By Ali G. Macabalang
KIDAPAWAN CITY – The gubernatorial contest in North Cotabato is a tight one-on-one showdown between sitting Governor Nancy Alaan Catamco and Vice Gov. Emmylou “Lala” Taliño-Mendoza alongside their slates, but both camps have declared support to the senatorial bid of former governor and Secretary Manny F. Piñol.
North Cotabato covers three Congressional districts, 17 towns and this city with total registered voters of 773,291 as of 2019 polls, and the rival camps’ commitments if fulfilled would deliver Piñol bigger votes than theirs.
For his consistent advocacy for full state attention to Filipino farmers’ welfare, Piñol has earned for him support in his senatorial bid even from political stalwarts like Taliño-Mendoza rivaling him for years in local electoral contests.
Lala, as Taliño-Mendoza is popularly called, said she was the “first” political leader in North Cotabato to have issued a statement committing support to Sec. Piñol’s senatorial candidacy.
“I have issued a statement of support for his candidacy and followed this up in traditional and social media,” she told the Philippine Muslim Today news in a casual talk here on Thursday.
In a live video footage of meeting with ethnic tribal constituents today, Gov. Catamco asked her audience to “make Piñol Number 1” senatorial candidate in North Cotabato in the May 9, 2022 elections.
Catamco is seeking reelection with Efren Piñol, younger sibling of the former secretary, as vice gubernatorial mate. Efren is pitted against long-serving board member and vice governor Shirlyn Macasarte.
Piñol, a former veteran journalist-turned-politician, had served the province as one term-mayor, three-term governor and one-term vice governor before President Rodrigo Duterte named him secretary of Agriculture in 2016.
Because of dismay to the national legislature and cabinet’s disregard of his suggested pro-farmer provisions in the enacted Rice Tarrification Law, Piñol resigned from the Agriculture department in early 2019.
The President, who reportedly favored his cabinet economic cluster’s push for the passage of the controversial law, accepted Pinol’s resignation but named him Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) chairman a few months later.
Before tendering his resignation, Piñol helped craft an agriculture road map for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), to which the President had designated him as his “point man.”
While pursuing other MinDA’s multi-thrust missions, Sec. Piñol continued unprecedented agricultural development initiatives that drew further sympathy from farmers’ groups in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
A group of farmers in Zambales led by one Gabriel Hebron Francisco formed in 2019 a Facebook page titled “Sec. Manny Piñol Movement for Senator.”
The top rice-producing Nueva Ecija, home to licensed engineer-turned farmer Danilo Bolos, who holds the national record of harvesting up to 17 tons of palay per hectare, rallied the advocacy to persuade Pinol to run for senator.
Piñol had first ignored the groups’ quest, but changed heart a few weeks before the filing of candidacies when his persistence drive for state’s proportionate attention to farmers’ woes remained unheeded.
The Filipino farmers and other marginal sectors of the society deserve a “strong voice” in the Senate, said Lala, who bids to regain the gubernatorial post she held for three terms before completing a nine-year stint as Congresswoman and provincial board member.
Both Lala and Nancy have not tasted defeat in their political careers. The latter also completed three-term service as Congresswoman before winning the governorship in 2019 against former Mayor Roger Talino, father of Lala. (AGM)
(Attached are file photos of North Cotabato Gov. Nancy Catamco and Vice Gov. Lala Talino-Mendoza, who are pitted in a one-on-one gubernatorial race in the 2022 elections.)