POSTSCRIPT / February 22, 2007 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Pampanga factions unite for GMA bets

CLARK FIELD – The whirlwind campaign the other day of President Gloria Arroyo in this her home ground confirmed the conventional wisdom that whoever she endorses for governor of Pampanga, the province still will go heavily for her senatorial team.

In an adroit balancing act, the President went to the birthday party in Lubao town of provincial board member Lilia Pineda, her kumare and challenger of the administration candidate, Gov. Mark Lapid.

But she did not gift Baby Pineda, wife of alleged jueteng lord Rodolfo “Bong” Pineda, with an endorsement. Moving later to the proclamation rally of Team Unity in the capital city of San Fernando, she endorsed Lapid.

Pineda did not show any hurt, saying she did not want to put anybody in a bind by insisting on an endorsement. She added that she understood the “equity of the incumbent” rule.

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PINEDA LEADS: There will be no junking either. Pineda and her network of local officials could create big trouble for Team Unity, but she promised to support GMA’s senatorial ticket.

Some of the senatorial bets made no bones about seeing Pineda, who is after all running under President Arroyo’s Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi) party. Besides, party lines have been blurred, with candidates flitting from one party to another.

My assessment (but do not take the word of this amateur) is that with the backing of 17 of Pampanga’s 21 mayors and majority of barangay leaders — plus of course the resources of her husband — Lilia is on her way to becoming the next governor.

In the senatorial derby, I see Team Unity getting in Pampanga eight or nine of the 12 slots, which will be better than the national average.

If Lapid loses to Pineda, which is likely, it will not be because of, but in spite of, President Arroyo’s endorsement. But whoever wins, GMA is the winner in this province.

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SENATE LOST?: Talking days ago with a Palace factotum who is supposed to be in on strategies, I commented on their failure to assemble a formidable Senate slate, one that could smother the opposition with an 8-4, or at least a 7-5, victory in May.

“Oh, we are ready to concede the Senate anyway,” he said. “Once we get at least two-thirds of the House, and we will, the Senate will become less of a problem.”

He was, of course, thinking in terms of impeachment, a continuing threat to President Arroyo.

In this sense, he had a point. The Senate as the impeachment court will not get to touch the President if the House holds the line and not allow impeachment charges to prosper and reach the Senate.

But it is not all impeachment in the political universe.

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NAIVETE: When one is in power, when an incumbent president sallies forth into political combat backed by a formidable machine and a mountain of money, she seeks victory on ALL fronts.

She does not abandon a crucial piece of the ground even before the first shot is fired.

When one is in power, she does not “concede” such an important front as the Senate and be content with making a last stand in the House of Representatives.

I told my Palace friend that, and remarked how ridiculous was his claim that the Palace was willing to throw away the Senate fight this early.

He let out with his usual belly laugh that, knowing him, meant he was just trying to pull my leg when he said the Senate had been given up as lost.

No, he said turning serious, the fight for the Senate is still on. Of course it is on.

It is naiveté to believe that Malacanang has conceded the Senate this early.

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TONY FIRES AWAY: The body of Ambassador Antonio Modena, 58, who died of lung cancer Sunday, is scheduled to be cremated on Saturday.

A former desk editor of Malaya, Tony took the Foreign Service Officer exam in 1983 and rose until he was named ambassador to Tel Aviv. He also served as consul in Bonn, Germany, and minister in Paris, France.

Tony stands out in my book for doing the undiplomatic. In May 2005, he protested the discrimination against Filipino workers arriving in Israel. It is most unusual for a diplomat to criticize the country to which he is accredited.

But still a journalist to the core, Tony did exactly that.

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HE SPOKE UP: Modena made a strong representation with the Israeli Interior Ministry to improve the treatment and security procedures for incoming Filipino workers at the Ben Gurion international airport.

He protested the segregation of Filipino workers from other passengers at Israeli airports. He also bewailed the practice of subjecting Filipinos to overly strict scrutiny and assigning them seats at the rear of the aircraft.

Modena said the cellular phones of Filipinos were being confiscated, preventing them from calling Philippine consular officers for help. He said the practice violated the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

He may have ignored diplomatic niceties, but those things he was complaining about had to be addressed. Somebody had to speak up, and Tony did.

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CAMI FORUM: The Capampangan in Media Inc. will host at the Monteverde hotel here tomorrow at 10 a.m. a forum where US journalist James R. Dickenson will exchange views with members of the working press and the academe.

For nearly three decades, Dickenson was a political reporter, editor, and columnist for the Washington Post, The Washington Star, The National Observer, and the United Press International. He covered the White Houses of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan.

He also covered the Senate and the House of Representatives and their major election campaigns, plus key gubernatorial, mayoral and other political and non-political stories.

Helping CAMI hold the forum is the Clark Development Corp., whose president and CEO Levy Laus had dabbled in media. Also expected to attend are journalism students and professors of Holy Angel University.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 22, 2007)

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