Manila: A young priest left the Catholic Church last year, then he made his last will before he began campaigning this month for the gubernatorial post of Masbate, central Philippines, a hot spot in the elections, a local paper said.
Father Leo Casas, 37, was a happy member of Masbate Advocate for Peace that succeeded campaigning for peaceful elections in Masbate in 2010. But MAP became unhappy. For two years, it failed to get an ideal and non-traditional political candidate for Masbate’s local government.
“No one was ready to join the race, so I decided I should run instead,” Casas told the Inquirer.
“There is no turning back,” said Masbate’s surprise candidate, who has realised that politics could also make the world just and good for the poor.
Earlier, he was a community organiser and deputy chairman of the Regional Development Council of Bicol (in southern Luzon),
“I am running on my own agenda and I am offering them to the people of Masbate on my own,” said Casas about his platform.
Despite being the candidate of the ruling Liberal Party, Casas also confessed, “We do not have enough money, although pledges keep coming in. We just go around meeting people with what little we have.”
Criticizing his predecessors, the well entrenched Khos and Lanetes, Casas said, “We need a reform beyond those things [infrastructure developments done in the past]. We need people-centered change.”
“[But] the outcome [of this election] may not be pretty for him,” assessed the Inquirer, adding that Casas, a new kid on the political block, still brimming with idealism and energy, could dampen the bitter fight between the two old political clans.
Antonio Kho, 53, and incumbent Gov. Rizalina Seachon-Laneta, 60, are both running as governor of Masbate.
The rival political clans have been inextricably intertwined.
Former Congressman Fausto Portus Seachon (Lanete’s brother) was assassinated in 2008. The Lanetes have blamed the Khos for it, the Inquirer said.
Kho was governor for nine years before he ran as representative of the second district of Masbate in Congress.
Lanete was representative of the third district of Masbate before she defeated Kho’s wife, Elisa Olga, in the 2010 gubernatorial race.
Green-horn Casas has already a growing followers.
“If Casas will win, the people in our province can also be more religious and united as a result,” a 38-year old slum dweller in Ibingay Village, who requested for anonymity, also told the Inquirer.
Her mother, also not named, vowed to vote for Casas, but she also predicted, “He cannot win against the money and machinery of his two powerful opponents.”
The woman’s husband and father-in-law declared their vote for Kho because “he had done so much for Masbate”.
A neighbour chose Lanete for the “visible changes” he undertook such as infrastructure projects in Masbate.
The rest of Masbate’s residents seemed cynical because they believed in the power of money for “vote-buying”.
Poor people would vote for candidates who could dole out money. A resident said, “Vote-buying in the province could go as high as P10,000 (Dh 833.33) per family. A young entrepreneur also claimed a sure vote from a person could cost P5,000”
A resident added, “Here in Masbate, we take the money but we vote for the one we like once we are inside the polling booth.”
In the Philippines, election time is all about counting ballots and the number of dead on the street.