old dynasty in the congressional district,” she said.

“If I don’t take the challenge now, who will take the cudgel for our people?” she asked.

“I carry with me the people’s aspirations for change,” she said.

The regal smile and elegant bearing shown on her posters, however, was a person expected to be seen inside air-conditioned convention halls of the business groups she used to lead, rather than on the streets, where the teeming masses, aspiring for better lives, were.

As chair of the Mindanao Business Council for five years, from 1998 to 2003, she had pushed for policies reducing the cost of doing business in Mindanao by 10 to 15 per cent. Among the policy changes she claimed to have advocated during her term as MBC chair included the increase in Mindanao’s budget share in agriculture in 2000 from 25 per cent to 28 per cent; and infrastructure, from 26 per cent to 27 per cent; the recognition of Mindanao’s strategic role in Philippine food security; the extension of Travel Tax Exemption in East Asean Growth Area (Eaga); the reduction of Eaga call rates; the Civil Aeronautics Boards (CAB) resolution granting Fifth Freedom Traffic Rights in the Eaga; and the Department of Agriculture’s declaration of Mindanao as foot-and-mouse disease–free.

She also served as president of the DCCCII twice in a row, and had been vice president for Mindanao and national board trustee of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries (PCCI) from 1998 to 2004.

As deputy chair of the East Asean Business Council from 1998 to 2003, she used to carry out Mindanao’s position in the Eaga, an economic growth polygon composed of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines (BIMP).

Bian was also identified closely with former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who appointed her a member of the five-member Maniwang Commission in 2003 to investigate the alleged participation of the military in the Davao bombings. Two years later, Arroyo also appointed her as a member of the 52-member Constitutional Commission to review and recommend changes in the 1987 Constitution when there were moves within the administration for Charter change; and in 2006 to 2010, Arroyo appointed her again to represent Mindanao in the Export Development Council.

Recently, however, she was seen taking part in the One Billion Rising dance protest organized by the militant women’s group Gabriela as part of the worldwide campaign against violence against women in February this year. In Agdao District, leaders identified with progressive groups have also been backing her campaign.

When reports came out in March, that barangay chairmen under the Duterte-led political party Hugpong, have switched allegiance from Garcia to sBian, an angry Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte warned “disloyal” barangay captains they would lose their privileges and would be kicked out of the party.

The Garcias have been one of Duterte’s strongest political allies, and the Duterte-led Hugpong had earlier named Mylene as its congressional bet in the second district.

The prospect of Bian’s victory in the second district could lessen the dominance of Hugpong, which has been controlling practically all political posts in the city, except for the congressional seat of the first district, which has been a bailiwick of Nograles.

Bian, who is running as an independent candidate, but who had previously allied herself with Duterte’s political “enemy,” described herself as a “small fry.”

“The people’s trust and loyalty to Duterte is so strong, that I am too small to be a threat,” said Bian.

She also said she had always been independent in all her professional dealings. She even recalled working with the former mayor, now running unopposed, when she sat at the Davao Tourism Council for five years.

“I am confident that we can work together to bring about positive changes in the city, if I will win this fight,” she said.

Germelina Lacorte
Philippine Daily Inquirer

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Published in: on April 14, 2013 at 6:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

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