Perhaps, the Lone District of Catanduanes was really for former Mayor Leo Rodriguez to take.
Avoiding another bruising battle for his 2019 conqueror, Johnny Rodulfo, he went for the seat held by first-timer Hector Sanchez who had disappointed his constituents as early as 2020 when he failed to visit the province for nearly a year during the pandemic.
The incumbent had money, having initiated or helped fund billions of projects in the island. But the resentment that the people felt would prove to be deep enough to withstand the thousand-peso ointment.
On the other hand, former Rep. Cesar Sarmiento, who had learned from his ill-advised gubernatorial run three years earlier, was given a chance to snatch back the seat he held for nine years if he would only buy votes. But it was not to be, as he had sworn not to do so early in the campaign.
Rodriguez just entered the congressional fray at the right time and thus became the first contractor in Catanduanes to win a seat at the House of Representatives, right on the eve of his birthday.
Now, all he needs to accomplish in the next three years is to push for the completion of the former congressman’s Luzon grid interconnection project and reap the credit for it, allocate funding for at least three billion pesos worth of projects (and hopefully divide it among deserving local contractors), and avoid the mistakes that his would-be predecessor made.
Like majority of Monday’s winners, Rodriguez’s camp made the right decision to distribute the “gratipikasyon” as early as two weeks before election day.
He also went around the province and began visiting isolated barangays to introduce himself to the people as early as January.
In the capital town of Virac, he reportedly had a truckload of supporters from Bato accompany him and Mayor Sinforoso Sarmiento Jr. during their sorties.
But the alleged P20-million robbery at his Batalay residence on May 3, 2022 threw their partnership into disarray two days before the polls.
Just a day after the incident, Mayor Sarmiento had appeared with the Rodriguez couple in a press conference at the scene of the crime.
Apparently, there had been a falling out over the Rodriguez money being distributed by the Virac mayor.
The night before the elections, someone informed the Rodriguez camp that supporters of Sarmiento were repacking Leo’s cash for use in the mayor’s battle with Samuel Laynes.
A group sent by Rodriguez reportedly caught the Sarmiento supporters in the act, sending them fleeing in the night.
At about the same time, the mayor’s camp allegedly distributed flyers telling voters on whom to vote for congressman: “Sa Congressman? Silencio sana tabi. Viracnon bag aini. Akua nyo sana an itao sainyo. Basta SARMIENTO kita!”
At the back of the xeroxed flyer was this message: “Pati sa Gobernador, sa Viracnon man kita. Ung sakit magtiwala sa mga kontraktor. Kaya ngani habu ko na ki Sanchez. Sinda na ni Boboy an nangayag-ngayag na contractors sa satong probinsiya. Sainda na sanang pamilya an dalagan nin yaman nin gobyerno. Kaya ki Rodriguez nagimata ako. Negosyante, tunay baga na contractor, tapos haw-syaw na kandidato. Madrama! Pagkalinuya. Dai pwede sa kongreso. Kaya magimata man lugod kamo.”
If true, Mayor Sarmiento’s about-face is now an unfortunate miscalculation. Had he stayed with Rodriguez, he could have had a powerful ally and campaign financier by 2025.
Perhaps, the mayor himself didn’t believe Rodriguez was capable of winning.
RUSSIAN ELECTION. Russian President Vladimir Putin is sitting at his desk, waiting upon the results of the recent election.
An election official walks in and announces himself.
“Mr. Putin, I have good news and bad news. Which would you prefer to hear first?”
“Let me hear the good news first”, Putin says.
“Okay, good news is that you’ve won the election! Congratulations!”
“And the bad news?”
“Nobody voted for you.”