IN ALBAY: Salceda vs Lagman in ‘25 gubernatorial race
By Manly M. Ugalde
LEGAZPI CITY --- In the race for Albay governorship, it’s shaping up to be a showdown between two political heavyweights, Salceda and Lagman, with Rosal now out of the picture. Eight months after the 2022 elections, Governor Noel Rosal, who was previously the mayor of Legazpi City for 18 years, was ousted by the Commission on Elections, making way for Vice Governor Grex Lagman to take over by operation of law.
Observers suggest that the battle for the Albay governorship has narrowed down to Congressman Joey Sarte Salceda and Governor Grex Lagman, while Rosal seems to be eyeing the city mayoralty post instead.
The chances of Rosal regaining his position through a legal challenge are considered slim, especially after his wife secured a status quo ante order from the Supreme Court as Legazpi mayor a few months ago. Both Rosals were ousted by the Comelec in September last year due to their involvement in the release of charity funds during the 2022 election ban period.
Much like the infamous pork barrel fund scandal that led to the conviction of businesswoman Janet Napoles, the Mayon Quarry operation is a significant point of interest for politicians vying for the provincial governor post.
This quarry is a major source of income for Albay and has faced allegations of corruption during its eight-year operation. Mayon Quarry is known as the primary source of gravel and sand for Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, and even the West Philippine Sea.
Radio jingles promoting Salceda and Lagman dominate the airwaves, with Salceda’s jingles continuously playing on Albay radio stations, regardless of the election period. Notably, there are no jingles featuring Rosal.
Peter Encisa, identified as Salceda’s aide, confirmed Salceda’s return to the capitol, citing the congressman’s final term in Congress, though he declined to provide further details.
Salceda’s political strategy, characterized by some as that of a “super turncoat” due to his frequent shifts in allegiance, has been successful throughout his 30-year political career. He famously switched support from Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro to Senator Benigno Aquino III just before the 2010 election, resulting in Aquino’s victory.
In 2016, he shifted his support from Mar Roxas to Senator Grace Poe, three weeks before the election, and Duterte ultimately won. Despite criticism, Salceda won by a landslide against his rival, Linda Montayre.
Salceda’s achievements in politics are undeniable, including his effective advocacy for climate change and pioneering pre-emptive disaster response strategies to achieve zero casualties. His initiative to provide 1 billion in free college education for at least one four-year college graduate per family in the province has garnered significant attention. Salceda is also known for championing the new Bicol International Airport and his model pre-emptive response strategies for disaster management.
On the other hand, Grex Lagman’s father, Congressman Edcel Lagman, was instrumental in making the first district of Albay number one during his initial two years in Congress under the Cory administration.
Edcel Lagman, currently the president of the Liberal Party, has enjoyed over 30 years in politics without facing defeat as a congressman. His son, Grex, served as a former Quezon City congressman and held three terms as a legislator in Albay’s 1st District.
The elder Lagman is known for his strong human rights advocacy and his outspoken criticism of President Duterte’s human rights violations, which led to his district losing funding under the 2018 General Appropriation Act—a move he remained steadfast in supporting.