Old, fresh faces lead political hopefuls in Philippines

Amado Bagatsing and Carmelita "Menchie" Abalos
PHOTO: Philippine Daily Inquirer

Just minutes after it opened its doors, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) office in Las Piñas City welcomed its first political hopeful.

Benjamin Raymundo Gonzales was the first to declare his intention to run for city mayor, filing his certificate of candidacy (COC) at 8:13 am. A former councilor, Gonzales, who reportedly belongs to one of the richest families in Las Piñas, has sought higher officer several times, a Comelec staffer told the Inquirer.

He ran for vice mayor in 2013 but lost to the incumbent, Luis Bustamante. This time, Gonzales will be up against Imelda Aguilar, wife of incumbent Mayor Vergel Aguilar who is serving his third and final term.

"She will file her COC on Wednesday morning," Jimmy Castillano, the city's public information officer said.

In Mandaluyong City, the wives of the incumbent mayor and congressman also signified their desire to take over the posts of their husbands-both serving their third and last terms.

Political neophytes Carmelita "Menchie" Abalos and Alexandria "Queenie" Gonzales Monday filed their COCs for Mandaluyong mayor and representative, respectively.

Menchie who is running under Vice President Jejomar Binay's United Nationalist Alliance, was accompanied to the local Comelec by husband Mayor Benhur Abalos. With them was Queenie, wife of House majority floor leader Rep. Neptali "Boyet" Gonzales II of the ruling Liberal Party.

Despite belonging to different political parties, the two families are longtime strategic allies, trading posts every time after completing the three-term limit.

Menchie said that should she and Queenie win in next year's elections, they would "continue" the projects initiated by their husbands and employ a "motherly approach" in serving their constituents.

Queenie, a former broadcast journalist who married widower Gonzales in 2002, added that the city could expect a "more nurturing" type of service from them since they were both women. Menchie, however, said that they would still seek the advice of their husbands, if need be, since they were their "mentors."

Among the 12 councilors under the Abalos-Gonzales ticket who filed their COCs Monday was the Abalos couple's eldest daughter Charisse, who is up for reelection.

Meanwhile, promising a "new Makati," acting Mayor Romulo "Kid" Peña announced that his running mate in next year's elections would be the daughter of former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado, the political rival of Vice President Jejomar Binay who blew the whistle on his alleged involvement in various anomalies.

After delivering his first State of the City Address before a crowd of 5,000 at the Makati Coliseum, Peña formally announced his intention to run for city mayor and his team-up with Karla Mercado.

According to Peña, he chose her to be his running mate because he "believes that she deserves a chance to serve the people of Makati."

He said that even though she has no prior experience in politics, Karla helped her father when he served as vice mayor to Binay for several terms.

The older Mercado was a former ally of Binay until they parted ways over political differences in 2010. He recently testified before the Senate, linking the Vice President to several infrastructure projects in Makati that were allegedly overpriced, including the Makati City Hall Building II.

Karla, a political neophyte, said she initially approached Peña for a position in the social welfare department should he win the city's top post.

"When I was told that I could be his running mate, I did not hesitate because I wanted people to see genuine service," she added.

While admitting that she was new to politics, she has the credentials and qualities needed of a leader.

"I finished Communication Arts and also have my master's in Public Management. I think [that] with proper guidance, I will be able to properly serve the people," Karla said, adding that her father was supportive of her decision to run.

In Manila, Rep. Amado Bagatsing filed his COC for the mayor's post, together with the other 36 councilors running under the Kabalikat ng Bayan sa Kaunlaran Foundation (Kabaka) party.

Bagatsing is the son of Ramon Bagatsing, the city's former mayor.

He will be up against incumbent Mayor Joseph Estrada and former Mayor Alfredo Lim.

"Consultative leadership is what I intend to bring back to Manila," he said. He picked Councilor Ali Atienza, son of Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza- another former Manila mayor-as his running mate. With Jaymee T. Gamil, Maricar B. Brizuela and Jodee A. Agoncillo