CamSur political clans slug it out to keep clout
By JUAN ESCANDOR, JR.
NAGA CITY—Hounded by internal feud, two political clans of Camarines Sur province are running against their own family members in the political race while another political clan is challenged by a popular actor, who can make or unmake their hold on politics in a district.
The Villafuerte political clan, whose recent political rule in the province include 15 years of elder Luis Villafuerte and nine years of his son Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte as governors from 1995-2004 and 2004-2013, respectively, is feuding publicly.
Grandfather vs. Grandson
Ironically, both Rep. Luis R. Villafuerte and grandson Miguel, son of Gov. LRay, are running against each other in the gubernatorial race in Camarines Sur.
When Luis served his last term, he was the longest serving governor for 15 years in Camarines Sur. He was succeeded by his youngest son Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte who is serving his ninth and last year as governor of the biggest province of Bicol.
LRay and Luis were estranged in 2007 elections when the father-son feud exploded into the public scene with the latter fielding a candidate against the former.
In 2007 elections, LRay made an alliance with fourth district Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella, an erstwhile political enemy of Luis since the Batasang Pambansa election in 1984.
The Villafuertes and Fuentebellas clashed in 2004 elections in the gubernatorial position wherein Felix William “Wimpy” Fuentebella lost to LRay.
In the 2010 presidential elections, Luis bolted Lakas-Kampi and joined the Nationalist People’s Coalition which made him become party-mate of Arnulfo.
Luis and Arnulfo, both last-term congressmen, cemented their alliance against the former’s son LRay on the issue of splitting Camarines Sur into two provinces with the creation of a new one comprising the fourth district of Camarines Sur.
Fielding his son Miguel for governor, LRay’s feud with his father Luis has been heightened. Nelly Favis Villafuerte, mother to Gov. LRay, is running for congresswoman in the third district where her husband Luis is serving his last term as congressman.
For LRay, he opted to run as congressman of the second district of Camarines Sur against Rep. Diosdado Ignacio Arroyo, a second-term congressman.
In the third district, the Villafuerte political clan’s roots date back to the Japanese-time Camarines Sur Gov. Mariano E. Villafuerte Sr., who was killed by guerillas from Camarines Norte on May 5, 1945, including wife Choling and eldest son Jose in Vito, Siruma, Camarines Sur while fleeing the Tangcong Vaca Guerilla Unit (TVGU) who launched a siege of the Capitol on May 2, 1945 in Naga City. (See “In the Crucible of An Asymmetrical War In Camarines Sur 1942-1945” by Jose V. Barrameda Jr.)
The Villafuerte patriarch was a lawyer and an assemblyman before World War II broke out in 1941.
Several decades later in 1974 the patriarch’s son lawyer Luis R. Villafuerte broke into the national political scene when he was appointed Minister of Trade and Industry during the administration of strongman Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
Luis bolted the Marcos administration in 1984 and went home to Naga City to form an opposition slate for Batasang Pambansa members for the first, second, third, and fourth districts of Camarines Sur, and won all the seats.
After the EDSA I, he was appointed governor of Camarines Sur in 1986 until 1992, when he lost in the local elections won by Jose Bulaong, who took the reins of the provincial government for one three-year term. He made a comeback in 1995 and served as governor until 2004.
Cousin vs Cousin
In Iriga City, Alfelor first cousins Ronald and Emmanuel Jr. are poised to clash in the mayoral race. Ronald is the son of late former Rep. Ciriaco Alfelor and brother to incumbent Mayor Madelaine Alfelor Gazmen, while Emmanuel Jr. is the son of former Mayor Emmanuel Alfelor.
A relatively new political clan in Camarines Sur emerging in 1972 with the election of late Gov. Felix Alfelor Sr., the Alfelor political clan has suffered defeats in the past elections which reduced their political influence in Iriga City.
From 1988 to 1992, Felix’s son Ciriaco (now deceased), won the congressional seat representing the former fourth district which was taken over by another son Felix Jr. until 2010. The fourth district became fifth district in April 2010 when the one additional district was created in Camarines Sur.
Another Alfelor brother, Emmanuel (now deceased and former mayor of Iriga City), ran and lost to Rep. Salvio Fortuno in 2010 elections.
Madelaine Alfelor Gazmen, daughter of Ciriaco, was elected mayor of Iriga City in 2004 whose term will end in 2013.
Planning to make a comeback, Felix Jr. is bent on running again as congressman of the fifth district against Rep. Fortuno who will finish his first term in 2013.
In the 2013 elections, Felix William Fuentebella, son of Deputy Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella, is gunning the congressional seat his father would leave vacant against actor Aga Muhlach who had been cleared by the Election Registration Board of San Jose to be an eligible voter of the town, and thus qualified to run.
The Fuentebella political clan has for its patriarch Jose Fuentebella who was a founding member of the Nacionalista Party, together with former President Manuel L. Quezon and Vice President Sergio Osmeña in 1907.
They are the longest reigning political clan in Bicol since the American period.
Consistently power wielders in the local and national political scene for decades, the Fuentebella political clan occupies Congress seat, two mayoral posts, a seat in the provincial board, a seat in a town council, and a Sangguniang Kabataan president in the 10-town fourth district, or Partido area, after 105 years.
Arnulfo, the incumbent figurehead of the Fuentebella political clan and the deputy speaker of the Lower House, is a leading proponent of the bill carving out Nueva Camarines province, which is the present fourth district, the 10-town Partido area, from Camarines Sur province.
Critics of the bill see that the move would allow the deputy speaker skirt his term limit and run for another position in the new province.
Arnulfo repeatedly denied Nueva Camarines was designed to benefit him and his clan, saying that creating another province out of Camarines Sur would help reduce poverty levels as the area to be governed would be reduced and easier to handle.
His father Felix, the youngest brother of Jose, was governor of Camarines Sur from 1976 to 1986.
Arnulfo, the second generation Fuentebella, entered politics in 1978 as representative of the fourth district in the Batasang Pambansa during the Martial Law period. He lost in the 1984 Batasang Pambansa election and made a comeback in 1992 elections and finished his three terms as congressman in 2001.
When he finished his three terms as congressman, he fielded son Felix William or Wimpy who served for one term in Congress and was among the young congressmen called the “brat pack” who initiated the move to impeach former Chief Justice Hilario Davide. Wimpy is presently with the Housing Land Use Regulatory Board.
Arnulfo ran again as congressman of the fourth district after Wimpy finished his one term and won the successive congressional races from 2004, 2007 to 2010. On his part, Wimpy ran and lost in the gubernatorial race in 2004 against LRay.
Not yet a clan to speak of in terms of politics in Camarines Sur, Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. will run in the first district with no known serious rival in the 2013 congressional race.
Rolando Jr. is the son of the late Cong. Rolando Andaya Jr. whose career in politics started in 1984 with the Batasang Pambansa. Years hence, the congressional seat in the first district was handed down to Rolando Jr. until he was assigned secretary of the Department of Budget and Management by former president and now Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2006, which paved the way for the latter’s son Rep. Diosdado Ignacio “Dato” Arroyo to take over his post in 2007 elections.
In 2009, Rep. Villafuerte authored a bill that divided into three the first and second districts of Camarines Sur which added one more district to make it five districts in the province during the 2010 elections.
Passed into law as “Republic Act (RA) 9716 entitled “An Act Reapportioning the Composition of the First and Second Legislative Districts in the Province of Camarines Sur and Thereby Creating a New Legislative District from Such Reapportionment,” the Supreme Court ruled with finality in April 2010 to declare it constitutional against the petition of former senator and now President Benigno Aquino III that it did not meet the minimum 250,000 population requirement.
The move of dividing the first and second districts into three districts was perceived as political accommodation for Andaya and Arroyo after the end of the Arroyo administration.