Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Reign of terror in Baybay City

Malot Galenzoga vs. Carmen Loreto Cari
Today is July 4, which we Filipinos used to celebrate as our day of independence from American colonial rule since 1946---until that was transferred to June 12, when we commemorate our declaration of independence from Spanish colonial rule in 1898. This move was the initiative of the late Education Secretary Alejandro Roces during the administration of President Diosdado Macapagal and rightly so.

But this morning the stirring call of our forefathers for real independence had a special ring in my mind as I joined a media gathering in Manila to listen to Baybay City mayoral candidate Malot Veloso Galenzoga. She recounted her agonizing and gripping flight from the reign of terror foisted on that Leyte city by her powerful opponent, former Representative and re-electionist Mayor Carmen Loreto Cari of the Cari/Petilla dynasty of Leyte.

Listening to the horror accounts in Baybay City and looking at the photos from cellphones of Malot's supporters, I couldn’t imagine these were actually happening in this day and age of President Aquino’s Daang Matuwid.


Readers will recall that a month ago I wrote about the interesting David vs. Goliath political fight in Baybay between 36-year old political neophyte Malot and her aunt, Carmen, who at 78 remains quite good-looking.  Since September last year Malot had been urged by the religious and academic community and various citizens’ groups there to run vs. Cari, as they longed for and dreamed of change and reform following 32 years of vise-like political grip by the Cari/Petilla dynasty that counts with P-Noy’s  Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla.

The post of representative of the 5th district that includes Baybay, the top two posts of that city and of Palo, the governorship and vice-governorship of Leyte province, as well as the Barangay and SK chairmanships are all held by this powerful clan---so that Malot clearly became the uninvited intruder last May. Apparently it was deemed necessary to politically remove her from the power picture.   


As the fight between the two camps deteriorated, Malot morphed from a David into the Joan of Arc of Baybay politics. Two weeks before the elections an assassination attempt on her life was reported in media. A day after the elections only 25 percent of the PCOS votes was reported to the consolidation and canvassing system (CCS), when transmission mysteriously stopped and votes began to be transmitted manually.  But the  miniscule return did not stop Cari from being proclaimed next day by a Board of Canvassers chaired by a non-lawyer Comelec officer (against Comelec rules). She then took her oath of office no less than three times, the last before her nephew, Secretary Petilla.

Malot filed for nullification of the elections at Comelec and demanded a new one but Sixto Brillantes has expectedly stone-walled it.  Her supporters, fully believing she was cheated out of victory, stepped up the peaceful protest rallies over the next weeks. Last June 30, after a thanksgiving mass celebrated by Fr. Patrick Paraiso (who up to now has not been heard from, worrying the Malot camp a lot) hundreds of her supporters proceeded to City Hall and the Legislative Building, which by then had already been heavily barricaded by police (many of them called to Baybay from other towns of Leyte) on Cari's orders.

When the police hit Malot’s photographer, Rex Llaga, with a dos for dos and destroyed his camera, this angered her supporters and soon a scuffle erupted between them and the police/military; big rocks began flying all over the place, destroying some windows of the buildings and vehicles, and hurting a couple of people.  Malot’s people stoutly claimed the rocks were brought by the police.


After negotiations between the two sides for a peaceful end to the scuffle, Malot’s supporters marched to her compound. Around supper time, however, her place was surrounded by police troopers backed up by two v-150 reportedly from the 78th “Warrior” Infantry Battalion. Malot received texts from a police sympathizer and a civilian supporter, both exhorting her to flee Leyte. ‘’Hindi ka nila bubuhayin,” warned the texts. Her supporters said she had to remain safe.

Thus, leaving her 78-year old mother Marlene who had a mild stroke, ailing sister Carlyn Ann, her brother Gongie and his wife Mae, and her brother-in-law Conrad Dieza (a PMA  ’92 graduate who had run for governor of Kalinga in the recent elections), Malot, her sister Dayday Dieza, and some security and staff fled late that Sunday night---scaling fences and wading through muddy marshes, and negotiating mango groves, poultry and piggerry farms;  they avoided the national highway as army checkpoints had been set up there. 

Walking slowly for about four hours in shivering cold with no communication (their cellphones were all wet), Malot's band was able to hire a van and passing through Hilongos which is still in Leyte's Cari country, they drove straight to Macrohon, Southern Leyte where they felt safer, arriving there around 11 am. Monday.  Linking up with ex-mayor Joy Roble, the group then returned to Hilongos port where Roble put their vehicle aboard one of her commercial boats for Cebu City; from there the group, looking every inch like stragglers, flew out to Manila on a commercial flight that same evening.


But back in Baybay things had indeed turned ugly. A huge truck from the City Engineer’s office rammed through the gate of Malot’s compound and police rounded up her supporters, and photos show long rifles held over some heads. Cell phones and computers were confiscated obviously to contain the story and Malot’s and her mother’s houses were both ransacked even for jewelry.

Her brother-in-law Conrad who had earlier confronted the raiders with  demand for search and arrest warrants at the compound gate (the raiders’ retort: they needed no warrants as they were “in hot pursuit”), and her brother Gongi led  over 1,000 people arrested and detained in several jails in the city for four days without a case. Bail imposed on the leaders were excessive, but when they tried to post bail they were refused on the ground that it was past 5pm. (yet the judge found time to issue a search warrant at 3am.). 

Malot’s brother and brother in law were exhibited in public in handcuffs as they sought bail. In the jail supporters of Malot as well as a couple of media covering her complained of being "bugbog cerrado" and they have photo to show for it. Three media people also had to flee to Cebu.


Over the past days the Region 8 office of the Commission on Human Rights had been flooded with protests and complaints of human rights abuses, but apparently CHR Chief Loretta Rosales was kept in the dark about them and  the true state of Baybay---an offshoot of the reign of terror there. 

 A UP contemporary reached Rosales by phone about the crisis situation in Baybay, and later this evening reports said orders came from the Manila office to release all the detainees if no charge have been brought against them; but apparently the CHR doesn’t carry much weight in Baybay as its orders were being ignored.  

In Manila today the Malot group was greeted by the arrogant offer of Carmen Cari, published in Manila Bulletin, of a reward of P500,000 "for the immediate arrest" of her young adversary, so that , opined Cari, she could face the many charges being filed against her.

Tonight Malot’s brother Gongi was released but Conrad Dieza remains in jail; moreover, her ailing mother’s house is said once again to be surrounded.


The police in that city fall under the jurisdiction of Region VIII commander Gen. Elemer Soria, while the 78th IB falls under the 802nd Brigade headed by Col. Raffy Valencia, PMA ‘84.  Investigations should be in order as to why these units appear to be taking unlawful orders from the civilian leadership in the city.

The emergency situation in Baybay illustrates clearly why there is need to enact legislation that would curtail the existence of dynasties: too much power for too long leads to the mentality among dynastic politicians that they are answerable to no one, and this leads to frightening abuses in office.

But the Cari/Petilla clan is very much allied with the P-Noy administration. How does P-Noy propose to handle the abuses being committed in Baybay City?

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  1. one only has to look at the situation in the small, laid-back provinces and barrios to see what filters down from Imperial Manila/Malacanang. it's the reign of the feudal, lawless dynasties and oligarchs over the middle class and the poor, worsening over the past 3 years. it's the law of the wild, the jungle -- predators vs prey, in the Philippines. thanks to the the yellow straight road to lawlessness and terrorism.

  2. i can't seem to understand how malot got first in macrohon, which is in southern leyte, then went to hilongos, which is part of the fifth district of leyte...quite improbable

    1. hi... read again the story before you question ... please? it says, Malot's band was able to hire a van and passing through Hilongos which is still in Leyte's Cari country, they drove straight to Macrohon, Southern Leyte where they felt safer, arriving there around 11 am. Monday. Linking up with ex-mayor Joy Roble, the group then returned to Hilongos port where Roble put their vehicle aboard one of her commercial boats for Cebu City...

  3. If you only live in Baybay for the past 2 decades, you will see how injustice and dictatorship reigns... Baybayanon is living in terror for the past 32 years.

    This is the only time that someone opposed openly against the Cari/Loreto/Petilla clan. And now they are using literally ALL their powers even beyond just to put down Galenzoga.

    Help us... Help Baybay be free from the oppressive / dictatorship of the Cari's.

  4. ... it always hurt me everytime i visit Baybay City, because of my excitement to roam around the City and observe its progress--- frustration always welcome me- unfinished and substandard projects, no investors... it always hurts me. Now i thank you Mam Malot for standing still...

  5. I do believe that in the end good will triumph. You are so brave Mam Malot and to all the supporters. We all pray for the peace and safety of our hometown.

  6. hopefully justice will prevail in baybay. You are brave Maam Malot to fight against the odds, stand for your right as many Baybayons know you win the election. Godbless you.

  7. What can be very helpfull is just a little book, just a little booklet: "The way to happiness" is the name.
    Can an will help both, just need to be read, thats all.

  8. Indeed, not only in Baybay but almost all the towns that were reign along with corrupt allies, even as far end, u can not see any progress. There are many who stand out for truth and justice, and sadly most of them died without anyone noticing it. I salute and I pray for Ms. Malot, we shall pray for you and ur loved ones safetry. For now, stay safe and fight back for progress and justice. Cari's clan has long subdued the people into poverty, sadly many can be bought with money in that region because money is hard to find there.