POSTSCRIPT / January 25, 2009 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Comelec pushing thru Panlilio recall election

CLARK FIELD — The nocturnal bats in the capitolio in San Fernando City may start coming out soon, sensing a gathering darkness for its tenant Pampanga Gov. Eddie T. Panlilio.

“Among Ed,” as the priest-turned-politician is called, should see the signs of an early twilight for his political career with his recall likely to push through, contrary to my fearful forecast that he would stay.

Days ago, Among Ed — emboldened by his Loyola Heights cheering squad — was already saying that he would run for president “if God wills it.” Paano na ngayon?

Out of the blue this week, the Commission on Elections approved the petition of more than 240,000 Pampanga voter-signatories to recall Panlilio, who has been governor since June 2007. (Only 100,000 signatures were actually needed.)

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THERE’S MONEY NOW: The omnibus reason the disgruntled cabalens gave was “loss of confidence” as provided for in RA 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991.

Finding the petition sufficient, the Comelec headed by Chairman Jose A. R. Melo has asked Congress to appropriate the P93,150,196 need for the recall elections in Pampanga and five other contested places.

Suddenly there will be funds for the special elections. Comelec officials said earlier that the loose change left in their coffers was not enough and that money would be hard to raise on short notice.

Not anymore. Even assuming that a proposed special budget cannot be approved fast enough, there is recourse to the regular annual budget, which will be signed shortly by President Gloria Arroyo.

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FOOTNOTES: This may be an irrelevant footnote, but Panlilio is not exactly in the good graces of the Mother of Perpetual Help by the Pasig. Not after he claimed that the Palace had tried to bribe him with P500,000 stuffed in a paper bag.

It may also be irrelevant that Ms Arroyo is a kumare of Lilia Pineda, the former provincial board member whom Panlilio trounced in the 2007 gubernatorial election with a slim 1,147-vote margin.

It is also probably mere coincidence that Lilia is the wife of Bong Pineda, an alleged jueteng lord from Lubao, which happens to be Ms. Arroyo’s paternal hometown.

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SMALL WINDOW: Can Among Ed’s lawyer — election expert Romy Macalintal — still salvage the situation? (Yes, that is Atty. Romulo Macalintal, whose other famous client is President Arroyo herself.)

If not busy attending to his client in the Palace, Macalintal can be expected to run to the Supreme Court armed with new-found arguments to stop the impending recall of the governor.

Another thing Macalintal might do is stall the process so that it would be overtaken by the restriction in the law that no special election may be held one year before a regular election, which will be in May 2010.

It is a small window, but the recall election must be forced through it before May this year.

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CHALLENGERS: Assuming the short (about 15 days) recall campaign-cum-election will push through, the incumbent is automatically in the running again, unless Panlilio bows out.

Who will run against him? It is generally assumed that Vice Gov. Yeng Guiao, who won as the running mate of Lilia Pineda, will challenge him. After all, as provincial board chairman, he has been subjecting the governor to a full-court press.

But if you ask Guiao, he is likely to feign reluctance — citing some reasons, including his supposed lack of money. But we assume that funding will not be a problem if the Pinedas decide to back him up.

Why not Lilia Pineda herself runnning? After all she filed that protest against what she said was Panlilio’s cheating her of victory last time.

I have not checked with Mrs. Pineda, but her friends tell me she now talks of wanting to explore ways, other than politics, to help her cabalen. Even in her private capacity she has been active in charity work.

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DARKHORSE: In case, Guiao and Pineda are unable to decide who between them should face the governor, a darkhorse could be Mrs. Lolita Hizon of the family that owns the giant food chain “Pampanga’s Best.”

A philanthropist and religious worker, Hizon was one of the campaigners and biggest contributors to Panlilio’s campaign in 2007. But, having seen him close-up, she is now among his most rabid critics.

She will deny it because admission could get her into trouble, but I estimate that she poured in some P50 million to Among Ed’s campaign in money, campaign materials, vehicles, safehouses, security, et cetera.

If only to make sure the priest she once supported all-out is rooted out of the capitolio, she might just run in the event Guiao and Pineda decide to step aside.

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CAPITOLIO DERBY?: In Pasig City, meanwhile, some concerned residents and taxpayers decry the scandalous operation of a super-cockpit right in the capitolio grounds.

The new, 2,400-seat Ynares Sports Arena in the compound of the Rizal provincial capitol on Shaw Blvd. reportedly has metamorphosed into a venue for big-time cockfighting.

Owned and operated by the provincial government, the arena is beside the Hall of Justice, PhilHealth, the Land Transportation Office, among other government offices.

Originally advertised to host sporting events like basketball and boxing, the facility has become a cockpit. Big-time derbies are scheduled on Jan. 27; Feb. 3, 10 and 24, March 10, 17 and 24; April 14, 21 and 28; and May 5, 12 and 19.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 25, 2009)

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