BAGUIO CITY -- All candidates for elective positions in the provincial level in Apayao -- congressman, governor, vice governor and members of the provincial board including the elective posts in five out of the seven towns, from mayor down to councilor-- are unopposed.
Records at the local Commission on Elections (Comelec) also showed that the contest is only in the towns of Conner and Sta. Marcela, where there is more than one candidate running for mayor, vice mayor and councilors.
The capital town Luna including Calanasan, Flora, Kabugao and Pudtol are all uncontested.
“What makes Apayao peaceful in terms of election is that they are united. They have this culture of cooperation where they sit and discuss among themselves who vies for a position," said lawyer Julia Elenita Tabangin-Capuyan, provincial election officer of Apayao.
Tabangin-Capuyan, appointed as Apayao election supervisor at the start of the election period in 2018, attributed the peaceful polls to the legacy of former governor Elias Bulut Sr.
She said months prior the election period, incumbent officials discuss and agree on plans with other aspiring politicians.
"Probably because the people of Apayao respect the old man Elias Bulut Sr. for what he started in the past when candidates talk about the political situation, they continue the practice until now, especially considering that Apayao had progressed immensely in the last decade making the old man’s name more respectable,” Tabangin said.
“Sa Apayao, may culture of cooperation. Kakaiba kasi they will wait for the term of an official para matapos. Walang nagki-criticize at nagsu-suportahan ang lahat. Nadadaan sa pakiusap and pagtakbo sa anumang posisyon (Apayao has a different culture of cooperation where people wait for an elected official to finish his term before aiming for the post. Nobody criticizes anybody but they simply support each other. They talk among themselves and agree who will run for what position),” Tabangin said.
She said what is agreed upon during the talks, even if they are not in writing, is honored.
“I see it as a form of democracy na maayos, hindi naman bawal tumakbo sa kahit anong posisyon, wala rin nagbabawal pero voluntary na sumusunod ang mga tao. Walang takutan na nagyayari. Walang kaguluhan. Wala, dahil maayos na napag-uusapan ang lahat at napagkakasunduan ang mga bagay bagay (I see it as a good form of democracy where nobody is prohibited to run in any position, but the people voluntarily adhere to the agreement. There is no coercion. No crimes that result from it because they talk and agreement on things).”
Tabangin said Apayao is located about 14 hours away from Baguio City but the roads, to the farthest far flung village, are paved, some of which are as wide as the national road.
“Violence, criminality are non-issues in the Apayao,” she said.
Comelec-Apayao expects a 60 to 70 percent voter turn-out, which is usual in the province.
In an earlier interview, Apayao Rep. Eleanor Bulut-Begtang said they are happy that the people of the province continue to respect and honor their father's legacy.
"The people of Apayao felt pure intention and good work ethics of incumbent officials in serving the community. And I think that is what makes us united and different from other provinces," she said.
She said people who are not united get embroiled in conflict, which will prevent progress.
"Alam namin na kung hindi kami (magkakaisa), walang mangyayari sa province namin (We know that if we are not united, nothing will happen in our province)," she said.
She added that the main objective of the administration is to maintain the peaceful image of the province and boost its economy.
"It is unity that we have here in Apayao. Honestly if the people know that the administration is performing its duties well, they respect them and sometimes they opt to run in lower positions," she said.
She said if there are new politicians, they often sit with them and discuss their plans.
She assured that Bulut's legacy will always continue to lead the people toward economic growth.
Holding on together
Bulut-Begtang said his father adapted James Horner’s song “If we hold on together” to portray his desire and dreams for his province.
Bulut authored the separation of Apayao from Kalinga province, making it an independent province and allowing progress to start.
“Paano kami magkakaroon ng magandang plano or dreams kung di kami iisa. It’s unity that we have in Apayao kaya walang kaming problema during election (How can we have good plans and dream if we are not united. It is unity that we have in Apayao that makes us peaceful during election),” Bulut-Begtang said. (PNA)