POSTSCRIPT / April 3, 2007 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Lakas parades troops imbedded in TU army

REVIEW OF TROOPS: Former Lakas-CMD secretary-general Migz Zubiri likened yesterday’s mammoth convention of the country’s biggest political party at the Folk Arts Theater to a “parade and review of troops on the eve of a battle.”

“The only difference,” he said, “is that we have won many of the battles without firing a shot, because in most areas the opposition has given up the fight, so administration candidates are running unopposed.”

The Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats is one of the parties merged into the administration’s Team Unity, under whose flag Zubiri is running for senator. “While Lakas on its own already appears to be omnipresent and omnipotent,” he said, “it is just one of the groups in the administration coalition.”

The others are Kabalikat ng Mamayang Pilipino (Kampi), Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, Nationalist People’s Coalition, one wing of the Liberal Party, and the Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas.

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OMNIPRESENCE: Its partisans said Lakas alone can deliver at least 10 million votes on the assumption that each of its 10,000 candidates nationwide can command 1,000 votes.

“But again that’s a minimal estimate,” Zubiri said. “Do you think the likes of Sonny Belmonte, Bayani Fernando and Joe de Venecia can deliver only a thousand votes in their respective bailiwicks?”

The party claims presence in every precinct, in every town, in every province, in every region. “Its troops on the ground have the capability to go on a house-to-house campaign nationwide,” he said.

We learned in yesterday’s convention that some 60 percent of Team Unity’s local candidates come from Lakas.

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LOST OPPORTUNITY?: It is ironic that the conventional wisdom in the traditionally oppositionist National Capital is that this 2007 of the midterm elections is The Year of the Opposition.

But there are problems, for the opposition. First, Manila is not the Philippines. Second, out there in the countryside, ward politics is still the name of the game. Third, the Genuine Opposition does not seem to be organized, funded and primed to grab that opportunity.

The senatorial race is boiling down to these elements: a ticket’s clear-cut legislative agenda, organizational strength; capacity to fund a nationwide campaign; and the ability of the candidates to make inroads in their rivals’ strongholds.

These points count in any election, whatever are the claims of the businessmen-pollsters concocting those table surveys being fed to media.

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OSMENA’S PROBLEM: Team Unity has 17,594 bets seeking as many local elective posts all over the country. That is illustration enough of the scope and strength of the administration engine as it shifts to high gear.

The new GO campaign management under Sen. Sergio Osmeña III will have to do better than merely having its senatorial candidates issue their individual press releases. Such “kanya-kanya” approach will not work.

Before it jumpstarts its campaign minus the Erap loyalists sidelined by Osmeña, the opposition will have to mollify first the disgruntled elements and recover from the embarrassment of its failed campaign rallies.

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RUFUS RUNNNING: I was in a Makati hotel lobby last week when I spotted walking in Rufus Rodriguez, a friend who was one of the best and brightest to serve in the short-lived Estrada administration.

Recognizing the then 44-year-old lawyer’s reformist bent, Erap sent him in 1998 to clean the Augean stables that was the immigration bureau. Rufus drove out the fixers, filed charges against erring personnel, decentralized services by opening extension offices and clamped down on human trafficking and other rackets at the international airport.

So far-reaching were his reforms that for the first time in living memory, Immigration was knocked off the list of the top 12 corrupt government agencies and earned more money than previous regimes.

I am recalling these facts because Rufus Rodriguez, former vice governor of Misamis Oriental, is running for the congressional seat in the newly created second district of his hometown, Cagayan de Oro City, under the GO-Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino banner.

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PRIORITIES LISTED: Rufus’s academic credentials alone show that he is top-grade material. He was valedictorian both in Grade School and High School at Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan), summa cum laude at De La Salle University (Manila) where he earned his AB Economics degree, and magna cum laude at the Columbia School of Law in New York where he obtained his Master of Law degree.

In Congress, Rufus vowed to allocate every peso in his “pork barrel,” plus whatever additional funds he could raise, to his priority of health care, education and employment. Given proper health care, the right education and the right jobs, he said, Cagayanons can gain easier access to food, clothing and shelter.

Fund use will be transparent, he said, so taxpayers would see that every peso is plowed back to them with value added. Between infrastructure and essential services to his constituents, Rufus said he was partial to spending more for people.

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GREEN VOTE: Engineer Roland “Rox” Peña, a fellow journalist, is running for councilor in our hometown Mabalacat.

A passionate environmentalist, Rox is a recipient of the Most Outstanding Kapampangan and Mabalaqueño awards in environment and ecology. Expect him to champion Earth and people-friendly legislative measures.

Running with the Lakas ticket of Mayor Marino “Boking” Morales, Rox has been active in recycling, tree-planting, research and related projects. (Boking, btw, is remarkable for his “staying power,” he being on his fourth term!)

Mabalacat means “full of Balacat (trees).” Rox has been active in the propagation of Dao and Balacat trees. Barangay Dau was named after the Dao tree. (One of oldest trees in the Subic virgin forest is a 328-foot-high Dao).

Rox has served as president and chairman of the Metro Angeles Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He is a co-anchor of “BUKAS Bayan” on dwRW 95.1 FM every Saturday. He writes for Sun.Star Pampanga and a local weekly business newspaper.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 3, 2007)

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