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EDITORIAL: Trial balloon

SEVEN months before the filing of the certificate of candidacy (COC) of local and national candidates for elective posts in the 2019 midterm elections, Camarines Sur first district Rep. Rolando S. Andaya Jr. announced his intention to run for governor of Camarines Sur, an early announcement indeed since people in politics would rather hide in their sleeves the political moves they would launch to surprise adversaries and leave them clueless. But at this point in time, the Andaya announcement looks like a trial balloon. “A project or scheme tentatively announced in order to test public opinion,” is how Merriam-Webster defines trial balloon. It is easy to believe Andaya is going to run against incumbent Gov. Miguel “Migz” Luis Villafuerte, for reelection in his last term. If Andaya gets approving reaction from the public, he might as well bet his ass and “show his nakedness” like what he said when he delivered his punchline in Bikol when he made public his desire to be the province’s next governor. In an almost two-hour question-and-answer pre-fight event with the local media, Andaya’s old-time, traditional-politician of a monologue was sprinkled with possible exposes he will reveal and pursue against his political adversary whose name he never mentioned. But the references and insinuations are clear: Andaya is referring to Camarines Sur second district Rep. Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte. Andaya explained at length his involvement in the case of plunder regarding the utilization of the Malampaya Fund during the time of former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He confronted the issue of the bad condition of the Andaya Highway saying the heavy traffic requires yearly maintenance. He alluded to the graft case which he directed to the unnamed political adversary, jeering that the latter was imposed suspension from office. Both Andaya and LRay are second-generation dynastic leaders who replaced their fathers, erstwhile allies Rolando Andaya Sr., and Luis R. Villafuerte, respectively. While Andaya inherited the political clout from his father, LRay at one point wrestled from his father the provincial leadership to establish his own apparatus of the Villafuerte political dynasty he now leads, while his father slowly disappears from the limelight. Except for his defeat to Dato Arroyo in the 2013 local elections, LRay, as the main operator, all won the battles he fought in the political arena of the province. While Andaya has not experienced defeat in his political career since his father’s death, he has constricted his area of influence when he accommodated and shared his congressional turf to Dato, the son of his former boss, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. From 10 municipalities he lost five municipalities, including the biggest of them all—Libmanan, to carve out two districts, one for each of them to accommodate Dato, from a single district. Since the balance of forces, effective strategy and formula and resources count in the electoral contest, the Villafuertes have proven they could tackle the most potent alliance as shown since the 2004 local elections, if we take off from the time LRay served his first-term as governor of Camarines Sur. Twice he defeated the Fuentebellas---the oldest political dynasty in Bicol, which until now have not shown a second-generation leader from their bloodline, as the aging patriarch starts to fade away in the sunset. But one thing about Andaya -- even though his political clout is now limited to five municipalities – is that he is good at preserving his command among small-town executives. For greater chances to fill in the political apparatus in the 1,042 barangays that comprise Camarines Sur, Andaya may as well align with the Fuentebellas. Not until Andaya files his COC and embarks on a serious campaign in the gubernatorial race, his announcement to challenge the reign of the Villafuertes will remain just like that -- a trial balloon. Because a trial balloon is as old as a tool used to test the weather in the 1930s, it is not something that will amaze anyone. In the world of the social media, Andaya’s early announcement may be taken as a post in the Facebook that waits for ‘likes’ or a twit that needs to be noticed and retweeted.

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