By Beting Laygo Dolor | Contributing Editor
A powerful political family backstopped by another local clan are bidding to maintain their control of politics in the former Philippine capital of Quezon City.
The Belmonte and Bautista clans have held sway in QC for nearly four decades. The former is headed by patriarch Feliciano Belmonte, former Speaker of the House, while the latter is led by Herbert Bautista, who is serving out his third and final consecutive term as mayor.
Bautista was originally believed to be seeking the seat formerly held by the senior Belmonte but he stunned his followers (he won by landslide in every elective post) by saying he was taking a short break from politics to devote his time to his children. Previously, he said he might run “for vice-mayor or congressman.”
Meanwhile, running for mayor of QC is Joy Belmonte, daughter of the ex-Speaker. Currently vice-mayor, Ms. Belmonte has been “groomed” to take the place of Bautista, who was himself prepared to take over as chief executive of the sprawling city by the older Belmonte.
Feliciano Belmonte was mayor before running for a seat in the bicameral Congress. He took Bautista under his wing early in his term as mayor when Herbert’s dad was a councilor and political ally.
Known to friends and fans as “Bistek,” Herbert started his political career at a young age. A TV actor-comedian, he was first elected to the youth council known as the Sangguniang Kabataan. He then became a councilor in the same district that his father represented, before being elected vice-mayor.
Speaker Belmonte’s bid to establish a local political dynasty fell short after a son ran for a seat in the House but lost. It was only his daughter who caught the fancy of the QC electorate.
Without his daughter as elected city official, the Speaker avoided the fate of former QC mayor, Mel Mathay, who was closely associated with First Lady Imelda Marcos during the Marcos regime. As QC mayor, Mathay tried to groom one of his sons to take over but son Chuck ran for congressman twice and lost both times.
The elder Mathay attempted a political comeback on several occasions, but he could not match the popularity of Belmonte or Bautista.
The Belmonte-Bautista partnership almost became a triumvirate and may yet become one in the future.
For a while, it was rumored that Mayor Bautista and Vice-mayor Belmonte were romantically involved when she was still single and he was separated from his wife. This did not last long. Bautista was later reported to be seeing Kris Aquino, sister of former President Noynoy Aquino and a major celebrity since her youth.
For a few years, she was the Philippines’ number one individual taxpayer with revenues from her movies, TV shows, and numerous product endorsements.
Kris admitted that Herbert had courted her and even offered to marry her but she declined. They remain “close friends” in her own words.
Last week, Herbert’s sister and actress Harlene Bautista said, she was “hopeful” that Herbert and Kris would reconcile as a couple since (Herbert) admitted that he “is happy when they’re together.”
Supposedly the favorite daughter of the late President Cory Aquino, Kris once said that she was planning to run for senator somewhere down the road. She also expressed an interest in running for mayor of QC, where the family still maintains a residence along Times Street.
Incidentally, the Belmontes have long been allies of the Aquinos, with the late wife of the former Speakers, Betty Go-Belmonte, a respected figure in Philippine journalism as publisher of the Philippine Star.
For now, it is Joy Belmonte who is taking on the mantle as head of QC’s homegrown dynasty. For her running mate, she chose one of the children of Senate President Tito Sotto, seen as a savvy political move.