POSTSCRIPT / September 2, 2012 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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What if Baby Pineda runs vs Gloria Arroyo?

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — Some of those running for public office in May next year will have to shuffle their campaign budget as a result of the advancing to Oct. 1-5 of the filing of certificates of candidacy.

It is financially challenging for many aspirants, especially outsiders who are not as fat as incumbents raking in millions, to announce their candidacies before Christmas.

This country has a prolonged Christmas season that starts when the cock crows for the first Misa de Gallo on Dec. 16 and ends when the last of the Three Kings trots out on his camel in the first Sunday of January of the following year.

In this nation being conditioned to CCT-type dole outs, the demands of massive Christmas gift-giving to voters could be debilitating for candidates who lack resources.

But for sitting officials whose terms are a virtual non-stop season of money-making, Christmas is more of a political opportunity than a financial crisis.

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BABY VS GLORIA?: In this province that has produced two presidents, some players tell us of pressure being employed in the continuing near-divine effort to recreate Pampanga into the likeness or liking of Malacañang.

This has inspired speculations on the possible realignment of forces in preparation for next year’s midterm May elections.

One story has it that Gov. Lilia Pineda is being made to run against Rep. Gloria Arroyo in the second district composed of the towns of Floridablanca, Guagua, Lubao, Porac, Santa Rita and Sasmuan. The district has a voting population of around 250,000.

But if Gov. Pineda insists on running for reelection, whom will Malacañang field against her? Being mentioned are multi-awarded Mayor Oca Rodriguez of this capital city and reformist priest Eddie “Among Ed” Panlilio.

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STILL UNBEATABLE: Rodriguez and Panlilio, however, do not look too eager to collide with Pineda whose war chest can finance five campaigns in a row and whose influence over 21 of the province’s 22 mayors is taken for granted.

In short, by most conservative estimates, “Nanay Baby” — as the philanthropic governor is fondly called by her followers – is unbeatable.

If the administration coalition cannot beat her, why not join her? Or, better, why not convince her to join the Liberal Party/administration coalition for 2013?

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SHOOTING 3 BIRDS: An inspired idea based on her conceded invincibility is for Malacañang to pressure her husband Bong Pineda to tell her to run instead for the second congressional district seat now held by her kumare, former President Arroyo.

Everything considered, Baby Pineda and her husband’s well-oiled grassroots political machine – plus Malacañang’s fire support – has a good chance of beating Ms Arroyo.

That would be shooting three birds with one vengeful stone: snatching Ms Arroyo’s congressional seat, installing a governor aligned with the Palace, and capturing in one fell swoop all the Pampanga mayors under Pineda’s sway.

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CHANGING THE WORLD: As for Among Ed, the last word from him yesterday was that he is not running.

His SMS text reply to my query sent through a common friend read: “Pakisabi cang Tang Dik ecu tagal.” (Please tell Tang Dik I’m not running.)

But that was as of press time. There is still time until the Oct. 5 deadline for candidacy filing to convince the crusading priest to agree to a return bout with Gov. Pineda.

Crucial to his making a decision is the counsel of Archbishop Paciano Aniceto of the San Fernando archdiocese who has jurisdiction over him.

The archbishop can tell Among Ed to abjure politics and return to his full ministry. Panlilio, forever a priest, is expected to obey his bishop.

Or Apu Ceto can tell Among Ed to ride on the wings of the Holy Spirit and change the face of Pampanga by being governor.

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PALACE PLANS?: A showdown between Nanay Baby and Among Ed would be something to watch. The foreign wire agencies themselves that rushed over in 2007 will not ignore the Battle Royal-Part II.

Recall that in 2007, Panlilio beat Pineda by less than 2,000 votes. She protested and won in the recount. But with just four months to the 2010 elections, she did not bother to take the governor’s seat.

She waded instead into another campaign and, the second time around, beat the priest by some 200,000 votes. Panlilio’s followers, claiming there was vote-buying and intimidation, still insist he was the real winner.

A return match could resolve much of the doubts. But it seems Malacañang – with Gloria Arroyo on its sights — has other plans for Bong Pineda’s wife.

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S.C. REFORMS: Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno can start her avowed cleanup of the judicial stables right in the Supreme Court backyard where some senior administrative officials are reportedly in the business of fixing cases.

If only litigants, their lawyers and even judges could talk.

An example given is a former judge working in the High Court who reportedly throws his weight around in salas where cases of his fraternity brothers are pending.

Weeks ago, he called on some Metro Manila judges handling the case of a businessman against a notorious government financial institution. He reportedly told the judges to decide against the businessman, or else.

One judge who belongs to a rival fraternity could not hide his contempt for the senior SC official. He brought up the matter with his brods who happened to share the same displeasure as the judge.

They should speak up.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 2, 2012)

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