SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/08 April) – After three days of speculations, the Barbers brothers finally broke their silence and announced to a jubilant crowd of loyal supporters that they have reconsidered their earlier decision to withdraw from the electoral race.
Former Surigao del Norte Governor and three-term Representative Robert Ace Barbers, who has been rumored to withdraw from the congressional race in the second district of Surigao del Norte, told a cheering crowd he has changed his mind but asked the people to give him “time to talk to my wife and family.”
Elder brother Lyndon, who served as Governor from 2001 to 2007 announced he will go on with the fight “while we spare my brother Ace.”
An estimated 1,000 loyal supporters of the brothers braved the heat of the mid-day sun and trooped to the Barbers’ mansion in upper Barangay Lipata at around 1 p.m. Sunday to urge the brothers to “continue with the fight” against those they claim “bring drugs, crime and dirt” to the city and province.
“Ato i-excuse si Ace ibalik ta si Batman… Laban que laban kita bahala walay ato kwarta,” (We will excuse Ace…we will fight, fight even if we don’t have the money), Lyndon addressed the euphoric crowd.
The eldest of the Barbers sibling, Lyndon was given the monicker Batman for his drug-busting activities on his first year as governor of Surigao del Norte in 2001. He initiated late-night operations against drug syndicates in the province including those threatening to enter the province and the city. Lyndon served as governor until 2007, when he ran for his brother’s seat in Congress but lost.
Ace, who ran for governor in 2007, won but lost his bid for reelection in 2010, to Sol Matugas. Lyndon lost the mayoralty race in 2010 to another Matugas.
For the 2013 elections, Lyndon filed his certificate of candidacy for governor while Ace filed his certificate of candidacy for the second district. Both are running under the Nacionalista Party.
Lyndon confirmed rumors that both are withdrawing from the race but vehemently denied they had been bought by the opposition at P50 million each.
“Ever since we filed our candidacy in October, talks of our supposed withdrawal have persisted and reached their peak since we arrived here Thursday. The talks are true that we are withdrawing from the race,” he said.
As early as Thursday morning, the city was abuzz with stories that the Barbers brothers were withdrawing from the race
MindaNews was able to talk with a local candidate of its allied party Koalisyon nan mga Oposisyon sa Surigao (Kosug) headed by mayoralty candidate Alfonso S. Casurra, a former city mayor and staunch ally of the two and learned that an emergency meeting was held on Friday afternoon purposely on the rumored withdrawal.
But the same source declined to provide details of the meeting, saying only that the Barbers would call for a press conference on Monday, April 8.
MindaNews sought the Barbers’ camp Saturday, but Lyndon declined to issue a statement saying they would meet with the press either Monday or Tuesday.
But Sunday’s gathering of supporters right at their doorstep, a number of them crying as they urged them “not to surrender,” convinced the brothers to “change our plans.”
“An ako desisyon sauna na mo withdraw kuman nautro…,” (I have changed my earlier decision to withdraw), said Ace. The crowd chanted, “laban, Ace, Laban” (fight Ace, fight Ace).
But Ace appealed to be given time to talk to his wife.
The brothers will be leaving for Manila on Monday for the birthday celebration of their grandmother, Virginia.
Lyndon told MindaNews they would call a press conference on Thursday, April 11, to confirm whether Ace will leave with his wife for the US and he campaigns in absentia or he will finally withdraw from the race.
Lyndon explained that the brothers’ decision to pull out from the political race was prompted by the critical condition of Ace’s wife who is suffering from Stage 3 laryngeal cancer.
“It has been a difficult period for us especially since we arrived here on Thursday. We couldn’t sleep and Ace and I have been constantly talking of this decision….But with your love and support, your pleas go beyond our (present) situation”, Lyndon said.
The former governor, who was sobbing as he spoke, said that as a brother he cannot turn his back and deny help for an ailing family member. He said what “little funds” he has will be given to support the treatment for his brother’s wife.
“This is really difficult on my part…but if this is what you want, may I also appeal from you to tell our people, the country and the rest of the world that a poor man can become a leader…we will go on and fight”, Lyndon said, to the cheers of the crowd.
“While we’re away I am appealing to everyone to give us your time of prayer, even for just 30 seconds, to pray for my wife and family,” Ace said.
He emphasized that what the family is facing now is similar to the time their father faced a similar ailment and considerable resources from the family were spent to treat their father.
But the crowd shouted “bisan way kwartahay” (even without money) while alluding to earlier speeches of supporters on the opposition’s financial resources to bankroll its campaign.
Ace is expected to leave for the US on the 20th of April for his wife’s treatment, according to Lyndon.
The senator’s legacy
Political allies of the Barbers brothers who asked not to be named, told MindaNews that a withdrawal from the provincial opposition line-up could cause the downfall of the political clout of the Barbers.
Some raised concern that the Barbers’ move will only hasten the belief that “they sold out” to the opposition led by the Matugas’ husband-and-wife tandem Francisco and Sol and former ally Rep. Guillermo Romarate Jr., who is a re-electionist and strongest contender of Ace.
But Lyndon flatly denied the issues and told supporters their soul is not for sale.
Loyal supporters, however, expressed mixed feelings of sadness and agitation.
Jamar Gavino, a political ally known for leading a string of graft complaints against the Matugases, reminded the brothers of their father’s legacy saying he was witness to the senator’s last words to his sons before his demise to “not to leave the Surigaonons.” (Vanessa L. Almeda/MindaNews)