MARAGONDON, CAVITE — As early as 7 a.m., voter Diana Inguanzo, 55, had rushed to the public market and cooked lunch for her children because she knew that voting will take time. She queued up at 9 a.m. and finished voting three hours later, or past noon.
Jojo de Mesa, another voter, meanwhile, could not help but compare his experience in the 2010 elections when he was able to vote in less than an hour. Today, he observed that voters in his barangay who used to be assigned to separate rooms are now clustered in one room, hence the long wait to cast a ballot. Like Inguanzo, De Mesa ha to wait in line for hours before getting a chance to cast his vote.
Election officer and teacher Millet Diquit said that lines tend to stretch longer particularly in clustered precincts or barangays that have more voters. In her assigned precinct, over 400 voters are enrolled, while the precinct to which Inguanzo and De Mesa belong serves about 900 voters.
Long queues, the heat, and the intermittent rain are some of the difficulties that voters had to endure at the Maragondon Elementary School in Maragondon, a third-class municipality in the province of Cavite. Yet despite these minor hurdles and an alleged report of one problematic PCOS (Precinct Count Optical Scan) machine in another school, elections in this town known for a time in history for political violence unfolded fairly well.
Maragondon is the largest town in Cavite, the second vote-rich province in the Philippines with over 1.79 million voters. More than six decades ago, Maragondon had hosted an internecine feud between two Cavite political families — the Camerinos and Montanos.
According to Alfred W. McCoy’s An Anarchy of Families: State and Family in the Philippines, then Senator Justiniano S. Montano Sr. and his candidate for governor, were campaigning with bodyguards and supporters in Maragondon in 1947 when they clashed with the town police led by Mayor Patrocinio Gulapa, an ally of the Camerinos. The incident left four dead and others wounded.
Two years later, in February 1949, Gulapa of Maragondon was shot at a cockpit in Noveleta, another town in Cavite. Several months later, Bailen (now General Emilio Aguinaldo town) mayor Hugo Beratio, another Camerino ally, fell to hostile gunfire at the town plaza.
In September 1952, Gulapa’s successor in Maragondon, Severino Rillo, was kidnapped and stabbed to death along with the town chief of police and his officers, who were all allied with Camerino. The incident, dubbed the “Maragondon Massacre”, led to a protracted court case in which Montano — along with several of his proteges and alleged hired gun Leonardo Manecio, also known as “Nardong Putik” — was accused of the killing, according to McCoy’s book.
In the May 2013 elections, a Rillo and a Gulapa are challenging the incumbent family in power, the Andamans. Incumbent mayor Mon Anthony ‘Mon-mon’ Andaman and vice mayor Irineo ‘Pinboy’ Angeles are running for re-election. Mon-mon’s father, Monte Andaman, had been Maragondon mayor from 2001 to 2010.
Candidate for mayor Reynaldo Rillo and vice mayor candidate Reagan Gulapa are allied with the Liberal Party whose candidates for district representative, governor and vice governor include Abraham ‘Bambol’ Tolentino (brother of Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino), former Cavite governor Erineo ‘Ayong’ Maliksi, and Senator Panfilo Lacson’s son Ronald Jay Lacson, respectively.
Reagan is the grandson of former Maragondon mayor Patrocinio Gulapa who was killed in Noveleta in 1949.
Andaman and Angeles, meanwhile, are allied with candidates Gilbert Remulla for congressman, Jonvic Remulla for governor, and Ramon Jolo Revilla for vice governor. The Remullas are supported by the Nacionalista Party that is allied with President PNoy’s Liberal Party, as well as by the opposition United Nationalist Alliance of Vice President Jojo Binay.
Residents of Maragondon, like those in many towns of the country, seem to be torn between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ or even the ‘old-new’ political families still entrenched in local politics, and the familiar names running for national office.
But to student Kean Esguerra, 18, a first-time voter, today’s balloting is “our chance at change.”
“Usually, we say we want change but we’re not given the chance. Now, this is our opportunity to practice our right (to vote) — for our voices to be heard,” he says.
When asked what exactly he wants to change, Esguerra says change is relative, depending on the needs of a community. But in general, he says he wants less corruption and better opportunities for citizens.
Esguerra, who has yet to vote at the time of the interview, says he hopes to feel fulfilled because he would finally be able to “practice suffrage.” Aside from watching political advertisements, debates, and miting de avance gigs, Esguerra says that he did his own research on the background of candidates to see who fits his idea of good government.
Even to 57-year-old Bernardito Bernabe, election day represents change, too. “Para sa akin, para ito sa pagbabago ng ating bayan, ng ating kalagayan. Kasi bumoboto ako, walang namang nangyayari.”
But he says that he voted for candidates familiar to him. “Ang aking naman, basta ‘yung tumulong sa akin… Kung hindi ko kilala, hindi ko iboto,” he said.
In December 2012, Bernabe was involved in a vehicular accident, which left him crippled. As per election regulations, persons with disabilities like him, along with senior citizens and pregnant women, are supposed to be accorded priority in voting. Bernabe said he did not have to queue up and was able to cast his vote in a breeze.