The tale of two governors

I HAVE a story to tell, the tale of the two governors.

Flashback: In 2001 I was hired a contractual worker by the Iloilo provincial government days after Niel D. Tupas Sr. assumed office as governor of the province. In the 2001 election it was a close fight between him and his rival, then incumbent vice governor Demetrio P. Sonza.

It was an honest election ever held in Iloilo. Sonza never questioned the result of the electoral process. Neither did he make a scene to protest his loss but instead conceded defeat with dignity.

The euphoric victory of Tupas lasted for months. A year after, one controversy after another bugged his governance. He was attacked violently and without mercy by members of the media, both in print and broadcast. It appeared there was an orchestrated, nonstop attempt to besmirch his reputation.

Tupas stood his ground. He never allowed manufactured lies to deter his brand of leadership. He sought reelection and for the second time won, and again in a landslide victory against political rivals he believed were behind the black propaganda.

As his third and last term was about to end, political rivals stepped up their attacks. With the solid support of the then national leadership they plotted to bodily remove him out of his office by sending to the capitol policemen and armed soldiers fresh from war somewhere in Mindanao.

As government troops started breaking the backdoors of the capitol they were stopped by a sea of warm bodies, mostly employees and people from various towns supporting the beleaguered governor. Only a few steps away from the office of the governor, a TRO (temporary resist order) arrived from the Court of Appeals stopping the ouster plot.

The incident came to be called the “Capitol Siege”, considered as the blackest Friday in the history of the province. Months after the siege, Tupas won his third term overwhelmingly. The rest was history.

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FASTFORWARD to 2010, Arthur Defensor assumed office as a come-backing governor after a nine-year stint as congressman. His first order of the day was to let someone taste his brand of meanness, and it happened to be me whom he believed was a supporter of his predecessor, Tupas.

I was given a fresh assignment – to maintain the cleanliness of the capitol grounds starting from the main façade to the parking lot to the area approaching Museo Iloilo.

Surprisingly, another colleague – also identified with Tupas – was given a similar task. I requested to be returned to the Information Office to continue my writing assignments but this was strongly turned down.

For a year or two I religiously followed the order. I performed the janitorial task without complaint. From time to time we bumped into each other; he saw me contentedly sweeping the capitol grounds.

One day I received another order from the governor’s office; it was about another assignment in a far-flung town. It was an inconvenient janitorial task outside the capitol.

Yes, it was a bitter pill to swallow but I still had a school-aged daughter to support. Also, I was already too old to resign and look for another job.

A Chinese-Ilonggo friend with whom I shared my predicament told me, “What is being done to you can be considered as constructive dismissal. You are being humiliated so you would be forced to resign voluntarily.”

I stood my ground until the day I retired in 2016.

Yes, I have a story to tell, the tale of the two governors. ([email protected]/PN)

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