POSTSCRIPT / July 7, 2009 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Randy has to shake off image of ‘feria’ salesman

CLARK FIELD: Last time, I was saying the obvious that in the ballyhooed David vs Gloriath showdown — meaning UP professor Randy David running against President Gloria Arroyo — Randy does not stand a chance.

Theoreticians and anti-administration critics outside Pampanga are promoting that dream battle royal to humiliate the daughter of the late President Diosdado Macapagal who hails from Lubao in the second district.

Randy would be naïve to succumb to the naughty prompting of that small crowd in the national capital operating from a dubious assumption that the President would dive low and run for a congressional seat at the end of her term in May 2010.

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GMA NOT RUNNING: President Arroyo is being misrepresented to be preparing to run for Congress. Pressing this straw man argument, her critics have proceeded to heckle and embarrass her by putting up Randy David as an opponent.

The problem here is that, based on logic and all available information, (1) President Arroyo is not likely to run for a lower office, and (2) Randy David cannot win against Gloria Arroyo in a district election centered around her native Lubao.

The reality on the ground is that the Davids have no political presence in the second district and in the province. In fact, many Pampangueños who have heard of Randy as a professor and a writer are surprised to know that he is from Betis in Guagua.

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LOSING STREAK: Randy’s own brother Dante — a lawyer who is said to be more outgoing and more politically skillful than Randy — ran for congressman in 1998. He did not only lose to the administration bet, Zeny Cruz-Ducut, but landed a poor third.

Ducut went on to win another term (her third), after which she was tapped by President Arroyo to chair the Energy Regulatory Commission. The President’s son Mikey was elected to occupy her congressional seat in 2004.

Media reports have it also that Randy’s late mother ran and lost as kagawad in barangay San Nicolas in Guagua.

The second district has a population of around 517,500. As of last April, the voters in its six towns numbered 246,721, distributed among Lubao (67,482), Guagua (54,141), Floridablanca (44,517), Porac (43,815), Santa Rita (18,949) and Sasmuan (17,817).

Past elections have shown that Lubao, dominated by the Arroyos and their allies the Pinedas, is the district’s political center of gravity.

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PROJECTS GALORE: Useful infrastructure and essential services may not be the sole gauge of performance, but Randy will have to tear down that culture of gratitude that make people look up to their long-time benefactors.

The district, like the rest of Pampanga, is dotted with projects put up by the Arroyo administration that include good roads, bridges, water systems, dikes, etc., whose benefits are all too obvious to the appreciative cabalen.

Many of these projects were financed through the Countryside Development Fund of the President’s son, Rep. Mikey Arroyo. He is qualified for a third and last term in 2010, but there is no indication yet that he would run.

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FERIA SALESMAN: Randy David is likened to what some Pampangueños call “magpeperia” – referring to the traveling salesmen who show up during town fiestas to put up flea market stalls to sell their wares.

The natives may buy their cheap goods, but do not develop any affinity with these seasonal merchants who appear only at fiesta time.

Randy’s sudden interest in running is compared to these “feria” salesmen, who have no roots in their occasional markets.

He will be hard-pressed to demonstrate that although he is delivering only promises and has no local track record, he has been with them all this time. Then he has to show what alternatives he has to the Arroyo projects that abound in Pampanga.

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CADUANG APAG’: Talk of Ms Arroyo preparing to run for a local post was triggered by her frequent visits to Pampanga and her personally inspecting ongoing projects — activities usually associated with candidates wooing voters.

But the records show that the peripatetic President has been visiting other regions on similar inspections, sometimes even provoking jealousy among her provincemates.

My take on her frequent visits is that being on the homestretch of her term, the President wants to make sure she leaves a solid legacy in her home province.

I sense that she is also trying to make up for her late father Cong Dadong, who sort of “neglected” his province during his term (1961-1965) as he looked after other areas first.

He apologized to his cabalen, assuring them that they would have their turn in the “caduang apag” (“second serving,” referring to his intended second term). But he failed to make good his promise, because Ferdinand Marcos beat him in the 1965 presidential election.

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KISS OF DEATH: One question still hanging is if Mikey Arroyo will try for a third term or run for governor.

If he runs for reelection in the second district, he is a sure winner. If he runs for governor, that could give Gov. Eddie Panlilio a good excuse to drop his hopeless presidential obsession and run for reelection — for a showdown with the Arroyos.

But if the Arroyos want to avoid a messy collision with the priest-turned-politician and his cheering squad from faraway Loyola-Makati, they can field a worthy proxy.

The so-called presidential “kiss of death” does not apply in Pampanga. The cabalen will go all-out to support Atching Gloria’s local candidates.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 7, 2009)

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