LEGAZPI CITY, January 8, 2004 (STAR) By Cet Dematera - Catanduanes may be the smallest among the six Bicol provinces in terms of land area, population and number of voters, but it has the most gubernatorial bets in the May polls — 11.

Records of the provincial office of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) show that five of the 10 candidates slugging it out against re-electionist Gov. Leandro Verceles Jr. belong to big clans in Virac, the capital town and the most populous of the 11 towns of the island-province, and are running as independents.

Verceles hails from Pandan, the second most populated municipality.

Reports said Verceles’ strongest contender is Joseph Chua Cua, the incumbent mayor of San Andres town and the owner of three ferry boats plying the Tabaco (Albay)-Catanduanes route.

Verceles is running under the administration party Lakas-Christian-Muslim Democrats (CMD), and Cua under Kampi.

Asked about the big number of gubernatorial candidates, election officer Zacarias Zaragoza said, "Our presumption if there are several candidates is that there are many people who would like to exercise their constitutional rights."

Zaragoza said the poll body may only declare a candidate a "nuisance" bet even without a complaint if there are discrepancies in the documents he has submitted.

A number of Catanduanes voters, however, said the situation must be resolved by the Comelec or the political parties to avoid the election of a "minority governor."

Catanduanes, made up of 11 municipalities, has about 112,000 registered voters, or 80,000 less than the registered voters of Camarines Norte, the second smallest province in Bicol. The figures are based on May 2002 statistics.

In smallest Pangasinan town, all bets are unchallenged By Eva Visperas

STO. TOMAS, Pangasinan — Here’s one for the books: In this municipality, the province’s smallest, all candidates, from the mayor to the coun-cilors, are running unopposed.

This has been the case in the mayoral race in the past seven years, too.

Veronica Tabelin, the local election registrar, said running unopposed are Vivien Villar for mayor; Wilfredo Pescador for vice mayor; and Timoteo Villar III, Lydia Manzano, Lita Judan, Gaudencio Ordońo and Renato Casco, all re-electionists, and Donald Siesmundo, Jun Noces and Ely Ramos, for councilors. They are all running under the banner of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC).

Villar is the wife of incumbent mayor Antonio Villar Jr. who has served this town since 1972. She herself had served as mayor for three consecutive terms.

Pescador is also a re-electionist.

Although the municipal councilor bets are unchallenged, they still have to campaign for their ranking, Tabelin said.

Earlier, Mayor Villar informed his constituents about the holding of a convention to determine who would be running for the three slots in the municipal council that would be vacated by last-termers.

Officials of the town’s 10 barangays then began scouting for interested candidates. The townsfolk also welcomed Villar’s move.

The assembly was held last Dec. 27, participated in by about 200 delegates, including former and incumbent municipal officials and barangay captains.

Six vied for the three vacant council slots. A secret balloting capped the event, supervised by the local Commission on Elections office, the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Sangguniang Bayan secretariat.

All six aspirants were asked to sign an agreement that should they lose in the balloting, they would not run in the May 10 polls.

On Dec. 29, all candidates submitted their certificates of candidacy.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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