BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – The first thing El Cid Familiaran noticed about Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr. was his manner of speaking.
“Softly but with authority,” El Cid, now vice mayor of the city, told DNX about his first meeting with the man in the village of Candelaria in Pontevedra town where Danding lived after returning to the country from exile post the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.
Pontevedra, the small, sleepy town about 50 kilometers south from this urban and political center, became a locus of influence and power in the 90s.
For years, a steady stream of vans and SUVs with politicians and bodyguards in barong traced their way to his double-walled house.
El Cid campaigned for him in 1992 when Danding ran and lost for president under his newly-formed Nationalist People’s Coalition party.
El Cid admitted Danding was a “kingmaker” at his peak, one whose blessings meant certain political victory for a politico.
Or an aspiring one.
Political observers here say there are a lot of them in Sugarlandia.
Apart from those who call him “boss,” there were those who were close friends of Danding who also call him boss. Out of respect.
One of them was Nicolas Alonso, a sugarcane planter from Kabankalan who became Sugar Regulatory Administration chief during the time of then President Estrada who was backed by Cojuangco.
But to Valentin Miguel or Macho, Alonso’s son, Danding was both a “leader, a very respected and admired man , and a friend of our family.”
“Even his enemies say you can learn something from him, he had wisdom, a keen political sense,” Macho, now a board member who represents the province’s sixth district told DNX.
Valentin described his family’s relationship with Danding as “close.”
The man “had principles, he keeps his word,” Valentin added and went on to say that his family wishes ECJ “a good journey into the great beyond.”
Former Negros Occidental Gov. Rafael Coscolluela, who faced Cojuangco-backed opponents in the 1992 polls when he ran for the top post of the province, sounded pensive when asked for a reaction.
“Nothing lasts forever,” he said in an interview with DNX.
He said he found it sad that Cojuangco, who had been an “influential force” in Negros economy and politics for a long time was suddenly gone.
Capitol is expected to release today an official statement on the former ambassador’s death, lawyer Rayfrando Diaz said to DNX.
The New People’s Army, which had been responsible for torching sugar plantations, equipment, and killing prized fighting cocks of Cojuangco, has yet to issue a reaction.
Ka Juanito Magbanua, spokesperson of the NPA’s Leonardo Panaligan Command, has yet to return questions sent to him via Messenger.