LILIA â€˜Babyâ€™ Pineda is on her second term as provincial board member of Pampanga. She was mayor of Lubao for nine years, and before that she was a town councilor for five years. Yet when many look to her husband as the real political power, they are not being chauvinistic. Itâ€™s just that Rodolfo â€˜Bongâ€™ Pineda is an acknowledged political kingmaker who is said to have helped many local and national politicians, among them former President Joseph â€˜Erapâ€™ Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, as well as Senator Manuel â€˜Litoâ€™ Lapid and his son Pampanga Governor Mark Lapid.
Bong Pineda is not even into politics himself. What he has been alleged of being for the last two decades or so is a major jueteng operator. But as the latest piece in i Reportâ€™s current series on local bosses notes, that has given him formidable political clout. Many observers even say he can make and unmake political careers — including those of action stars-turned-politicians like the Lapids. According to business and political leaders in Pampanga, if the Lapids arenâ€™t shaking in their tooled leather boots yet, they could very well be doing so soon. Thatâ€™s because Pineda has declared war on them publicly, and is even pitting Lilia against Governor Lapid in the gubernatorial contest this May.
Arroyo seems to be still on the side of the Lapids, of course, even if she failed to endorse the young governorâ€™s reelection bid when she visited her home province last week. But out of Pampangaâ€™s 22 mayors, 18 are now standing by the Pinedas. If news coming out of Pampanga are to be believed, the four still left with Governor Lapid may be changing camps soon.
Read on at pcij.org.
THE Social Weather Stations is pushing for the removal of a section of R.A. 9006 or the Fair Elections Act, which has been struck down as unconstitutional.
Section 5.4 prohibits the publication of election surveys for 15 days before elections are held.
Two decisions by the Supreme Court, ABS-CBN v. Comelec (Commission on Elections) and SWS v. Comelec, have affirmed the dissemination of election surveys at any time before the elections.
By continuing to include section 5.4 in the Fair Elections Act, the SWS says that the Comelec is “misleading” Filipinos about “their freedom to express themselves by means of election surveys.”
The SWS is also demanding a formal apology from the Comelec for including Sec. 5.4 in Comelec Resolution 7767, the implementing rules and regulations of R.A. 9006. It is also calling for a “transparent investigation of the cause of the error, for proper penalties to be meted to the persons responsible, and for measures to be taken to prevent repetition of the error in the future.” According to the SWS, the Comelec continues to ignore its demands.
However, the Comelec “is not in the business of changing the law,” said the poll body’s Education and Information Department director James Jimenez. He added that if the SWS wanted to remove Section 5.4, they should ask Congress, or file a specific request to the Comelec commissioners en banc.
ELECTION season is said to be synonymous with jueteng season — which is not to say that the illegal numbers game isnâ€™t going on during other times. Itâ€™s just that elections require the kind of money that can be generated fast by the likes of jueteng, which is said to become even more popular as the campaign heats up and the polls near.
This week, i Report‘s series on local bosses features Batangas Governor Armando Sanchez, whose claim to infamy three years ago was that he was among the countryâ€™s lords of jueteng. Sanchez has consistently denied being such, but the rumors persist, even among his constituents. According to Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, who is known for his nationwide anti-jueteng crusade, Sanchez was said to be a major jueteng operator in his province as far back as 2001. But the archbishop says other people are now running the game in Batangas, although he said they were using Sanchezâ€™s name.
â€œWe donâ€™t know if he knows this or not,â€ Cruz says. â€œThey said he allows them to operate, that he gives them the go-signal.â€ This means, he says, Sanchez may â€œnot (be) operating as directly as before.â€
Jueteng rumors, however, may not be Sanchezâ€™s only problems, and Archbishop Cruz is apparently not the only prince of the Church who is not too happy with him. Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles has said of Sanchez, â€œThe worst crime that Armando Sanchez committed in Batangas is his being a governor. He created that black spot in the history of Batangas when there wasnâ€™t any achievement that could have helped the people. All that darkest time in the history of Batangas could speak of was the heightened criminality and violence.â€
Read on at pcij.org.
THE campaign period for the Senate is not even a week old, but television air time is already awash with advertisements from a host of aspirants.
Senate President Manuel Villar, Jr. has probably the longest of the spots so far. In his meticulously produced ad, Villar is seen frolicking, singing, and breaking bread with the so-called common tao, among whom, the ad goes, he himself belongs. For a few seconds, he also launches into a dance with a little boy.
There’s former Senator Teresa Aquino-Oreta, too, who courts education advocates and uses a platoon of cute kids. Congressman Francis Escudero, meanwhile, plays the youth card with his ad, selling himself as one with answers to questions of joblessness and what the future holds.
Common ingredients appear to cut across the ads: a catchy jingle (even better, buy the rights to some popular ditty, if you can manage); a reference to your performance, if you’ve done public-service before; the endorsement of a popular figure; a recital of your family lineage, if you think they’ve left a good legacy; a hand-signal (whether original or recycled); and an appeal to basic instincts of love for family and a secure future.
PROFESSIONAL actor Cesar Montano is seeking a Senate seat under the administration’s ticket. Montano filed his certificate of candidacy at the Commission on Elections yesterday, substituting for Leyte Gov. Jericho Petilla who has decided to instead run for re-election to his same post.
Montano brings to four the number of showbusiness professionals taking a shot at adding the word “lawmaker” to their resumÃ©. He joins hopefuls, actor and TV host Vicente Sotto III, also a former senator, singer Victor Wood, and actor Richard Gomez.
Tourism Secretary Ace Durano, speaking for T.E.A.M. Unity, was quoted to have said the replacement for Petilla needed to be Visayan like the governor. Montano, whose real name is Cesar Manhilot, is from Bohol. Moreover, Montano is well-respected in the Visayas and has provided “strong support” to MalacaÃ±ang’s 10-point agenda, Durano said.
Montano is regarded as one of the country’s finest actors, who once played the national hero Jose Rizal in a multi-awarded film. He is also a respected director.
This developed as the Comelec’s law department made a recommendation to reject the candidacies of more than half of the 80 who filed their intent to run for Senator. The Commission en banc will finalize the list of qualified candidates next week.
IF you’re running for office and you want your face and name to be seen by your potential voters, where can you put up your posters? Definitely not on main thoroughfares, electric posts, nor any other area not listed as authorized.
The Commission on Elections has made public its list of “common poster areas” for Metro Manila. The list includes barangay halls, basketball courts, public markets, and specifically assigned open spaces.
The Comelec chair has been reported to have given stern warnings to candidates whose posters began flooding the streets as the campaign kicked off last week. Police and village officials were also scolded for allowing the litter.
View the list for NCR. Click here for the rest of the country.
AS election season kicks into full swing, the clamor for free and fair elections is growing louder.
The CBCP has called for credible and orderly polls, while the Money and Politics Working Group (MAP-Work) announced a pilot project that will track expenditures by candidates in selected electoral contests throughout the country.
CONTESTED POSITIONS IN 2007 MID-TERM ELECTIONS
12 out of 24 seats
House of Representatives (single district representation)
at least 214 seats
House of Representatives (party-list)
a maximum of 53 seats
Last Monday, electoral reform advocates led by the Consortium for Electoral Reforms (CER) launched Bantay-Eleksyon 2007 (People’s Coalition to Monitor the 2007 Elections).
The coalition counts some 22 civil-society organizations among its members, including the Institute for Popular Democracy, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, and Philippine Ecumenical Action for Peace and Development.
It aims to conduct a comprehensive monitoring, from electoral preparations to post-proclamation protests.
TWELVE Senate seats will be contested on May 14; the Commission on Elections received a total 80 certificates of candidacy from aspirants.
Along with incumbent and former lawmakers, in Comelec’s list are a host of other individuals seeking to craft the nation’s laws and help steer the country through the next three years. The poll body is filtering out so-called nuisance candidates.
One aspirant listed his profession as â€œperpetual virtual scientist.â€ Another declared himself, simply, â€œjobless.â€ A variety of parties are represented: among them, Lakas, Nationalist People’s Coalition, Liberal Party, and Kilusang Bagong Lipunan. Half of the number are running as independent candidates, while one — a â€œPinoy Rock Singerâ€ — said he belonged to the â€œImee Marcos/Boy Abundaâ€ party.
View the list.
Comelec has also released a partial list of organizations that have been accredited for the congressional elections under the party-list system. As of this posting, there are 30 such groups.
View the list.
â€œYOU want good government?â€ asks poll commissioner Rene Sarmiento. â€œYou want leaders who are public servants in the true sense of the word, upright, just and responsible to the needs of many, especially the poor? You want peace and development to go together? If you want them all, you vote.â€
And so goes Sarmientoâ€™s recital of why citizens must exercise their right to vote, writing in the Commission on Electionsâ€™ (Comelec) new voterâ€™s education website, Bagong Botante.
With the website, Comelec aims to teach voters about the elections, including how voting will take place and other basics of the system. The site also hopes to create a more intelligent and vigilant electorate, giving tips on picking candidates and spotting poll fraud.
Advocates of electoral reform have for a long time lamented the lack of serious voterâ€™s education programs in the country. They say voter education, in the long-term, could result in greater awareness of what a genuinely democratic electoral process should be.
WHEN Abra Congressman Luis Bersamin Jr. was gunned down in front of a Quezon City church last December, few had any doubts that his assassination could be traced back to his province. Since 2001, there have been at least 30 Abra politicos shot dead; Congressman Bersamin was among the most recent fatalities. This death count does not include other fatalities in Abra’s blood politics, such as the gunmen themselves in some cases, or the bodyguards, or the hapless passersby caught in the crossfire.
In this first-person account for i Report‘s series on local bosses, a member of one of Abra’s most prominent clans describes what is it is like to live in a province where political killings have become part of everyday reality, killings in which those often involved (victims and instigators) are her blood relations. Writing the piece in fact was a painful process for her, and the wounds show in the article she has produced.
“Many times I have cursed my forefathers for the tragedy of living in a place that is beautiful but awash in blood, that has nothing to offer but devastation, depression, and death,” she writes. “Even I cannot bear living in the land ruled by kith and kin, in the province built by years of my family members’ struggles to overpower each other.”
But, she says, “I am powerless to undo what members of my clan have wrought.”
She can, however, write about it — and hope that the tragedy that is Abra would make politicians elsewhere realize that governance by the gun is never an option for someone who is truly a leader.
Read on at pcij.org.