When Romblomanons troop to their respective voting precincts next month, their six-term Congressman Eleandro Jesus F. Madrona will not be on the ballot for the first time since 1992. That does not mean, however, that his legacy will not be on the line in this year’s elections.
Romblon’s longest-serving Congressman is in a relaxed but introspective mood when he was interviewed by The Filipino Scribe in his house in Quezon City one morning last March. “If you compare how Romblon was in 1992 to how it is today, you will see the difference,” he said with pride. He currently chairs the Committee on Accounts, one of the most powerful committee in the House of Representatives.
Despite his family’s long history in public office, Congressman Budoy didn’t originally plan to enter politics. After passing the bar exams in 1978, he went to work for several years in Saudi Arabia before returning to the Philippines to manage their family business. “In 1992, LAKAS-NUCD was supposed to field someone else for the congressional race but he backed out just before the deadline,” Madrona said. The party’s standard bearer then is Fidel Ramos, who ultimately won the presidency.
He recounted that the party badly needed a replacement candidate to avoid having an incomplete slate, and when no one else stepped forward, the opportunity was his. “I went around the province and introduced myself to people but I have no expectations of winning,” Madrona said, adding that before the Election Day ended, he already booked a trip to Manila. Much to his surprise, he won the congressional race by a little over 2,000 votes.
From then on, Madrona said he made it a personal mission to do his best to develop the province. “I reached out to barangay captains and other local leaders, even those who worked for my opponent. I told them that the election campaign is just a 45-day affair but the need for us to work together for the province never stops,” he said.
He said he strove to have at least one project in each of Romblon’s 219 barangays, regardless if he won there or not. “My projects are mostly aimed for the barangays, especially the youth and the poor,” he said, explaining that up to now, he still regularly tours each village to know about their needs.
“When I first ran, for example, I only got 18 votes from Barangay Silum in Sibuyan. After I took office, I went there and residents told me they need concrete roads, so I helped fund the project. Three years after, it’s my opponent who got 18 votes!” he recounted with a chuckle.
Madrona says he will always be proud in the improvements and developments that happened in the province under his watch. “We have more schools now, better irrigation systems are already in place, and the ports have been vastly upgraded,” he explained. “If you are a Congressman, your constituents will always ask, ‘What have you done to fix our district?'” he said, adding: “I may not be a bombastic politician but I get the job done.”
Madrona attributes his success in delivering goods for Romblon in his ability to maintain a good relationship with the national government in general and the President in particular.
“President Noynoy Aquino has been very good for our province. Whatever I ask from agencies like the Department of Budget and Management and the Department of Public Works and Highways, I get it promptly,” he said, recalling that Aquino used to be one of his House colleagues when he was still a congressman from Tarlac. He added that he is supporting Liberal Party standard bearer Mar Roxas in the 2016 presidential race out of this gratitude.
Since Madrona is Constitutionally barred from seeking a fourth consecutive term as Congressman, his brother, San Agustin, Romblon municipal mayor Emmanuel ‘Toto’ Madrona is now running to succeed him. “Toto’s candidacy is a referendum on everything I’ve done for Romblon since 1992,” he said.
“I am confident that Romblomanons will choose continuity. I never engaged in negative campaigning throughout my career because my record speaks for itself,” Madrona said. “I have high hopes for the future of Romblon. It has great potential to be one of the best tourism areas in the country,” he said, stressing that it is the best way for the province to achieve progress.
With just a little over two months to go before his term officially ends, the Congressman says he is looking forward to having a well-deserved break from politics.