AN ESTIMATED 17,000 people from all walks of life turned out for the Team Gomez’s Liberal Party opening salvo at the parking area of the Gaisano Riverside Mall on the evening of Sunday, April 7, which is also Ormoc mayoralty candidate Richard Gomez’s 47th natal day.
The Team Gomez, who sought permission from the city hall to use the public stage at the city plaza for their opening salvo way back in February yet, was denied. As early as then, they were told the mayor’s brother had already booked it for a free concert.
To entertain the crowd in between the short campaign speeches of the Team Gomez candidates were the band Siakol, comic duo Jose and Wally. The evening was capped by a few song numbers actor Coco Martin, acknowledged to be this generation’s most talented and sought for actor.
Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, who is seeking re-election, emphasized the crowd came at their own volition because they did not make hakot.
Tommy Serafica, a candidate for councilor, said he received many texts requesting for “service vehicles” but they did not oblige it because they wanted for people to come at their own free will.
No ghost projects – Lucy
Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez used a PowerPoint presentation to explain to the crowd what she had done in her three years. The presentation showed she had worked for the cementing of more kilometers of roads, more classrooms and gyms and other infrastructures in the 4th district of Leyte compared to that of the nine years of her predecessor.
She is particularly proud of the Palompon-Matag-ob road which had long been neglected but is now being worked on and almost finished. A 23-kilometer stretch, her predecessor was only able to work on 1.9-kilometers. Now, she said, work on the remaining 22.1-kilometer road is ongoing and will be finished soon.
In comparison, she added, her predecessor’s son Ondo, who is running for mayor also, was awarded 881-million worth of contracts during Arroyo’s time, according to a report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.
Among these is P 305-million worth of releases for the construction of the Albuera-Burauen road which is now a pasture area for carabaos. “In my three years, I have shown you that government can implement projects at the right price, right time and right quality.”
She is also happy for bringing two major surgical missions over, which has helped thousands of sick people, some who’ve been languishing with their conditions for years. The congresswoman has paid for the coverage of 14,000 constituents in Ormoc City with PhilHealth, and another 14,800 scattered around the district.
“I ask you to measure me for what I have done in my three years”, she said.
Richard Gomez, after the crowd sang him “Happy Birthday”, said that he was running for mayor of Ormoc to help combat the city’s worsening drug problem. He said that if given a chance, he would rid the city of the problem “in my first 100 days”.
Gomez hinted that Ormoc’s drug problem would not have turned bad if there were nobody high up in the city’s hierarchy protecting the industry.
He also promised to work on the problem of unemployment, saying this could be attained by a well-planned tourism program and business friendly city officials.
He pointed out that their rally was a manifestation of what he was saying.
As the crowd built up for the rally that started at around 8:00 PM, cash registers at restaurants, cafes, food stalls and nearby carinderias were briskly raking in money. Some food stalls inside the Gaisano Riverside Mall already ran out of offerings even before the rally started. A vendor said they even prepared for it by tripling their daily inventory, adding “maayo unta kun pirmi naa event dinhi”.
Criticized for using his charm as an actor and his colleagues to draw a crowd to the rally, Gomez asked “bakit, masama ba ang maging artista?”. He also pledged to give Ormocanons 200 percent of his time and talent to give his wife, Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, the cooperation she needs to pursue her projects in the city.
Toto Locsin Jr. for
Meanwhile, the campaign spiel of Gomez’s vice-mayoralty candidate Leo Carmelo “Toto Jr.” Locsin was short but concise. Even as he spoke softly, his voice rang out over the thick crowd who was strangely silent, as if wanting to hear every word he spoke.
He shared his advocacy to help Gomez in his fight against the drug menace. Locsin, during the time his father was mayor, was head of the City Anti-Drugs Council (CADAC) and it was under his tutelage that a pusher from Mindanao was arrested with 770 grams of shabu in his possession.
When his father stepped down from office to make way for the incumbent, his partner policemen in the CADAC were re-assigned to far-flung areas. With the lack of concerned people staying watch over how the case was proceeding against the arrested Akmad Lamama, he was granted bail. His lawyer produced a death certificate on his next hearing, claiming Lamama died in Mindanao.
The Ormoc bust remains the biggest single haul of shabu in the region until now.
He did not mince words when he said his father, formerly a mayor, was made unpopular by allegations that he could not keep the peace and order in the city. With pictures on the screen, he showed that the peace and order in Ormoc was worst today, with five Ormocanons “salvaged” from January 2013 and all are unsolved. As for the prevalence of drugs, he also flashed a newspaper clipping from this newspaper of a drug den that was recently raided, and operating just a few meters away from the new city hall.
He appealed to the audience to give the Gomezes and him a “straight LP council” because if not, they cannot pursue their programs just like in 2001 when his father, the vice-mayor and only two councilors made it. “Tanan sa maayong programa sa ako amahan, babagan”, he said.
The Team Gomez councilors also presented their advocacies to the audience, stressing that for the Gomezes and Locsin to pursue their aspirations for Ormoc, they had to give him a solid LP team.
Engr. Lito Cotiangco, who was Lucy’s congressional in-charge since her election, said he is taking up environment as his main advocacy. He expressed why illegal logging continues unabated in the mountains of Gaas, Liberty and Cabingtan, adding this could not happen without the protection of powers-that-be. Cotiangco said he does not want a repeat of the flood of 1991 that is why he feels that officials should take a serious look at environmental degradation.
Emma Fiel, a consumer advocate, said she would carry the voice of women, parents and consumers if elected to the council.
Dr. Gerry Penserga, a surgeon and athlete, said he would want to help the Gomez pursue their health and sports programs.
Atty. Bennet Pongos said he would apply his knowledge in urban planning and business management. Pongos said that with proper urban planning, the city could become an attractive place for investors and business locators. As the group’s only lawyer, he would also guide his colleagues in the ordinances they wish to pass.
Vince Rama, Richard and Lucy’s brother-in-law, on the other hand, said his advocacy was to increase the benefits of senior citizens, among other concerns. Rama, who owns a funeral parlor, added that morbid it may sound but it is a stark reality, that he would want to improve how the city treats indigents who died.
He said that coffins constructed by the city to give away for its poor residents looks like it was a big toolbox, when a little effort could have been done to make it look nicer. He’s had experiences of people coming to him, crying that they could not accept putting their dead in the “toolbox”.
Rama, however, took more time to answer a text blast from Richard’s detractors about him manhandling a long-time family driver. Calling “Man Sosing” and “Man Rudy” to the stage, he introduced them as having worked for the Torres family for 39 years. He asked them if the “rumor” was true which the two vehemently denied.
“Mang Rudy” said that in the almost 15 years they’ve known Richard, he never made “sigaw o nagmura” with them. He added that they would not have lasted long with the Torreses if they did not treat them well.
Vince’s wife, Caren, would later tell this reporter that the two’s “stage appearance” were a surprise to them, and even to her. She recounted that as she left their house for the rally, she got a call from Vincent asking her to bring them over. Why, her husband kept mum about it.
Vince Rama also emphasized that just like Richard, he was a native of Ormoc but it does not diminish their aspiration to make the city they chose to become their home a better place to live in.
Dr. Mario Rodriguez, an incumbent councilor from a local political group formed in 2010, said he joined Team Gomez because he realized that without companions in the council who shared his aspirations, it was an exercise in futility.
Rodriguez said he liked what Lucy had done in her three years. He particularly stressed Lucy’s covering 14,000 constituents in Ormoc with PhilHealth, saying it showed how serious the Gomezes were in their health program. He said that with Ormoc’s money, the city could cover the same number but it has not.
He added that while the city boasts of having “3-in-1” buildings, and decentralizing the rural health units, “way tambal ang sentro. Muadto ka, tinood maka konsulta ka sa mga doctor, makadala og reseta, pero way tambal”.
As for education, he said the city could have increased its funding for its scholarship program, a pet project of former Mayor Carmelo Locsin, but it has not. “Gamay lang ilang gipondo ikumparar sa pondo sa city”, he said.
“Nanay” Linda Sakai, started her spiel by asking the crowd if they felt comfortable about the rally being held at the Gaisano Riverside Mall. With a roaring “no”, she said they had to make do with it because the city did not allow them to use the public stage, pointing out that the incumbents were already treating public property as “theirs”. Her advocacy is to deliver basic social services to those who really need it, without “color coding”. She hinted that as opposition barangay chairman of Can-untog, she knows that beneficiaries of national programs like 4P’s are identified not because their conditions qualify, but because of political accommodation.
Tommy Serafica, an agriculturist and a stalwart of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals, said he wants to help farmers and at the same time, introduce a “moral recovery program” which would focus on value formation.
He would start at the City Government, he said, where there are favored employees who just punch in their time cards in the morning, go out and disrobe their uniforms, play cards, billiards or go on a drinking binge for the whole day, and just return at 5:00 PM to punch out.
His announcement also drew lusty cheers of approval from the audience.
Engr. Roland Villasencio, the city’s number two councilor and an original LP member under the Gomez slate in 2010, asked the audience to re-elect him but it has to be with colleagues that he can work with. Echoing councilor-doctor Rodriguez, he said that no matter how much they speak out in the council about projects and programs they think were not right, ultimately they would lose to the majority. He also added that the city would benefit more with a straight LP ticket, with a LP President who’d be in power in the next three years.
Dr. Goito Yrastorza, grandson of Dr. Goring Yrastorza Sr. who is one of Ormoc’s pioneering doctors and the son of Dr. Jun Yrastorza, said his family had a long history of serving the public in the city. Both elder Yrastorzas were city councilors and made their living from sugar planting rather than from the practice of their professions because they would see to hundreds of patients per day for free. He said that as a dentist, health was his priority, especially dental health. And following his father’s footsteps, he advocates for good governance, too.
The rally dispersed at around midnight. Richard Gomez said that the presence of Coco Martin, Jose and Wally, and Siakol was his birthday gift to Ormoc. “Let’s give Ormocanons a happy experience”, he said.
It was also learned that Coco Martin came to Ormoc to perform during Richard’s birthday as his gift to the actor, who played his father in the hit series “Walang Hanggan”. Coco said that it was the fulfillment of his promise to campaign for his “Kuya Goma” and “Ate Lucy”, whom he said were among the kindest and respected figures in showbiz. By Lalaine M. Jimenea