OpinionThe undefeated Governor

The undefeated Governor

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The year 1959 was another year for elections – the senatorial and local elections – in the Philippines. Previously, in the presidential elections of 1957, the Nacionalista Party was able to hold their ground as President Carlos Garcia won his re-election bid against the Liberal standard bearer, Jose Yulo.

In the 1959 elections, however, the Liberal Party to some degree started to resurge as Ferdinand Marcos Sr. gained the top spot in the Senate elections, in spite of the Nacionalistas’ supposed advantage. Regardless, the Nacionalista still held ground, and outnumbered most of the Liberals during that time.

In Negros Oriental, there was a political figure who was endearingly called ‘Tsila – short for katsila (Spaniard, Spanish, or Hispanic) – by his constituents. He was indeed a product of his time, and a paragon of honesty and integrity in local politics. His name was Mariano Perdices.

He had served as Mayor for around 11 years: from 1941-1945, September 1945-April 1946, and 1954-1959. Given his experience as a local executive, Tsila then opted and sought for a higher position, but one that would make him closer to the people of Negros Oriental.

Thus, as he was often known as a “hands-on” type of politician, he chose to run for governor of Negros Oriental in 1959 under the Nacionalista Party as he felt that he could do more – or be of better service to the people.

Before the filing of candidacies, the Liberal Party members in Negros Oriental were tirelessly looking for a standard bearer for governor to run against Perdices. The incumbent governor then, Don Serafin Teves initially did not want to run as he, like Perdices, was a loyal member [in fact, the party head] of the Nacionalista Party in Negros Oriental.

Matter-of-factly, both Teves and Perdices had an agreement that the former would not run anymore for re-election since he was supposedly going to be given a government position in Manila.

Moreover, both of them also agreed that Don Serafin’s son, Vicente “Nene” Teves, would be the one to run for mayor of Dumaguete, with Jo Pro Teves (who openly showed his support for his fellow, but not closely related, Teves) as his vice mayor.

Everything was copacetic with all the plans and positioning – a common occurrence even in our local politics today.

If everything just turned out as it was planned, Perdices would have had easily won the elections. However, at the last minute, the agreement between Perdices and Teves faltered as the dogged efforts of the Liberals (spearheaded by former Governor Bandoquillo and Congressman Medina) in trying to convince Don Serafin Teves to run against his friend, Perdices, finally paid off.

Unexpectedly, and quite shockingly, Don Serafin broke off the agreement, switched sides, and, with all odds against him, filed his candidacy for governor as a guest candidate under the Liberal Party. The die had been cast.

The last-minute decision of Don Serafin to run under the Liberal Party had two deleterious political ramifications to his family and political allies.

Firstly, his son Nene Teves, who was planning to run for mayor – as hitherto agreed upon by the Nacionalista Party – was now, or felt like he was, alienated. In the end, since his father did not push through with the agreement, Perdices – who was very influential and popular in Dumaguete – then had no choice but to make Jo Pro Teves the standard bearer for the Nacionalista Party to run for mayor of Dumaguete.

According to Perdices’ son, Luis, his father really felt sorry for Nene Teves, as he was a family friend and close political ally. But Perdices had no choice, he had to push through with his decision.

Secondly, the former political allies of Don Serafin from the Nacionalista Party – specifically, Cong. Lamberto Macias and Cong. Lorenzo Teves – were not pleased with his decision to switch sides. Obviously, both congressmen pledged their support to Perdices.

Politicking in the last months prior to the election, thus, became apparent as Don Serafin, the adamant incumbent governor, supposed that he was being pressured by both Congressmen. He wrote to Finance Sec. Jaime Hernandez, that a month before the elections – members of the Provincial Board passed Resolution 168 which led to the abolition of some important positions in the Governor’s office. Don Serafin told Hernandez that these actions are “not brought about by a reasonable necessity but is simply motivated by personal, partisan, and malicious politics.”

The people of Negros Oriental knew about the conflict among their local politicians, and it was clear to them that Don Serafin clearly switched sides – abandoning his own party – in spite of the previous agreement with Perdices.

This being the case – and of course, with the support of the Nacionalista Party stalwarts in Negros Oriental, under Lorenzo Teves – Perdices defeated Don Serafin Teves.

His running mate, Severino Martinez, also won as vice governor.

Meanwhile, in Dumaguete City, Perdices’ chosen standard bearer, and his protégé, Jo Pro Teves won as city mayor, becoming the first elected city mayor of Dumaguete.

After his defeat, Don Serafin Teves never ran again for an elected position, and decided to devote his time in his business.

Nonetheless, in spite of what happened, Perdices and Don Serafin still continued to be friends after the election. It was nothing personal, it was merely politics.

That was the beauty of politics before, at least in the case of Perdices and Teves. Both were close friends – especially given their history together as they went through the Japanese occupation during World War II. Both played the double game as they had collaborated with the Japanese occupying forces, while surreptitiously sending information and medicines to the guerrilla movement in the hinterlands.

With this bond, both Perdices and Teves saw to it that they would not let their political life affect their personal relationship. Again, it was nothing personal, just politics.

I really do not know if there are still politicians today that do not take things personally. Perhaps, only a few but gone are the days wherein politicians really acted as public servants.

Tsila Perdices was one of a kind – a rare gem, if you will, among the pool of politicians in the history of Negros Oriental. This was only his first among four successful gubernatorial candidacies from 1959, 1963, 1967, and 1971.

I will talk about the other years and his achievements as governor in my next columns.

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Author’s email: JJAbulado@norsu.edu.ph

 

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