David versus Goliath

By: Manuel “Boy” Mejorada

JULIUS Cezar Tajanlangit was only 19 when he won his first term as Sangguniang Bayan member of Tobias-Fornier, Antique. At the time, he was pursuing his degree in Agriculture at the Central Philippine University in Iloilo City. He had also served as SK chairman of Barangay Paciencia in his town at the tender age of 15. But public service has been in his blood; his father, Atty. Cezar, imbued that in him as a young boy.

Small wonder that Nonoy, as he is fondly called by family and friends, captured the hearts and minds of his townmates. In every election starting with his first term, Tajanlangit had always won as number one in the municipal council. His youth wasn’t a handicap for him. In fact, it gave him boundless energy to deliver a brand of public service never seen before by his constituents.

His peers in the Philippine Councilors League of Antique recognized his outstanding public service and leadership. In 2016, shortly after his election to a second term as SB member of Tobias-Fornier LGU, Nonoy won overwhelmingly over the bet of former Governor Exequiel “Boy-Ex” Javier. His performance as PCL president of Antique early on impressed his colleagues in the whole region. He was elected Regional President of the PCL Western Visayas.

With such sterling performance, one would expect Nonoy Tajanlangit will coast to an easy re-election on Sept. 20.

But the political giants of Antique – Congresswoman Loren Legarda, Governor Rhodora Cadiao and former Governor Sally Zaldivar-Perez – have other plans. They want to go back to the Jurassic Age. They are fielding 70-year old Orchid Fornier, who had held the post as municipal mayor of Tobias-Fornier, and is now the number 5 SB member of the municipality.

All of a sudden, this has turned into a David-versus-Goliath battle.

It’s not about who is the better candidate for the position as PCL Antique chapter president, but rather a question of who is willing to be the lapdog of these powerful politicians in Antique. It’s about loyalty to the powers-that-be, and not loyalty to the people.

And these political giants are not leaving things to chance. Apparently, they are aware that Tajanlangit will easily defeat Fornier in a level playing field. It’s a millennial versus an aging politician, bagets versus forgets. The SB members of the 18 municipalities will have no difficulty picking Nonoy over Fornier. In the tale-of-the-tape, Nonoy enjoys a tremendous advantage, especially with his performance as incumbent PCL Antique chapter President.

So they are flexing their political muscle to the maximum.

On Monday, Sept. 16, Governor called for a meeting of SB members from the entire province, with the exception of councilors of Tobias-Fornier. She dangled a very irresistible offer: support Fornier and they will each get 10 slots for the Cash-for-Work program under the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). In addition, they will get 10 scholars.

There is information that a big-time contractor in Iloilo is also spending millions of pesos for the campaign of Fornier. Of course, that is with the expectation he will get lucrative projects from Cong. Loren and Gov. Cadiao.

Nonoy knows this is going to be a tough battle. He is fighting the combined resources of Legarda, Cadiao and Zaldivar-Perez. It’s only his father, Atty. Cezar Tajanlangit, who is backing Nonoy.

The ugly face of traditional politics is unraveling in Antique. Legarda, Cadiao and Zaldivar simply want to prove the point that political power in Antique now rests in their hands. What is bad about it is that government resources are being thrown into the battle to give Fornier undeserved advantage.

It’s not that I am naïve about how politics works. There is hardly a province, city or municipality where the political kingpins don’t meddle in elections like the PCL. It’s about wielding absolute control. But in this case, these three ladies aren’t just using their persuasive abilities to get votes for Fornier. Government programs that should be isolated from politics are being used to swing votes in her favor.

Of course, nothing is definite until the ballots are cast and the votes counted. Between now and Friday, I am certain the pressure on the councilors of Antique will mount. But then, these individual SB members still have their conscience to guide them on election day. Can they resist the temptation? Only the councilors know the answer.