POSTSCRIPT / May 14, 2013 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Where’s polls-driven ‘prosperity’ of 2013?

MABALACAT CITY – Yes, our dusty old town has been converted into a city by the outgoing 15th Congress, ending the lobbying by Mayor Marino “Boking” Morales bent on becoming our first city executive and lengthening his political shelf life.

Boking, a jolly good fellow, once asked why I was not that sold to cityhood. Groping for an answer, I said something about our not even having a fire department.

As a small town kid, I was fascinated by the handsome red fire trucks dashing from nearby Clark Air Base and the quick-moving firemen who doused burning houses in no time at all.

We do have a fire department, the mayor protested. He was probably telling the truth, but I still have to see the fire trucks, sirens and all, even just on fire drills.

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GOOD NEIGHBORS: In the old days, Mabalacat never bothered securing fire-fighting equipment – not only because we could not afford it, but mainly because Clark Field was just across the fence near the railroad tracks. One call was enough to unleash the gleaming fire trucks in a heroic rescue.

The downside was that the water pressure of their Stateside pumps was so strong that the burning houses, mostly of light materials, usually fell apart when hit by the powerful blasts of water.

Having digressed already, let me add that Clark under the Americans also had a modern hospital servicing the medical needs of the US armed forces in the entire region. Many times, poor cabalens in critical condition survived with the help of Clark specialists.

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INFANTILE A.F.P.: This dependence was the same reliance that our supposedly independent Republic had on the US military during the days when Clark and other bases propped up our defense system. That was the reason, it seemed, why our infantile armed forces never grew up.

There was the 13th US Air Force, ever-ready to scramble. We did not need our own top-flight air force except for exhibition aerial shows. The fuel and maintenance requirement alone of a squadron of jetfighters could push our government to bankruptcy.

We also never saw the need for procuring our own warships because the US Seventh Fleet was just lurking on the horizon when its men were not on R&R (rest and recreation) at Subic.

Uncle Sam was always there to scare away the neighborhood bully.

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STAYING POWER: But back to Boking. The 63-year-old executive’s staying power is legendary. His political fortunes could be a case study on how to stay in office, despite term limits, without trying.

Don’t look now, but Boking is good for two more three-year terms — this time as city mayor despite his having served as town mayor for “four” terms already.

After seeing the light, the Supreme Court ruled that there was a break in his successive terms since his third and supposedly final term was not his, because the true winner pala was the candidate whom the Comelec had hurriedly declared the loser.

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GMA, PINEDA AHEAD: As this is being written, the PCOS (Precinct Count Optical Scan) machines have not spat out the automated results of Monday’s voting. But I will stick my neck out to say that Boking is likely to win another term in this city of 92,000 or so voters.

Sticking my neck farther out, I also dare say that incumbent Gov. Lilia Pineda will beat handily her come-backing challenger Fr. Ed Panlilio. Btw, the priest’s former provincial administrator Vivian Dabu is sure to lose to former President Gloria Arroyo as representative of the third district.

Throughout the campaign, Pineda (of the Kambilan party) did not criticize Panlilio or his patron President Noynoy Aquino. Neither did she say anything negative about the administration’s senatorial candidates who even scurried for her to raise their hands in endorsement.

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FALSE PROSPERITY: When President Aquino went to town predicting that 2013 will be a banner year for the economy, we chimed in saying that it will be a good year since it is an election year.

The amateur economist in us said that with Mr. Aquino himself declaring that the midterm election is a referendum on his administration, he will flood the country with government spending in infrastructure and everything else to stimulate the economy.

The conventional wisdom is that the massive campaign spending and government fund releases will trigger a kind of “false prosperity” this year.

Looking around, however, one is wont to ask where the promised prosperity, true or false, is.

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VOTE-BUYING: The sight and scent of dirty money finally swept the nation over the weekend.

Media were rife with reports of vote-buying, the rates ranging from P100 in depressed areas to P3,500 in middle class communities. The amount appears to depend on how long or short the voters are willing to sell themselves and how deep the candidate’s pocket is.

Reminiscent of Jaime Cardinal Sin giving similar advice, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. told voters to get the money offered but vote according to their conscience.

The widespread vote-buying, from one perspective, simply means there is widespread poverty and political immaturity.

There is thinking also that with too many civic groups watching, automated cheating has become more difficult to carry out.

As a result, the theory goes, the millions intended for the computerized rigging of the election results have been diverted to vote-buying.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 14, 2013)

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