By John Mark Escandor
NAGA CITY (18April2013) – Unprecedented in the provincial politics of Camarines Sur, grandfather and grandson are both eyeing the gubernatorial post.
Rep. Luis R. Villafuerte and his grandson Miguel Luis Villafuerte are fighting each other to win the hearts of more than 900,000 voters in Camarines Sur.
A greenhorn in politics, Miguel, 23, eldest son of outgoing Gov. Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte, is seriously challenging his grandfather Luis, 77, a lawyer and finance specialist, who has been in the national and local political scene since the 1970s to the present.
Virtually unknown to the people of Camarines Sur, Miguel was introduced to the public through wakeboarding competitions at CamSur Watersports Complex (CWC) when it opened in 2005.
In May 2011, he made a stir in showbiz when he was reported to have been courting singer-actress Sarah Geronimo by sending the latter a bouquet of flowers during the premier of the movie “Catch Me, I’m in Love.”
Like a flash in a pan, the supposed courtship just faded away from memory.
In his Facebook account, Miguel is said to have studied at the University of San Diego in California, United States of America; founder and chief executive officer of JungleFace; and founder and president of Repub1ic Inc. JungleFace and Republic are business enterprises owned by the family of LRay.
He took his prep and grade school at De La Salle Zobel and high school at the International School of Manila.
In his public statements, Miguel declared that he will work for the improvement of education, tourism and employment “to build the foundation of the youth being the hope of the nation.”
Professing his love to his “lolo,” he said the time has come for the new generation of Villafuerte to lead the province to progress.
Miguel said he runs for governor to continue the legacy of his father LRay and that he intends to win the votes of 60 percent of the voters in Camarines Sur who belong to the youth sector.
But Luis questions the competency of his grandson who, he said, is too young and inexperienced to run for public office.
Luis sees his grandson as “no contest” in the gubernatorial race because 27 out of 35 municipal mayors in Camarines Sur are supporting him.
He sized up his political machinery in this year’s election as much stronger than the years before because all of the big political leaders are with him now, including his former archrival Arnulo “Noli” Fuentebella and Reps. Diosdado Ignacio Arroyo and Rolando Andaya Jr., covering four of the five districts in Camarines Sur.
Luis dismissed as false the speculation that one of them (Luis and Miguel) will withdraw in the last hour and declared that LRay and Miguel will lose the elections.
There are four Villafuertes running for major political positions in Camarines Sur.
Luis and Miguel wrestle for the gubernatorial position in a four-cornered fight with former Solicitor General Anselmo Joel Cadiz and certain Joel Pelo.
Lawyer Nelly F. Villafuerte, wife of Luis and retired government executive, runs against Jesse Robredo’s widow Leni, also a lawyer, in the third district; while LRay challenges the third run of Rep. Arroyo in the second district of Camarines Sur.
Luis denied there is dynasty with the ongoing feud in the family because, he said, one of them will be defeated. “Where is the dynasty there?”
He added that dynasty cannot be attributed to immediate family only that’s why, he said, the Constitution requires definition of what a dynasty is and it has no declaration in law yet.
Luis said the constitutional prohibition on political dynasty is not self-executory but must be defined into law, its scope and limitations, and in the absence of a law, the Supreme Court or Commission on Elections (Comelec) cannot order the enforcement of the prohibition on the political dynasty.
The Villafuerte clan is in power in Camarines Sur for decades, from the pre-war era to the Japanese occupation in the 40s, post-war 60s, 80s during the Marcos regime, 90s of post-EDSA to the present.
After a peak of their dominance over Camarines Sur’s politics in 2004, when Luis and son LRay both won the electoral contest as congressman and governor, respectively, the father-son feud erupted during the 2007 elections as they exchanged personal barbs against each other in local radio and television stations.
The uninhibited personal clash between LRay and Luis during the Senate hearing on the proposal to split Camarines Sur showcased the intensity of the conflict between father and son.
The father-son feud started in 2005 when LRay started replacing, and finally terminating department heads and other provincial employees appointed by Luis.
The rift escalated in open public when Luis put a candidate–Ramos-era department secretary Eduardo Pilapil–against LRay in the 2007 elections.
Estranged from his father, LRay made an alliance with Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella in the 2007 elections and won the second term as governor of Camarines Sur, until 2011 Fuentebella pushed the creation of a new province in Congress.
In 2004, the Fuentebellas clashed with the Villafuertes for the gubernatorial post as the former fielded Felix William “Wimpy” Fuentebella against LRay.
Another political twist in the Villafuerte political clan happened in 2010 elections when Luis joined the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) that Fuentebella heads since 1992 in Camarines Sur.
Luis and Fuentebella both push for the creation of a new province which LRay opposed.
After continued political rivalry since 1984, Fuentebella and Luis smoked the peace pipe and became ally after 26 years.
LRay won his last term as governor in 2010 while Luis dumped his early bet for governor, Felix Alfelor Jr., a three-term congressman of Camarines Sur’s fifth district.
The clash between grandfather and grandson in the gubernatorial race left many in disbelief and suspicious of the motive behind it.
Lawyer Henry Briguera, former broadcaster and column writer of the weekly Bicol Mail, is suspicious about the real score behind the conflict.
“We really do not know. But given the fact that there is nothing more important but power to the Villafuertes, who will say this is not moro-moro?” Briguera, a voter in Sagñay town, reflected. “If it is, they are fooling the people.”
Briguera’s suspicion that the father-son feud is just superficial is shared by two voters from San Fernando town.
Gracita and Maket, restaurant workers in Naga City who both asked not to be identified by their surnames because they are working for a boss who is with Rep. Arroyo, sensed that “blood is thicker than water” and the feud may just be for show since family interest reign supreme.(PNA)