BEHIND THE LINES: The force of one PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 18 March 2015 13:48



San Jose, CA. — In 1998, Zamboanga overwhelmingly voted into congress a “nonentity” against a powerful politician who — after his first defeat in 1967 when he ran for city councilor as a member of the Liberal Party — was responsible for lighting up our city streets, building a modern coliseum, constructing an international-standard sports complex and engineered the opening of Nunez extension. When Ferdinand E. Marcos decreed a nationwide election in 1980, this migrant named Vitaliano D. Agan was picked to run with seven other opposition figures with the Concerned Citizens Aggrupation, a political party formed by the late Mayors Cesar C. Climaco and Hector C. Suarez. Atty. Agan landed second in that election behind Atty. Susan de los Reyes. Only one candidate from Marcos’ Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) survived the CCA onslaught, the late Edmundo Rodriguez, Mr. Broadcaster himself. After his stint with the local legislature, Agan went on to become the longest-serving mayor Zamboanga ever had (1988-1998). The second longest-serving mayor with an uninterrupted three terms is Celso L. Lobregat (2004-2013). The records at the city election registrar will bear me out.

This “nonentity”, as maliciously described by the late Fred Sajot, Agan’s chief media tactician and spokesman, went on to demolish Agan in the 1998 congressional race with his late mother providing the money, people and the votes he needed to reach the Batasan Pambansa complex as a neophyte congressman. The rest of Mr. Lobregat’s sterling political vitae is history.

Lobregat has weathered all the challenges and accusations of personal and public iniquities that typically drag down a candidate or an incumbent. After all, the Lobregats have been accused of being cronies of Marcos and lackeys of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and businessman Danding Cojuangco. That dirty political imputation only drove the electorate to the side of the mother-and-son establishment.

Let me explain: At that time, Zamboanguenos and migrants were frightened at Atty. Agan’s unequivocal support for the creation of the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) that, as they had suspected, would lead to the annexation of Zamboanga city by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). A mini riot happened at the Edwin Andrews Air Base as the plane carrying President Fidel V. Ramos landed. I spotted then padre Crisanto “Monsi”  dela Cruz and hardcore opposition leading the rampage as they knocked down the east security fence of the air base.

Fed up with City Hall’s position to accept Muslim autonomy, a dejected Zamboanga electorate rejected Agan in 1998 in favor of a “white knight” raised in Manila, educated by La Salle brothers and Jesuit priests, and who developed a multi-million crazy water for the peninsulares known as Tanduay ESQ (extra special quality). His gracious mother, Madam Maria Clara L. Lobregat, went on to become mayor for more than five years until her demise.

Left without his mother, his principal supporter and loving benefactor who was a true advocate of our unique Chavacano dialect, Mr. Lobregat had to rise from the scale of other men in order to become the supreme politician, unmatched by his eloquence and  brilliance in the field of government management and fiscal frugality.

After the 1995 local elections and having, thus, cemented his mother’s third term in congress as the local campaign manager of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), we had breakfast at Sunburst (now Zacky). While waiting for our bacon, egg, toast bread and coffee to be served, he asked what I thought was a trick question: “Shall I ask to be appointed as chairman of the Zamboecozone, or do I wait for 1998 and run for congress?”  I said wait for 1998 and get elected as congressman, after all, his flourishing flower business was in Luzon.

After securing the blessings of his mother, he ran for congress in 1998 and won overwhelmingly. Except, probably for the 2013 election when his victory wasn’t convincing, Lobregat made short work of all his protagonists in all elections that he’s been in. He just simply smirks at every opponent’s name, exhuming confidence that the majority of the voters — east, west, north, south, everywhere — would go for him, not because of his influence, hispanic origin or aristocracy, but because he has proven his mettle like a Norseman’s or El Cid’s. He has become the force of one