POSTSCRIPT / October 21, 2008 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Panlilio recall doomed: No time, no money, no...

CLARK FIELD — My unsolicited advice to theorists pontificating from their ivory towers at Loyola Heights and Makati is to minimize meddling in Pampanga politics and to spend time first immersing themselves in the local milieu.

Don’t worry, the Capampangans – who have some degree of political sophistication — know what to do with themselves and their leaders.

Lately, an Ateneo group presumed to ask Pampanga Gov. Eddie “Among Ed” Panlilio to remove or transfer his 42-year-old provincial administrator Vivian Dabu, who has been blamed for many problems at the capitolio. Panlilio said, “No, she stays.”

Having heaped flattery on him in the past, the group must have thought it had some influence (Kaya Natin!) over Among Ed. But it turned out “di pala nila kaya” this 58-year-old priest who had crossed over to politics with disastrous results.

Panlilio, who was also prematurely enthroned by a Makati-based newspaper as its “Man of the Year,” is now the object of a recall petition for alleged maladministration. The paper is thus forced to defend and continue to glorify him.

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EASY SIGNATURES: A petition to recall Panlilio was initiated this month by the Kapanalig at Kambilan neng Memalen Pampanga. More than 200,000 — double the required minimum of 10 percent of the one million voting population — signed the petition.

Don’t let the number of signatures fool you. More than 430,000 of the 649,843 cabalens who voted in 2007 were never for Panlilio in the first place and actually voted for his five rivals. He got only 219,706 votes.

Generating 200,000 anti-Panlilio signatures in a divided province dominated by jueteng lords is easy.

After the petition is processed by the Commission on Elections and (if) found to be valid in form and substance, a recall election is scheduled. The recalled governor will be automatically in the running.

At this point, it is not clear who would be fielded against him.

* * *

OBSTACLES: But several factors conspire to derail Panlilio’s recall and the holding of special elections.

* For one, time is running short. The tedious process must be completed by May 2009, seven months from now, or one year before the next local election in 2010. The whole thing is off if overtaken by the deadline.

* If the lawyers of Panlilio decide to question each of the 200,000 signatures on the petition, verification of the signatories and their status could take forever.

* Every decision that the Comelec makes on the petition could elicit a motion for reconsideration, the usual TRO (temporary restraining order), and a likely appeal to a higher court, all the way to the Supreme Court, with all the attendant motions and petitions and the legal countermoves.

* There is the other problem of Panlilio’s election having been protested by former Board Member Lilia Pineda, who lost to him by only 1,147 votes. The protest has to be resolved first, before Panlilio can be considered a duly elected governor subject to possible recall. (Imagine what would happen if Pineda won her protest and Panlilio lost to somebody else in the recall elections!)

* The Comelec does not have the P25 million needed to hold special elections in Pampanga. In fact, 18 other recall petitions in other parts of the country have been deferred for lack of funds. The Comelec has only P5 million for all recall actions.

* * *

OUTSIDE MEDDLING: Despite their good intentions, there is no need for outsiders to put Pampanga and Panlilio on a table and dissect them like political guinea pigs “for their own good.”

That is already being done by concerned Pampanga-based multisectoral groups, such as the Kapampangan Coalition Inc. (KCI) and the Kapampangan Marangal. As for asking for Dabu’s ouster, that is an old line — and the governor said “No” a long time ago.

Disturbed by complaints, especially the alleged slow delivery of essential services by the capitolio and the discord among elective officials, the KCI conducted province-wide consultations from February to April this year.

On May 21, KCI representatives arrived at a consensus and signed a manifesto in Betis town that (1) Among Ed must listen to Capampangans who have no ulterior motives except for him and his administration to succeed, and (2) for Dabu to step down as provincial administrator.

Panlilio asked for 15 days to decide. The June 5 self-imposed deadline has lapsed.

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DABU ON THE SPOT: It is interesting that groups coming from different directions have arrived at the same conclusion that Dabu must go. Yet her boss refuses to remove her, giving rise to loose talk that there might be some special relations between them.

The governor has denied any affair. He disclosed that he actually has decided to farm out some of Dabu’s functions to others and is just searching for competent hands to take over.

Some of us are saying that if, for personal reasons, the governor is hesitant to remove Dabu, she should take it upon herself to help him by resigning irrevocably immediately.

In chess, to save the King, sometimes even the Queen has to be sacrificed. And to think that Dabu has mere pawn value on the political board. Pampanga is bigger than she is.

If she withdraws, suddenly everybody will discover that she is after all not dispensable, that the capitolio will not collapse in her absence, but might even start to function better.

At this late date, however, some of Panlilio’s detractors have started to say that the problem is no longer Dabu but the governor himself. Granting that, it would still help if Dabu left the scene.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 21, 2008)

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