POSTSCRIPT / November 25, 2007 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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By himself, Panlilio can't save Pampanga

SAN FERNANDO — After electing a priest for governor, Capampangans are now dismayed seeing him held in check by some of the politicians holding court in the capitolio and the outlying towns.

When Fr. Ed Panlilio ran on a platform of reform last June, he sallied forth alone — with no party, no vice gubernatorial running mate, no board member, no mayor to lend support when and where he needed it.

Now, operating alone is turning out to be a handicap for this former parish priest of Betis caught up in politics.

The situation tests the managerial and political skills of the first-time stand-alone governor who has to contend with 21 mayors and an odd mix in the provincial board functioning as a mini-legislature.

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IMPASSE: Looking back to the last four months, critics of Among Ed are already saying that his only significant accomplishment has been the raising of collections from lahar quarrying, which is the province’s main source of indigenous income.

After reforming the lahar-management system, Among Ed was able to collect a monthly average in quarrying fees equivalent to the collection in one full year of the previous Lapid administrations.

To gain headway in addressing the other concerns, such as public health, employment and development, should the governor play hard ball with his detractors or resort to political accommodation?

Many observers see Among Ed stubbornly trying to do things by himself, while the board members and the mayors are holding back and waiting for the governor to relent.

The impasse has slowed down infrastructure development and the delivery of essential services.

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WHO LEADS?: To be sure, neither the governor on one side nor the provincial board headed by Vice Gov. Yeng Guiao and some mayors on the other side want the deadlock.

Talking to them, one is convinced they all want Pampanga to move higher and faster after two lame Lapid administrations – except that the magic formula has remained elusive.

If the province were to move forward, under whose banner would it be?

There is speculation that Among Ed’s adversaries are just waiting for him to lose in the election protest filed by former board member Lilia Pineda, the wife of alleged jueteng lord Bong Pineda who ran against Panlilio and lost.

Is the perceived obstructionism part of the holding action of Pineda stragglers?

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DIALOG: Wanting to help end the stalemate, senior members of the Campampangan in Media Inc. (CAMI) met last Wednesday with Guiao and some board members to probe into their thinking and attitude.

The meeting that CAMI sought was in the spirit of listening to the other side and, hopefully, finding a middle ground where the contending parties can meet and join hands in improving the lot of their cabalen.

Guiao recalled to CAMI his conciliatory moves right after Panlilio’s inauguration, only to be ignored. He said the governor preferred to listen to his close advisers than the collective wisdom of other elective officials.

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SELF-CENTERED: One of the complaints of Guiao and the rest is that Panlilio seems to believe that he does not need them or that most of them are so corrupt that they are incapable of offering clean helping hands.

Hindi naman lahat ng officials ay corrupt or that lahat ng pare ay angels,” Guiao noted. (“Not all officials are corrupt, but neither are all priests angels.”

Pressing on the governor’s supposedly self-centered administration, Guiao noted that even the lobby of the capitolio had been plastered with pictures of Panlilio.

His observations were confirmed by other board members present, among them Cris Cunanan Garbo, Tars Halili and Cesar Magat.

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REJECTION: This antagonism may have contributed to the board’s rejection of a request of Panlilio for blanket authority to enter into contracts and commit the province in securing loans and accepting grants.

The board felt it was too sweeping an authority being asked by someone who had hardly warmed his seat and had not tried hard enough to win the confidence of the “legislative” department.

The board has blocked other proposals of the governor, prompting supporters of Panlilio to accuse the body of obstructionism.

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P.R. NEEDED: But some mayors, like Candaba’s Jerry Pelayo, observed that the governor, a newcomer to realpolitik, needs a crash course in management and public relations.

Pelayo said it is easy for the governor to cross over the hall in the capitolio and talk with Guiao about some ideas he wants to push in the board presided over by the vice governor.

Even some sympathizers of Panlilio agree that he should learn to work within the realities of the system. After all, he is dealing with officials who, like him, had also been elected and favored with a mandate.

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HOPELESS?: Talking of the mayors, Guiao said many of them have been smarting from the failure of Panlilio to release the P3 million allocated to each municipality under the budget.

The mayors, harassed to produce cash for projects and essential needs of their constituents, have been waiting for this. If not released within the year, the money goes back to the treasury.

No wonder, when the governor called recently a meeting of the provincial development council, the mayors did not show up.

In the coming anniversary celebration of the province, elective officials who used to play key roles have been shunted in favor of civic leaders close to the governor.

Is the situation hopeless?

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 25, 2007)

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