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SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: Gov. Zubiri plays the Lumad card

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MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 23 March) – Bukidnon Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. has applied a different tack in this year’s election in as far as this city and the province’s second congressional district is concerned. He is banking on the Lumad vote to propel his bets for city mayor and representative to victory.
For mayor, Zubiri’s Bukidnon Paglaum Party has nominated Jay Warren Pabillaran, who won as vice mayor in 2019 and replaced Mayor Florencio Flores Jr. after the latter died from COVID-19 complications on Feb. 17.
Zubiri’s choice for congressman is Richard Dinlayan Macas, currently the Indigenous Peoples’ Mandatory Representative to the provincial board and a former legal officer at the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Bukidnon.
Pabillaran and Dinlayan belong to two huge Lumad clans in Malaybalay. Granting their relatives down to the remotest degree of consanguinity or affinity campaign and vote for them, they stand a great chance of winning.
Facing Macas is incumbent Rep. John Flores while Pabillaran now squares off with Bobby Flores. John and Bobby, who are running under the Nacionalista Party, are the son and younger brother of the late mayor, respectively.
Observers say Bobby may be easy picking for Pabillaran in that he doesn’t necessarily possess the late mayor’s charisma. A lot will depend upon whether Bobby can obtain sympathy vote [for his brother’s death] and whether those who voted for his brother will also vote for him. Inexperience as a politician may also become an essential factor.
John, meanwhile, enjoys an advantage as the incumbent congressman. And, in his first run for Congress in 2019, he happened to do what many thought was unthinkable – he beat former Malaybalay mayor Ignacio Zubiri, the governor’s nephew. It marked the first time that a Zubiri lost in an election in Bukidnon.
Besides, if it’s any assurance for them, the Flores camp, the late mayor in particular has befriended and obtained the support of some Lumad groups in Malaybalay and other towns of the district. If they can maintain such ties and support, it would be a neck-and-neck fight.
It also remains to be seen if a Zubiri endorsement will serve as an advantage to Pabillaran and Macas. Malaybalay, the vote-richest area in the second district, has not always been friendly to the Zubiris. Aside from his nephew, Zubiri’s choice for mayor in 2019, former vice mayor Roland Detecio, lost to the elder Flores.
Back in 2001, when Zubiri first ran for governor, he lost in Malaybalay, although only by a margin of around 700 votes.
Let’s see how the Flores camp will counter Zubiri’s ploy.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at hmcmordeno@gmail.com.)

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