Leyte's 4th district: Will the Torres-Gomez clan take the last Codilla bailiwick?

LEYTE, Philippines – On Election Day, May 13, voters in the 4th district of Leyte will be choosing between two political dynasties. 

The legislative district is composed of the towns of Albuera, Isabel, Kananga, Matag-ob, Merida, Palompon, and Ormoc City.

Representative Lucy Marie Torres Gomez – having survived two disqualification case in 6 years – is seeking her 3rd and last term. Former congressman Winnie Codilla will try to end the actress’ winning streak.

In Ormoc City, Lucy's husband and incumbent mayor Richard Gomez is being challenged by former mayor Eric "Beboy" Codilla.

The rivalry extends to the nearby town of Kananga, where Lucy's brother Matt Torres is challenging the incumbent Kananga Mayor Weng Codilla. She is the wife of Kananga vice mayoral candidate Eming Codilla.

ROOM OF REELECTIONISTS. (From left to right) Kananga, Leyte mayoral bet Matt Torres, Leyte Board Member reelectionist Indoy Arevalo, 4th District Representative reelectionist Lucy Marie Torres-Gomez, Ormoc City Mayor reelectionist Richard Gomez, Leyte Governor reelectionist Carlo Loreto, and Palompon vice mayoral bet Ramon Ou00c3u00b1ate join the oath-taking ceremony at the Palompon Town Hall on June 2016. Photo taken from Carlo Loreto's Facebook page

ROOM OF REELECTIONISTS. (From left to right) Kananga, Leyte mayoral bet Matt Torres, Leyte Board Member reelectionist Indoy Arevalo, 4th District Representative reelectionist Lucy Marie Torres-Gomez, Ormoc City Mayor reelectionist Richard Gomez, Leyte Governor reelectionist Carlo Loreto, and Palompon vice mayoral bet Ramon Ou00c3u00b1ate join the oath-taking ceremony at the Palompon Town Hall on June 2016.

Photo taken from Carlo Loreto's Facebook page

Richest district in Eastern Visayas

The 4th district of Leyte is the fastest growing economy in Eastern Visayas, earning a total of P9.04 billion assets in 2017.

Four of the 10 richest local government units on Leyte island in 2017 came from this district, according to a Commission on Audit (COA) report. 

Ormoc, an independent component city of Leyte, posted P5.90 billion worth of assets in 2017 –almost double the P3 billion assets of the region’s capital, Tacloban City. They were followed by Kananga, with assets of P1.08 billion; Isabel, with P638.2 million; and Palompon, with P572.8 million.

The 4th district is also home to a 588.4 MW network of geothermal power that supplies renewable electricity to the country.

This network of geothermal power in Kananga and Ormoc City is composed of the Malitbog Geothermal Power Station, Upper Mahiao Geothermal Power Station, Mahanagdong Geothermal Power Station, Leyte Optimization Geothermal Power, and Tongonan Geothermal Power Plant.

Moreover, the region’s top tourism destination, Kalanggaman Islet in Palompon, Leyte, reported receipts of 18.5 million in 2017.

Two major Philippine industries – the Philippine Associated Smelting and Refinery Corporation (PASAR) and the Philippine Phosphate Fertilizer Corporation (Philphos) – sit in Isabel, Leyte. PASAR is the only copper smelter and refinery in the Philippines, while Philphos is one of the biggest producers in Southeast Asia.

Struggle for dominance

The Codillas dominated the district for years. Following the Veloso and Locsin clans that led the district from 1961 to 2001, the late patriarch Eufrocino “Dodong” Codilla Sr – dubbed as a “man of the masses” – enjoyed 3 terms in Congress, ending in 2010. 

LAST BAILIWICK. (From left to right) Leyte Board Member bet Rico Codilla, Kananga, Leyte Vice Mayor reelectionist Elmer u0022Emingu0022 Codilla, Kananga, Leyte Mayor reelectionist Rowena u0022Wengu0022 Codilla, unidentified woman, Ormoc City vice mayoral bet Jingjing Codilla, Ormoc City mayoral bet Eric Codilla, and unidentified man join the campaign sortie at their remaining bailiwick, Kananga on March 31, 2019. Photo taken from Rowena Codilla's Facebook page

LAST BAILIWICK. (From left to right) Leyte Board Member bet Rico Codilla, Kananga, Leyte Vice Mayor reelectionist Elmer u0022Emingu0022 Codilla, Kananga, Leyte Mayor reelectionist Rowena u0022Wengu0022 Codilla, unidentified woman, Ormoc City vice mayoral bet Jingjing Codilla, Ormoc City mayoral bet Eric Codilla, and unidentified man join the campaign sortie at their remaining bailiwick, Kananga on March 31, 2019.

Photo taken from Rowena Codilla's Facebook page

This political dominance ended when Dodong’s namesake Eufrocino Codilla Jr. ran in 2010 against then-political neophyte, actor Richard Gomez, for the congressional seat. 

Richard’s candidacy was cancelled by the Commission on Elections for his failure to comply with the minimum residency requirement, but his wife Lucy substituted him and won.

Months before the 2013 midterm elections, her election to the post was invalidated by the Supreme Court.

Although the couple was subjected to a series of disqualification cases, they gradually toppled the Codillas. In 2016, Richard defeated then-Ormoc mayor Edward “Ondo” Codilla in the mayoral race.

Having lost the congressional and Ormoc mayoral posts to the Torres-Gomez couple, the Codillas are left with their remaining bailiwick: Kananga, Leyte. Here, the couple Weng and Eming Codilla are seeking reelection for mayor and vice mayor, respectively.

In a bid to wipe out the Codillas, the Torres-Gomez camp has fielded Lucy’s brother, Matt Torres, for mayor of Kananga.

Whether Matt the challenger succeeds or not, his family asserts dominance in the rest of Eastern Visayas' richest district. 

Incumbent mayors Rosa Meneses of Albuera, Saturnino “Jun” Medina Jr of Isabel, and Michael Torrevillas of Matag-ob – all seeking reelection – and Palompon Mayor Ramon Oñate, who is running for vice mayor, are known allies of the Torres-Gomez couple.

Being a former Ormoc City councilor, Merida mayoral bet Rolando Villasencio – the Comelec recently dismissed a petition to cancel his candidacy – is also a Torres-Gomez supporter. – Rappler.com

Marthy John Lubiano is a Rappler lead mover in Palompon, Leyte. He is a graduating Bachelor of Arts in Communication student of Palompon Institute of Technology and is the executive editor of Fulcrum.