Camp Rajah Sikatuna, Carmen- Citing the ingrained Visayan cultural trait of “gratitude” and their long-standing three decades of political alliance, President Rodrigo Duterte endorsed resigned Cabinet Secretary Leoncio “Jun” Evasco as his personal candidate for Bohol for governor in the May 2019 polls.
Speaking before the 103rd Brigade of the Philippine Army, the president unequivocally endorsed Evasco: “Ako, I would say akong kandidato talaga dito si Jun”. He runs under the Nationalist Peoples Coalition (NPC) wherein he has been a member since 1991. There are four candidates listed as candidates for Bohol governor.
The president praised Jun Evasco’s excellent managerial and organizational skills, resulting from years as a Catholic priest and a leader of the New Peoples Army in Mindanao at the height of the insurgency during the Marcos regime. “Kini si Jun maayo sa mobilization ug pagdala sa tawo.”, the reason Evasco was named Cabinet Secretary overseeing a number of government agencies and corporations before he threw his hat into the political arena.
Evasco has been consistent that he would not run for governor without the approval of the president who relies on him for various oversight functions.
Evasco was shot to the national limelight when he led the nationwide presidential campaign of then Davao City Mayor Duterte and served as his chief strategist – operating on a relative shoestring budget and a ragtag team hastily assembled. Duterte is the first from Mindanao to be elected president – and with a plurality vote of 40%.
He said he did not expect but got elated with his overwhelming margin of victory in Bohol. Duterte claims his grandmother (mother of her Mama) is from Bohol.
THREE DECADES OF ALLIANCE
Duterte recalled that he first met Evasco as a Davao city inquest fiscal for the prosecution of the latter who was arrested as a communist rebel in the hills. He was detained for two years.
When through People Power, president Cory Aquino rose into power, she gave a unilateral pardon to and ordered the immediate release of all political detainees, including Evasco.
Noting his assets, Duterte, then an OIC-Vice Mayor took in Jun into his city hall (technical assistant) and at one time made him in charge of the “rotten engineering office” and several other positions – noting likewise Evasco’s “integrity”. The president had fired numerous ranking government officials for issues of graft in the first two years of office in the Palace.
In all the political years of the president after the EDSA Revolution, Jun Evasco has been a regular fixture of the president’s campaign – he said in a speech in Carmen Tuesday. Evasco had seen Duterte’s 23 years as Davao City Mayor, 3 years as congressman, three years as vice mayor and then as president, the highest elective position in the land.
REP. YAP AS EVASCO’S STRONGEST RIVAL
Joining the ruling power’s PDP-Laban led by Senator Koko Pimentel, new Deputy Speaker, and outgoing 3rd district representative Arthur Yap is considered as Evasco’s most formidable opponent. Yap also has the strong backing of former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who installed Yap as one of her deputies after the ouster of former speaker Bebot Alvarez.
Yap was one-time GMA’s Secretary of Agriculture. She served nine years as president in 2001-2010.
Rappler reported that the president hinted that the other gubernatorial candidates would not get the same support from him in the May polls. Comparing it to the three decades with Evasco, Duterte said he and Yap were never affiliated “politically and he never helped me.” (referring perhaps to the last 2016 presidential elections).
Yap, however, has been in the economic team of Duterte as head of the Lower House Economic Affairs and had been with the president in many official trips overseas including those in China. Yap has always been with the lawmakers of the present Congress whenever there is a meeting in Malacanang.
Unlike many elections in the past, Bohol expects to see a slambang bout between the two political heavyweights who also have prominent running mates to boot. Yap is running in tandem with Rep. Rene Relampagos, also a former governor, with strong political clout in the 1st district and some clout in the 3rd where he once ran for congressman.
Evasco’s running-mate is veteran politician and Dean of the College of Law of the Holy Name University Board Member Tommy Abapo who is closely identified with the politics of the late congressman-governor Erico Aumentado.
Evasco is being helped by the family and party of the former city mayor Dan Lim in the 1st district while lending the entire weight of his popularity in the district for Yap is outgoing Governor Edgar Chatto. Chatto is reclaiming his past congressional seat versus the former city mayor.
Evasco has a big pull in the second district with the support of the undisputed political kingpin there – reelectionist Rep. Aris Aumentado. In the 3rd district, Evasco has several candidate supporters including the current Vice-Governor and PDP-Laban stalwart Dionisio Balite.
Rep. Yap, of course, is a three-term representative of the 3rd district, his bailiwick.
GUNS AND HOUSES FOR SOLDIERS
In Camp Rajah Sikatuna, Duterte told the 103rd Brigade soldiers they will soon be receiving housing units and side arms (aside from their usual long arms).
The president also mentioned he is offering the same housing units proposal for rebels who will surrender to the fold of the law. He asked Evasco to hint this goodwill proposal to rebels still operating in the province.
He also asked the soldiers to seek advice and support Evasco once he is elected to the post as he has experience in both the rebel cause and local and national government. “As Governor, Evasco will set the direction,” Duterte concluded.