In the battle for Cebu governor, Rep. Pablo John Garcia paints his rival as a non-performer who is too dependent on big sponsors, including his prestigious father.
In a Toledo City rally on Monday, Garcia mocked the initials of the Liberal Party and its candidate Hilario “Junjun” Davide III using Cebuano wordplay.
LP, said Garcia, stands for “Laban Papa”, “Laban Presidente” and “Laban Pulis”. (Papa fights for him. The President fights for him. The police fights for him.)
“Ang result, Luoy Probinsya (The result, a pitiful province),” said the congressman.
PJ Garcia leads a One Cebu party caravan in the 3rd district in close company with elder sister Gwen, the suspended Cebu governor, who is seeking PJ's district seat in the House of Representatives.
Strong family support has actually been a common denominator in the campaign of both gubernatorial contenders.
The two Garcia siblings were making strategic appearances together all over the province, distributing Capitol checks and projects side by side in preparation for PJ Garcia's election bid several months before Gwen's unexpected exit in December 2012.
On that month, President Aquino had her suspended for six months as a guilty verdict in an administrative case for grave abuse of power in dealing with an LP vice governor.
PJ's pitch to voters was a “two-for-one” proposition, citing Governor Gwen's delivery of roads, barangay projects, and varied assistance that he promised to continue if elected in May.
The dig at “Papa” refers to Davide's father, retired chief justice and ambassador Hilario Davide Jr., whose face appears in campaign tarps and who gives a live endorsement on the candidate's TV commercial.
Jun Davide has been joining his eldest son's sorties and making his own trips across the province to campaign for the 48-year-old lawyer.
He did the same thing in the 2010 election, cutting short a stint as the Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, to wage what he then called a “Davide and Goliath fight” anchored on honesty and graft-free public service.
The senior Davide's role as a “Mr. Clean” champion is placed front and center of the 2013 campaign to reinforce themes of anti-corruption and President Aquino's “Daan Matuwid”.
Junjun, the candidate, even promotes the retired magistrate's daily morning Bantay Radyo 1260 show on Facebook, inviting online readers : “Atong pamation ang usa ka maligdong nga tawo!” (Let's listen to an upright man!)
PJ Garcia, like his sister, is also tight with their father re-electionist Rep. Pablo Garcia.
At 87 “Pabling” is their pillar when it comes to navigating power alliances in the House of Representatives where he is Deputy Speaker and in approaching Malacañang for sensitive high-level talks about the impasse over Gwen's suspension, where the elder Garcia's advanced age can be invoked for a rare audience with the President.
Still mentally sharp, Pabling also provided the early legal defense strategy for his daughter in the Balili land purchase, saying the underwater land bought for P98.9 million was actually titled and a valid subject of sale, a case Gwen still faces in a Sandiganbayan trial ahead.
IN HIS FOOTSTEPS
By seeking the no. 1 province post, PJ Garcia is following the footsteps of his father, a three-term governor and former congressman of the 3rd district in western Cebu.
In Monday night's Toledo City rally, PJ Garcia this time cited his own record of road projects, and health and education programs in the 3rd district as incumbent congressman.
He drew a sharp contrast with his rival Davide, who had spent the lull after the 2010 election doing mostly party duties as LP chairman of Cebu.
"Aduna na ba kay napa-aspalto nga dalan? Diin ka man niadtong niigo ang alimpos sa Pinamungajan, aksidente sa bus... Unsa iyang agi? Unsa iyang natampo? (Has he asphalted any roads? Where was he when a whirlwind hit Pinamungahan, during the bus accident... What did he accomplish?),” he said.
The night before, Toledo City was the venue of another proclamation rally of an unlikely ally, former senator John H. Osmeña, who is running for mayor as an independent.
The sharp-tongued political veteran is not endorsing Davide, whom he says is too weak to unite the LP, and claims to support Garcia instead.
But he verbally ripped apart Garcia's Toledo city mayoral candidate on the topic of family dynasty.
Holding a flashlight on stage, the 74-year-old Sonny spotlighted the faces of Mayor Aurelio Espinosa and his daughter Vice Mayor Arlene Zambo on a nearby poster.
“Duna bay usa dinha nga akong anak?” (Are any of them my children?) “Tiguwang siya, tinood. Tiguwang ako, tinood. Apan, wala ako'y anak nga nagpanikad ug naglaway nga nag-atang nga mopuli kanako. (He is old, that's true. I am old, that's also true. But I have no children who are excited to replace me.)
Osmeña's only son John-John ,42, has been living in the US, a relationship still estranged over a rocky term as Cebu vice governor and his 2004 decision to run for governor against his father's advice not to trust the Garcias.
John-john, a former ally of the Garcias, was dropped last January from Sandiganbayan graft charges over the 2004 expose of a fake Perdido Lex Foundation, which was used as a conduit for almost P5 million in Capitol funds.
“The decision more than cleared my name... I was framed,” said John-john in an e-mail interview with Cebu Daily News in March.
While he wouldn't point fingers, his father Sonny easily revived his old charge that John-John was manipulated by then Capitol consultant Gwen Garcia, who later ran for her father's post as governor and won in 2004.
Asked about the still-unsolved Perdido Lex case and the wounds reopened by the latest development, Rep. PJ Garcia said he didn't see any “frame up” at all.
“The foundation's trustees were known associates of his son. The foundation's phone number was the phone number of the vice governor's office. The vouchers were signed by his son. The questioned project was the initiative of his son. All acts were traced to his son,” he told CDN.
But the candidate held off attacking Sonny Osmeña for issuing a statement blaming Gwen for his son's travails.
“No, I wouldn't go that far. I think it's just a father's natural instinct to protect his son and to believe his son's innocence. Let's give him that,” said PJ Garcia. Eileen G. Mangubat and Carmel Loise Matus