Thursday, July 31, 2008
A PROPHET OUTCAST IN PAMPANGA?
Kung saka-sakali, anong ibubuga ni Gov Among Ed kina Senator Chiz Escudero, Loren Legarda, Manny Villar, Mar Roxas, ex president Erap Estrada at Vice President Noli de Castro, mga kinukunsidera at palagiang lumalabas sa SWS, Pulse Asia survey!
Una, bukud sa hindi ito makikipaglandian (magso-solicit) sa mga PEKE, BUGUK, hati-hati at parti-partidong LAKAS-CMD, KAMPI, NPC, LP at NP, para makakuha man lang ng pondo at bilyung pisong campaign funds, wala sa kanya ang pinakaLOLO ng mga padrino sa bansa, ang mga BILYUNARYONG si Ricky Razon, Danding Cojuangco, Lucio Tan, Bong Pineda, Aboitiz, Gaisano at higit sa lahat ang pamilyang MACAPAGAL ARROYO.
Pangalawa, kung sakaling maging pampulitikang MARTYR at irecall ni Mikee Arroyo, Pineda at Lapid sa Pampanga, mapasama siya sa 2010 national election, panigurong pagtatawanan lamang, pagkakamalang nasisiraan ng bait, titirisin lamang, lalamunin lamang, kakatayin lamang, aakusahang kurakot, chickboy, ide-demolition job ng tinatawag na LOCAL MACHINERY (TRAPO) ng big 4 presidentiable, si Among Ed.
Ganun kabuluk ang sistemang pulitika at election sa ating bansa. (Photo above: Among Ed; http://www.pcij.org/i-report/2007/governor-ed-panlilio.jpg)
A PROPHET OUTCAST IN PAMPANGA?
by Fernando Villarca Cao / INSTITUTE OF POPULAR DEMOCRACY (IPD)
When the news broke out several weeks ago that President Arroyo had appointed erstwhile Pampanga Governor Mark Lapid to head the Philippine Tourism Authority, a minor executive agency, it was clear that the second phase of the battle in Pampanga was about to begin.
Without significant tourism credentials and with graft cases still pending against him, the appointment of Mark Lapid should be seen as a way to mollify the Lapid camp in exchange for whatever plan is in the works. In the most likely scenario that a recall elections is currently in the offing, such a move effectively gets the erstwhile governor out of the way for a mano-a-mano slugfest between two contenders. It must be remembered that the main reason why Father Ed Panlilio or “Among Ed” won as governor was that the formidable Lapid camp and the more-formidable Pineda camp neutralized each other and split the vote during the 2007 campaign. Among Ed’s victory margin of 1,147 votes may have been freakish and phenomenal but a convincing mandate it never was. Such a narrow margin must have terribly whetted the appetites of both the Lapid and Pineda camps to take another shot at the province’s top post.
And another shot through a recall elections seems very, very likely. Since any tenant in Malacanang is bound to have a long memory, the memory of the political embarrassment caused by Among Ed’s media disclosure of the P500,000 payola scandal only several months back must still be causing certain blood pressures to rise. Besides, the fact that a last minute interloper managed to wrest the province’s governorship against two of the President’s most loyal supporters is a fact that most likely never sat well with the hubris of the most powerful Kapampangan in recent years. It is not Isabela or Naga, after all, but Pampanga, the President’s and her father’s own backyard so the stakes have always been high.
Thus, when Among Ed two weeks ago pulled off a surprise by filing plunder charges against the patriarch of the Pineda camp, alleged gambling don Bong Pineda himself, he may not have been intentionally raising the ante but merely calling the already high-stakes bet. All this time, he must have been aware of the busy plans of his political enemies so in response he boldly took the offensive as the best defensive move. Whether this move will prove to be a brilliant maneuver or an incredibly careless one, only later events would definitely prove. One thing has been made clear, though, by Among to foes and friends alike---he wont go down without a big fight.
But chances are, go down Among will in the next few months. The forces arrayed against him are just too many, too irresistible and too passionate. With the Vice Governor against him alongside almost all (except one) of the town mayors, all the members of the Provincial Board, disaffected business groups and prominent individuals like erstwhile supporter Lolita Hizon, and even some members of the clergy, Among Ed’s current base of support is a pitiful shadow of what it was gloriously once during the storied 2007 campaign.
The technical legal impediment to a recall upon which some supporters rest their hopes that no recall proceedings could be initiated---that regarding the recount suit precluding any other suit from being concurrently entertained by government bodies---may prove to be not much of a security blanket after all. Remember that Comelec had just been reorganized with the appointment of two new commissioners. In any case, that body had never been known to be a bedrock of fair play and integrity. Of course, the final hope lies in the Supreme Court with the esteemed Chief Justice Puno at the helm. But even there, the ultimate rule is the number’s game.
A Malacanang bearing down and wheeling and dealing to oust Among Ed is something that must be assumed as a given at this point. People may call it revenge but to paraphrase that classic saying---that’s what they are in power for. In the 2007 elections, it simply could have been way too distracted by the goings-on in other parts of the country for it to belatedly realize and prevent the impending upset in Pampanga. Now with a single dish on its plate, it would be fair to assume that Malacanang’s best and most experienced political tacticians and operators will be deployed to Pampanga in a recall election.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, Among Ed will most likely lose, and lose terribly, any recall elections. It must be noted that the number of voters who cast their ballots in Pampanga during the 2007 elections was actually lower than previous elections. This was not due to voter disinterest certainly but most likely due to that tactic employed by both the Lapid and Pineda camps in their respective bailiwicks---of buying people off not to vote for either one of them. In a recall elections between two protagonists, expect the votes for Mark Lapid to be harvested by Among Ed’s opponent, whoever that person might be. Expect also the active participation of the town mayors in any campaign. This fact alone ought to be frightening because the mayors can now devote their full concentration on their local constituencies in a manner unfettered by the exigencies of their own political campaigns.
And so the questions that must be asked are: Why did it come to this? How could one of the greatest upsets in Philippine electoral history unravel in a matter of months? What lessons can be learned in this entire episode?
While thorough and exhaustive answers to these questions deserve book-length ponderous manuscripts, below are some preliminary points that must be considered in any event. (Photo below: Bong Pineda, www.pcij.org)
In the first place, Among Ed’s victory margin of 1,147 was so tenuous to the point of being Pyrrhic. Simply put, except for the true believers in Among Ed’s camp, such small margin left everybody unconvinced about his actual mandate. In politics, any sign of weakness, however small, is fair game to be exploited and pounced upon so that such weakness will become bigger and bigger to the point of fatality. Early on, Among Ed called out the Pineda camp to accept defeat and not pursue an electoral protest. Such calls were naturally ignored. But then again, how could a Filipino politician really do that? Especially with the truism, masquerading as a joke, that nobody loses an election in this country for the simple reason that losers had merely been cheated out of victory.
The crusading spirit that played such a magnificent role during the campaign also must also be held into account with this turnaround. The appointment of novices such as Atty.Vivian Dabu to such a sensitive post as Provincial Administrator, for instance, and Among Ed’s insistence on her when groups eventually called on her to quit, lost many actual and potential allies who were helping and could have helped Among Ed in his administration. It did not help any that Dabu’s snobbish, no-bullshit personality honed by years of being a litigator was a stark contrast to Among’s gentle and affable style. All in all, it did not matter that they really meant well despite appearances to the contrary. People saw the new faces at the capitol as sanctimonious crusaders that not only hated sin but virtually condemned also the sinner.
Ultimately, Among Ed’s total inexperience in politics and his long vocation and training as a priest has a lot to do with the situation he now finds himself in. At least Cory Aquino of the original EDSA had some sort of long familiarity and training in realpolitik as the wife of a master politician in the person of Ninoy Aquino and had able backstop support in the political Cojuangco family of Tarlac. Despite his crash course at the Ateneo School of Government, it would not be unfair to say that what moves Among Ed is still his ecclesiastical training that makes use of Divine Reason not as an ultimate frame by which things and events ought to be viewed but as primus, an Alpha and Omega. Many times, as erstwhile ardent supporters would narrate, Among Ed once he had made up his mind on something would be as easy to convince to another position as one would an enigmatic rock---solid, serene and obstinate. As such, Among Ed was not built for consensus-building, for give-and-take, for tactical improvisations and other minimum requisites that make up even the smallest-time, barangay-level politician.
It had been joked many times over that somebody like Joe De Venecia (and traditional politicians in general) could convince the unwitting to buy Quiapo bridge with his smoothness and glibness. Presumably, Among Ed would never even think of anything remotely close to that. He would rather offer to people the bridge to heaven for free, if they swear to and fulfill a moral life by not lying, cheating, stealing or killing. In this temporal world, however, such a moral life is perhaps what is only needed for government to truly serve the interest of the Kapampangan people, bring peace and development to the province, and engender the fullest potential of humankind that can only be had by serving God.
In all likelihood, this is the deepest essence of Among’s offensive against the Pineda camp and which may well totally backfire on him, what with the intense reaction such an offensive had provoked among the local officials in that camp. He must have sensed that with all forms of pervasive evil in his midst, the littlest compromise would defeat his biggest purpose. And thus, like the catacomb Christians of pre-Constantine Roman empire, Among Ed had dug his feet in the middle of the coliseum and had shown that apart from God he is not afraid of anything and anyone. Come slay me, he appears to dare everybody, and oblige me in my martyrdom.
And so it seems inevitable that once the Pampango gladiators start to unleash their beasts and move in for the kill, they would find an almost too-willing martyr who for his defense will only invoke God and good governance. Some in the gallery might protest loudly or they might not at all. It won’t matter though: the thumbs down signal had been already given, the beasts of war have already been unleashed and are now hurtling towards their prey. The only thing that could save this would-be martyr is an act of mercy from the Empress herself. But having fought many battles and winning them all, the ruthless Empress is beyond mercy. In fact, she had waited for this moment far too long already!
And here lies the greatest, most compelling, irony. In slaying this unarmed prophet of good governance, Malacanang will inadvertently create its ultimate antithesis: a very powerful icon of reform. And in doing so, this impending outcast prophet in Pampanga---uncompromising against evil, faithful to his God and fellowmen, and magnificently glorious in defeat---might just well be the nation’s hottest political icon come the 2010 elections.
"Fernando Villarca Cao served as Deputy Director at IPD. The paper was produced as a contribution to the thinking and debate about Pampanga politics. The paper should not, however, be read as representing the only or even the main viewpoint within IPD of the complex situation in the province."
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