A chance to break Vicente Alberto’s record as governor

Had the EDSA revolution not occurred in 1986, Vicente Molina Alberto could have gone on as governor of Catanduanes.

He had been chief executive of the island province since 1968, an uninterrupted span of 18 years at the pinnacle of power that could not be matched today due to term limits.

Only the current Capitol occupant can come close.

Businessman-turned-politician Joseph Chua Cua first won as governor in 2007, defeating then incumbent, former ally and former congressman Leandro B. Verceles Jr, who was attempting to win his third straight term.

From Verceles’ loss was born the gubernatorial jinx on would-be third termers that fell on Cua himself when he lost to Araceli Wong in 2013 as he tried to secure his third term.

Cua recaptured the governorship in 2016, won again in 2019 handily against an overmatched former congressman and, defying the jinx, snatched the elusive third term by a landslide.

To describe the 2022 victory as ordinary would be unjust, as he achieved it together with his brother, San Andres Mayor Peter Cua, defying yet another political jinx: that of close kin winning top positions in the provincial government just like then Gov. Vicente Alberto and Vice Gov. Tete Alberto during their dynasty’s heyday.

In the years since 1986, the only other family tandem put to the electoral test was that of then Gov. Jun Verceles and his wife Natsy Africa who ran for Congress and lost.

For the Cua brothers, there are two paths to the future: the original plan for Governor Joseph to finish his third term in 2025 so he could be replaced by Vice Governor Peter; and a tempting possibility for Joseph to go for two more terms that would end in 2031, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Tallado doctrine.

It may be recalled that on May 10, 2019, just three days before the May 13 elections, the High Court issued an order stopping the Commission on Elections from disqualifying Camarines Norte Gov. Edgardo Tallado and cancelling his Certificate of Candidacy on the ground that he had served fully his three terms.

Tallado was elected as governor in 2010 and won in the two succeeding elections, with the third term from 2013-2016 broken by a six-month suspension from office and another for nine months after he was dismissed and subsequently got reinstated by the Court of Appeals.

In the SC’s Sept. 10, 2019 ruling, it said: “The DILG’s execution of the OMB decisions for the petitioner’s (Tallado’s) dismissal clearly constituted loss of the petitioner’s title to the office. The dismissals were involuntary interruptions in the petitioner’s 2016-2019 term. As such, he cannot be considered to have fully served a third successive term of office.”

On hindsight, the case filed against Gov. Cua in late 2018 by a Virac resident ultimately went to his favor despite the year-long suspension.

True, it afforded Vice Governor Shirley Abundo to serve as acting governor for a year and with it the privilege to have her portrait alongside that of Catanduanes’ chief executives at the wall of the Capitol lobby. But it did not serve her well when she ran against Cua this year.

Now, the incumbent governor’s recent triumph at the ballot gives him yet another chance to go for two more terms after 2025.

Will the Cua family set aside plans to have Mayor Peter ascend to the governor’s office in three years?

Or will the province’s winningest governor succumb to the temptation and go for another three terms so he can switch places with his brother in 2031?

Of course, the final decision rests with the electorate who decides the political fate of those in power.

“Saro pa lamang” may have worked in the last campaign, but it would no longer resonate with voters especially if the brothers-in-power fail to deliver in the next three years.

On the other hand, a sterling performance that brings economic progress and a felt improvement in the standard of living would give Joseph Cua a chance to beat Vicente Alberto’s 18 long years as governor.

Through five terms in office, less the one-year suspension, Cua has led the province for 14 years now and two more terms could bring the total to 20 if his constituents will not get tired of hearing the family name.

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