Seeks run with Isabela gov; backers up
By Tina Arceo-DumlaoPhilippine Daily InquirerFirst Posted 00:16:00 03/22/2009
MANILA, Philippines – This early, pledges from overseas are coming in for Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio.
An elderly gentleman has expressed his intention to part with $100 from his budget for hypertension and diabetes medicine. A Filipino in New York is also putting in $100, and another is contributing $5.
A member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1983 has pledged an initial $100. A contract worker in Jordan is investing $1,000.
Pledges like these from ordinary Filipinos clamoring for good governance and willing to put their money where their mouth is are serving to encourage Panlilio to seriously consider seeking the presidency in 2010, with Isabela Governor Grace Padaca as his running mate.
“I am open to taking up the challenge,” Panlilio told the Philippine Daily Inquirer Saturday in an interview at the newspaper’s main office in Makati City.
The Catholic priest-on-leave said that while he was still in “a period of discernment,” he had taken steps to get civil society groups, non-government organizations, and even military officials together and gather support for a reform candidate.
“I will go for whoever will represent a genuine reform constituency,” he said. “It does not necessarily have to be me. If there is a more appropriate candidate, why will I present myself? I look at my role now as more of one of the convenors of a genuine reform coalition.”
Biggest issue: Corruption
Panlilio said he had been telling various groups “that we should have one reform candidate; otherwise, we will get a president that we do not like.”
He said he had to help solidify a reform movement for 2010 because he believed that Filipinos were desperately seeking candidates who were not steeped in traditional politics and were willing to stamp out graft and corruption.
“Corruption is the biggest issue of the 2010 elections. People are tired of it and it is really the reason behind all of our problems,” he said.
Panlilio said he had realized that he would face an uphill climb if he decided to run for president.
But he said his spirits were buoyed by the expressions of support from diverse groups committed to devote not only time and effort but also money to his and Padaca’s campaign.
One such supporter is former Chinatrust Philippines president Joey A. Bermudez, who told the Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net, in a separate interview that he would actively campaign for Panlilio and Padaca and would help raise funds for their campaign.
“I will support them because they represent a different kind of politics. They are the right candidates because they are reform-minded and they have the actual hands-on experience in running their local governments,” said Bermudez, current president of the Management Association of the Philippines.
“They are not just mouthing off theories,” he said.
Bermudez said he would not back any of the names being floated as possible presidential candidates because they were “traditional politicians.”
“I would not put the future of the country in their hands,” said Bermudez, who was active in the late Raul Roco’s campaign for the presidency in 2004.
“The 2010 election presents another opportunity for us to correct mistakes,” he said.
Ifugao gov’s support
Also supporting Panlilio is Ifugao Gov. Teodoro B. Baguilat Jr., who expressed the belief that a “silent majority” would come out in 2010 to vote for a reform candidate.
Baguilat, who may also seek reelection as governor in 2010, said he was taking a risk by supporting Panlilio.
But he is convinced that it is the right thing for him to do.
“As corny or as cliché as it may sound, I am doing this for the country,” said Baguilat, who is actively gathering financial, technical and even moral support for Panlilio and Padaca.
“I am helping lay the groundwork for their campaign. The dynamics should work itself out later on,” he said, adding:
“I am really just tired of hearing people say that they are tired of corruption and yet do not do anything about it. Now, I am asking people to be part of the campaign and not just complain.”
Baguilat, like Panlilio and Padaca, is a member of Kaya Natin!, a movement that seeks to propagate the gospel of good governance.
Among the other members are Mayor Jesse Robredo of Naga City and Mayor Sonia Lorenzo of San Isidro, Nueva Ecija.
Alternative to ‘trapo’
Early in 2007, Panlilio, then 53 and backed by a ragtag army of volunteers, campaigned for the governorship of Pampanga as an alternative to traditional politicians.
He defeated the incumbent governor, Mark Lapid, and provincial board member Lilia Pineda, wife of alleged “jueteng” lord Rodolfo “Bong” Pineda.
He won over Pineda by only 1,147 votes.
Panlilio spent 26 years in the priesthood. He decided to cease performing priestly duties in March 2007 to run against Lapid and Pineda.
Just a month after assuming office after the May 2007 elections, Panlilio was able to collect for Pampanga P29.4 million from quarry operations on volcanic ash from Mt. Pinatubo.
It took his predecessor one year to collect about the same amount.
In October 2007, Panlilio told the media that he was handed a paper bag containing P500,000 right after a meeting between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and local officials in Malacañang.
The distribution of money was suspected as a move by Malacañang to drum up support for the dismissal of an impeachment complaint against her.
Panlilio, who was named the Inquirer Filipino of the Year for 2007, has lately faced a challenge.
In October 2008, the group Kapanalig at Kambilan ning Memalen Pampanga Inc. filed a petition for a recall election to unseat him.
The petition was anchored on four cases – the complaint of two workers terminated for alleged corruption in quarry fee collection; Panlilio’s refusal to enforce an ordinance that would ease restrictions on quarry tax collections and increase mayors’ access to these funds; a perjury case; and a case against Panlilio’s decision to change the assignments of district hospital heads.
But last February, a budget-deficient Commission on Elections ruled that the holding of a recall election might no longer be possible.