Baguio-Benguet Elections 2022: How Things May Unfold


With barely four months to go before the filing of certificates of candidacy, speculations regarding the race have begun to surface in social media and local gossip circles. The ensuing pandemic and how it was handled, says many, will surely influence the outcome of this highly anticipated undertaking. How much of an impact it makes is a matter that is yet to be seen. But for purposes of healthy discourse, let us consider these hypothetical events that may characterize the upcoming political exercise.

Campaign and Election Structure

Considering the current health crisis and the emergence of the “New Normal”, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) has signified its readiness to implement campaign rules changes to include, among others, limiting or disallowing the conduct of crowd-drawing rallies and caucuses we have all been accustomed to throughout the years. To the social media and technological savvy candidate, this will be a key advantage. Political analysts have repeatedly claimed that social media and other online platforms will be the main political battleground come elections 2022 due to mobility restrictions and health protocols.

There are also proposals for mail-in voting and online voting that are being studied in lieu of the traditional precinct voting system. This will be a very crucial modification that could either cleanse or further stain our already tarnished electoral process. How will the integrity of the ballots and votes be ensured? What will be the safe guards? Lots of questions with no clear answers in the offing.

The Baguio Race

The Baguio mayoralty race is fraught with postulations and will obviously be an epic confrontation between a badly-bruised first-termer and a pack of old-timers who refuse to throw in the towel. Ever the soldier and military strategists, Mayor Benjamin Magalong remains silent on his plans while rumors of a Domogan come-back has been making noisy rounds amongst eager political gossipers. Edgar Avila, Jose Molintas, and other potential candidates for the post have yet to make a statement of some sort. Magalong’s public approval ratings seemed to have crashed due to some mishaps and insinuations of elitism in his crisis management and general administration. He might, as others surmise, be eyeing a national position knowing in his heart that he may have lost the city folks’ trust.

With his would-be opponents having tough time finding dirt to stain his character, Congressman Mark Go will probably enjoy a fresh mandate. Anyone who decides to go head-to-head with this man must contend with his gargantuan “kinabanglo” in the peoples’ collective nose.

As to the City Council, there are a lot of chatter about “weeding out” and the need for “fresh blood”. Only a few are “graduating” and it would be reasonable to presume that getting in will be an uphill battle. Old names are expected to emerge from slumber making it a royal rumble between the incumbents, the traditional politicians, the usual wannabes, and perhaps some idealistic neophytes. Who knows, with the many issues Baguio is currently facing and with public fatigue on the rise, there might be a total overhaul ushering in a new era where a contemporary generation of leaders will be called upon to bring Baguio’s lost glory to the fore.

La Trinidad

Even as this capital town continuously fails to solve much of its perennial problems such as traffic jams, congestion, ancestral land claims, road right of way obstructions, etc., the traditional voting mentality of the town’s folks will still likely determine the election results. He who has more gin, pulutan, tolda, and watwat to spare will almost certainly get anointed. I might earn the ire of many but prove me wrong and I’ll bow in disgrace. With the current restrictions on gatherings in place however, I just wonder how this will play. “Para paraan lang yan” for sure.

Mayor Romeo Salda will be safe considering the “pag graduaten ta last term na” mindset of many among Benguet’s voting population. This logic, though appalling, never ceases to amaze me. Three years is an awful lot of time to waste and sacrificing public welfare for this electoral horseplay is the most ridiculous conviction in the history of democracy.

Vice Mayor Roderick Awingan will likely retain his post for his down-to-earth persona and youthful charisma. He has proven himself relevant and authentic especially in this pandemic. He might very well be the exception to La Trinidad’s horrific sense of judgment when it comes to choosing its leaders. As to the municipal council, a partial revamp, at least, would be a breath of fresh air. Sitting ducks and kengkoys are a dreadful squander of space in the august sanggunian hall.

Benguet

For the coveted lone district congressional seat, it will definitely be a clash between the outsider and the ibenguet - or ibenguets should kabenguetan fail to field a single candidate to challenge the deep-pocketed incumbent.  To ensure his victory, the caretaker congressman will need to summon the ancient art of “divide and conquer”, and quite frankly, he appears to be ahead of the game. A divided Benguet won’t stand a chance against his vast resources and apparent proximity to those who control the “dalikan”. Former Congressman Ronald Cosalan is expected to return and withdraw from retirement at the prodding of certain opposition sectors and some neglected contractors raring to milk the cow once more. Early rumors suggest that Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan and some other notable figures might be joining the fray should Cosalan fail to rally enough support. For all it’s worth, they should have gone for special elections back then. What a shame.

In all likelihood, former Governor Crescencio  Pacalso will attempt to snatch back the throne from Governor Melchor Diclas but this may well be a herculean struggle with the participation of Nestor Fongwan Jr. who is reportedly training his guns for the same post. Vice Governor Johnny Waguis will likely be challenged by graduating board member Robert Namoro and perhaps the return candidacy of former Vice Governor Florence Tingbaoen. Chances are, it will be the same old players and no new names are forecast to turn up.

In Mankayan, Mayor Frenzel Ayong’s fate hangs in the balance with the return of former Mayor Materno Luspian who was purportedly urged to run due to public disappointment over how the pandemic was handled and how other essential sectors of public service were ignored by the current local administration.

The Overall Outcome

Countless times, we people clamored for change but it has become more of a cliché than a reachable goal. Years of corruption, grand standing, and lack of political will complicated by this pandemic have taught us enough to cause an absolute re-examination of our ethos as voters. Will we finally see the light? We’ll see and we must remain hopeful.

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