Ed Panlilio

Arroyo eschews use of gov’t vehicles on stump

Arroyo eschews use of gov’t vehicles on stump
By Tonette Orejas
Central Luzon Desk

GUAGUA, PAMPANGA—No government-owned vehicle was seen in the two-hour motorcade of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo here on Saturday when she campaigned for the second district seat of Pampanga in Congress.

Still, 14 members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and eight policemen secured the President throughout the route starting from Barangay Pulong Masle in this town to her house beside St. Augustine Church in Lubao.

In the convoy of 15 vehicles, only two patrol cars of the Philippine National Police sported government plates. The PSG men and women, mostly clad in civilian clothes, rode in four private cars. Four bodyguards accompanied Ms Arroyo on the showboat.

In Barangay San Antonio here, where a larger and more eager crowd gathered by the roadside, three PSG men walked by Ms Arroyo’s vehicle to check well-wishers and shield her from rowdy supporters. Wearing a dark blue, long-sleeved shirt, she shook hands with local residents, waved and smiled.

In contrast, her opponents—independent candidates Filipinas Sampang and Feliciano Serrano and Liberal Party’s Adonis Simpao—campaigned in the same district without bodyguards.

Later that day, Ms Arroyo visited the farming village of Pulong Masle. Elderly women welcomed her with kisses when she arrived at 4:30 p.m.

An hour before that, the mobile sound system of Ang Galing Party (AGP), a party-list group representing security guards, blared her campaign songs.

The first ditty was based on Laura Branigan’s monster hit, “Gloria.” Apparently, those who composed the jingle did not realize that the 1980s hit was about a woman “always on the run” and described as “headed for a breakdown” in the pursuit of her lover.

True Kapampangan

The second tune took the beat of the old Kapampangan song, “Atin Ku Pung Singsing (I once had a ring).”

In both jingles, Ms Arroyo, the candidate, was described as intelligent and strong, a true Kapampangan and daughter of the late President Diosdado Macapagal.

AGP nominee, outgoing Lubao Mayor Dennis Pineda, joined Ms Arroyo on the showboat owned by gubernatorial candidate Lilia Pineda. Dennis is the son of Lilia Pineda.

Last week it was outgoing Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, also an AGP nominee, who campaigned with his mother.

Vote for Among Panlilio

Meanwhile, reelectionist Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio urged Kapampangan voters not to support the “Liliarroyo” tandem in Pampanga, referring to President Arroyo and Lilia Pineda.

“They are very close to each other. I feel they share a lot of controversies. [I would like to stop their team] because I am against patronage politics,” Panlilio said.

Yesterday, more than 1,000 Panlilio supporters joined a motorcade in the province’s second district, the bailiwick of Ms Arroyo and Pineda.

Along the streets, people braved the heat and shouted “Among” which is a term of respect for priests and flashed the “Laban” (fight) sign as Panlilio’s convoy passed by.

When the motorcade reached Lubao town, a mobile sound system on one of the campaign vehicles blared this message: “Don’t sell your votes because they are sacred.”

'Poll watchers getting advance pay in GMA district'

‘Poll watchers getting advance pay in GMA district’
By Ding Cervantes
The Philippine Star

LUBAO, Pampanga , Philippines  –  Liberal Party (LP) re-electionist Gov. Eddie Panlilio urged yesterday the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to investigate reports that his gubernatorial rival has been paying advance salaries ranging from P1,500 to P4,000 monthly to people who will act as poll watchers in the second district of Pampanga, where President Arroyo is the official congressional candidate of Lakas-Kampi-CMD.

“I urge the Comelec in Pampanga and Central Luzon to check out reports that my fellow gubernatorial candidate, Mrs. Lilia Pineda, and her campaigners at the Lakas-Kampi-CMD are doing a massive recruitment of poll watchers beyond what is allowed by election laws,” the Pampanga governor said in a statement yesterday.

Panlilio said that a “first batch of poll watchers have been designated as barangay coordinators” and have been required by the Pineda camp to recruit 10 poll watchers each.

“Election laws allow two poll watchers per party in every clustered precinct to work on alternate duty. When the precinct is small, the BEI can ask the poll watchers to leave. Only a representative of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting will be allowed,” he noted.

Panlilio cited reports that barangay coordinators are already being paid P4,000 monthly while the recruited poll watchers were promised P1,500 per month.

“They are being given identification cards so they can regularly collect their allowance. This could be a form of vote buying. I pray that the Comelec check into this to be able to protect the sanctity of the election,” he said.

Mrs. Pineda and her campaign manager Rosve Henson did not respond to phone calls and text messages.

Mrs. Pineda, wife of Rodolfo “Bong” Pineda who was tagged as a big-time gambling lord during the Senate impeachment trial of former President Joseph Estrada, is a close friend of Mrs. Arroyo.

A cabal in Pampanga

More family members of the President and Mrs. Pineda are running in the May 10 elections.

President Arroyo’s rival in the second district, LP congressional candidate Adonis Simpao, noted that Mrs. Pineda’s son, outgoing Lubao Mayor Dennis Pineda, is the congressional nominee of the Ang Galing Pinoy party-list, together with presidential son Rep. Mikey Arroyo and outgoing Bacolor Mayor Buddy Dungca.

Simpao added that Mrs. Pineda’s youngest daughter, Mylene, is also running unopposed as administration candidate for mayor in Lubao where the President is a registered voter.

In Sta. Rita town, Dennis’ wife Yolanda is seeking re-election, also under the administration party. Only independent candidate Arthur Salalila, a former mayor and Sangguniang Panlalawigan member, is challenging her.

Lubao and Sta. Rita are within the second district where the President is running for Congress.

Simpao likened the looming Pineda dynasty in Pampanga to the buildup of the Ampatuan clan in Maguindanao.

The rise of the Pinedas’ political stock, according to him, was based on political patronage.

He added that the President’s support for the Pinedas was also reflected in the electoral case Mrs. Pineda filed against Panlilio.

Only recently, the Comelec’s Second Division ordered the ouster of Panlilio in favor of Mrs. Pineda after a recount of votes cast for governor in 2007 purportedly revealed the latter as the real winner.

The poll body has yet to decide on the petition for reconsideration filed by Panlilio, on top of another petition filed by Pineda to immediately assume the gubernatorial post.

Simpao said the buildup of the Pineda political dynasty could be part of a scenario to strengthen Mrs. Arroyo’s political base once she becomes House Speaker or even prime minister.

“There have been a lot of declarations and denials in the past years which have been later contradicted, such as the President’s announcement not to run in 2004 elections, then the denial by Malacañang that her frequent visits to the second district was politically motivated. It turns out she had wanted all along to run for Congress in the district,” he said.

Simpao also noted that despite similar denials by Mrs. Arroyo’s camp that her congressional bid had nothing to do with reports she is interested in being House Speaker or prime minister under a parliamentary form of government, her allies are now hinting otherwise.

Comelec asked to stop GMA vanity ads

Comelec asked to stop GMA vanity ads
By Ding Cervantes
The Philippine Star

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga , Philippines  – Senatorial candidate and Akbayan party list Rep. Risa Hontiveros has asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to ban President Arroyo’s “vanity ads,” which she called “unlawful campaign propaganda.”

“The use of taxpayers’ money for one’s vanity ads, especially if they are designed to court voters, is wrong and should be declared illegal by the Comelec,” Hontiveros said in a petition filed last Monday.

She said “the Office of the President instigated an advertisement binge to promote GMA’s legacy shortly after she filed her candidacy to run for congresswoman in Pampanga’s second district.”

She cited as example the infomercial “Ganito Tayo Noon, Ganito Tayo Ngayon” which, she said, “proves that the congressional contest in Pampanga is skewed in favor of GMA (President Arroyo).”

Hontiveros noted in her petition that while “regular candidates are given restrictions on advertising and campaign collaterals, President Arroyo is unfairly and unconstitutionally given special treatment.”

She lamented that “funds that should be used for crucial programs are being diverted to finance Pres. GMA’s campaign.”

“Using the mantle of the Office of the President, her tarps can be longer, her posters can be bigger, and her TV commercials can exceed the time limit,” she pointed out.

Meanwhile, Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio joined the launching of Akbayan’s “Deny the Arroyo Five Campaign” which seeks to block the election of Mrs. Arroyo and four of her relatives in Congress.

“President Arroyo cannot fully represent constituents in the second district since her hands will be full answering charges to be filed against her once she steps down from the presidency,” Panlilio said.                     – With Mayen Jaymalin

Not out of the woods yet

Not out of the woods yet
By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer

There are five reasons to worry about the elections.

One is president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assuming emergency powers to deal with emergencies of her making. The first time she did that was when the Ampatuans showed signs of restiveness after one of their own was hauled in for the massacre of their enemies. Zaldy Ampatuan’s lawyer articulated their thinking by expostulating against the way Arroyo repaid the Ampatuans “after all they’ve done for her.” Now she has assumed emergency powers to deal with the power crisis in Mindanao. That is not something she can lay at the door of her predecessors. She’s had nine years to deal with it, but after borrowing more money than the last two (real) presidents, she has just brought back the power blackouts.

How exactly Mindanao’s need for electrical power can be met by giving someone additional political power only Arroyo can say. Maybe she figures pare-pareho lang ’yan, it’s all about power. But the people who are fretting about it have every reason to fret. Once is an accident, twice is a pattern. What now if under the exceedingly hot sun of summer (exceptionally so this year) the rest of the country dries up, and what now if under the exceedingly slimy hands of those with political power the rest of the country loses electrical power? Won’t it be easy for Arroyo to declare a state of emergency to solve the emergency of threatened automation? Same logic: The disease is the cure.

Two are Norberto Gonzales and Delfin Bangit, the defense secretary and new AFP chief of staff. Gonzales dismisses the talk of a plot by him and other Arroyo loyalists to rig the elections in this wise: “I have been receiving this message and you know it has been a long campaign in our society today to malign the [Armed Forces] that it will and did participate in some cheating in the elections.”

Read our lips, Mr. Defense Secretary, we are not maligning the AFP, we are maligning you. Why someone who tried to sell this country’s sovereignty down the drain—as Joker Arroyo showed when he was still not a joker, specifically after you were caught paying a fortune to an American lobby group to lobby the US Congress to lobby the Philippines into changing its Charter—ever became national security chief, not to speak of defense secretary, only Arroyo can say. Same logic: The disease is the cure.

Bangit says he has not gotten an illegal order from Arroyo nor will he obey an illegal order from Arroyo. That does not assure us about his resolve to resist an illegal order, that worries us about his capacity to recognize an illegal order. The AFP has been slaughtering hundreds of political activists over the last few years, and he and Jovito Palparan and Gonzales see nothing illegal about it. He has been serving someone who plotted with Garci to win by one million votes over her nearest rival, and who imprisoned Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani and Col. Alexander Balutan for trying to expose the AFP’s part in the cheating that Gonzales says did not happen, and he finds nothing illegal about it. Arroyo orders martial law to keep the elections free and clean and he will see only the inflexible logic that the disease has every right to be the cure.

Three, two months before the first automated elections in the country, an undertaking of such magnitude it ought to have been prepared for for years, many of the tested machines have been malfunctioning; the problem of distributing the right forms to the right precincts remains daunting; there has been little voter education in the use of the machines; the watchers will have nothing to watch as everything will happen inside the machines whose yields will be taken on faith; the automation will coexist with manual counting; and now they have to contend with blackouts too.

The Comelec will be in charge of everything. The same Comelec that harbored Virgilio Garcillano and Benjamin Abalos, the same Comelec that has ousted Ed Panlilio and Grace Padaca and has been trying to oust Jesse Robredo after they were voted into office (all three of whom quite incidentally are Ramon Magsaysay Awardees for governance), the same Comelec that in Arroyo’s time as in Marcos’ has yet to show 1 plus 1 does not equal 11. The logic is the same: The disease is the cure.

Four is People Power being nowhere to be found. Early this year, the SWS reported that if there is cheating in the elections, the people are bound to vehemently protest it. That is all very well except for two things. First is: How will people know cheating has happened? Noynoy Aquino’s gap over Manny Villar has narrowed down, that gap no longer defined by the rate Aquino goes up but by the rate Villar comes down. That gap doesn’t widen, we might very well have another 2004 scenario. Until the “Hello, Garci” tape surfaced, Arroyo almost had the country believing she won the elections.

Second, and more worrisome, Edsa has not become the theme of the Aquino campaign, the voluntaristic spirit that arose with it has not been unleashed, and no demonstrations of People Power accompanied the Edsa celebration (or lack of it) in January and February. Cheating happens, what will be there to oppose it? Where will the throng that will gather in the streets to protest it come from? As far as I know, People Power is not a genie you summon by rubbing the magic lamp, it is something you keep in readiness only by the repeated exercise of it. As far as I know, People Power is not a power that materializes like divine intervention in times of need, it is a power that is gained like earthly confidence by the constant strengthening of it. You do not harness that power now, you will not harness it later on.

Five, we have the surest sign of all we won’t see a smooth transition to a new government:

GMA swears by everything she holds sacred that we will.

Palace lauds Verzosa; Aquino fears he may be retired

Palace lauds Verzosa; Aquino fears he may be retired
By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa Thursday drew praise from Malacañang for his declaration that he would not back any move to keep President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in power if the May elections failed.

Gary Olivar, a deputy spokesperson of Ms Arroyo, sought to put Verzosa’s statement in context and said the latter meant that he “would not support any illegal action or decision by his counterpart in the Armed Forces.”

“And I submit this is the proper attitude, anyway, that should be followed by the AFP and the police—not to follow any illegal orders or commit illegal actions,” Olivar said at a briefing.

On the campaign trail, Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Sen. Benigno Aquino III said he did not trust Ms Arroyo or Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit to ensure a peaceful transition of power.

Aquino also said that compared to Bangit’s, the career of Verzosa had had its ups and downs.

“If Verzosa will suddenly be booted out or retired early, one has to wonder what the reason is,” he said, adding that the man was not due for retirement until December.

“It’s been a long time since I trusted GMA [based on] what she says … I want to give General Bangit the benefit of the doubt, but it is better that we err on the side of caution,” Aquino said in a press conference at the Surigao City airport.

Aquino said Ms Arroyo had done a “meticulous” job in appointing Bangit and other members of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1978 in key positions in the AFP.

“The President has the right, but she should have done everybody better by [naming as AFP chief of staff] somebody not as closely linked to her. [It would] at least give the appearance of neutrality, given the importance of the transition,” he said.

“It is, I think, gratifying to note that PNP chief Verzosa has once again given us his assurance that he will abide by his duties as a uniformed officer,” Olivar added.

In answer to a question, Verzosa told Philippine Daily Inquirer editors and reporters on Tuesday night that he would not back Bangit, the new AFP chief of staff, should the latter try to install Ms Arroyo as holdover president in the event of a failure of the first automated elections in the country.

He said the 120,000-strong PNP would not back any violation of the Constitution, which mandates a new President after June 30.

Bangit’s promise

But he said there was no reason to suspect that Ms Arroyo, whose term ends on June 30, would use the military to create an artificial power vacuum.

Olivar noted that Bangit himself had said he would not allow himself or the military to be used for partisan politics.

“This is also something that General Bangit himself has promised to do, as required by his own oath as a soldier,” Olivar said.

At the turnover ceremony in Camp Aguinaldo on Wednesday, Bangit said he would faithfully perform his duties and ensure that the military would remain neutral during the elections.

He also said he had not received any illegal orders from Ms Arroyo, which was why he had “so much respect for her.”

The President herself said her administration was committed to ensure a peaceful transition of power.

On Thursday, Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said the Commission on Elections would hold Bangit—the senior aide-de-camp of Ms Arroyo when she was the Vice President and the commander of the Presidential Security Guard in 2003-2007—to his word.

But Larrazabal dismissed rumors that Bangit’s appointment as AFP chief of staff was a prelude to election-rigging, saying these were running rampant because of the election season.

“We in the Comelec are mandated to conduct peaceful elections, and that is what we will do. People will have doubts and the best way to address these is to do our job and do it well,” he said.

Failure of elections

According to Sterling Bank Asia treasurer Roland Avante, foreign analysts were apprehensive that a tainting of election results could create political instability.

He said fears were growing that a failure of elections was a real risk.

Quoting Ms Arroyo’s election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, Olivar said a failure of elections was the inability of voters to fill out ballots arising from, say, a failure to print ballots, or a lack of ballots in a voting precinct.

“Once you have filled out the ballot, the electoral process is completed. That is the heart of it,” Olivar said.

He added: “It is so easy to talk about failure of elections, and yet nobody has bothered to define it.

“If you don’t define something clearly, how can you measure it? And if you can’t measure it, how can you evaluate the risk involved?”

Neric Acosta’s take

According to LP senatorial candidate Neric Acosta, Bangit’s appointment as AFP chief of staff and the recent behavior of the Comelec were worrisome.

“This government is not yielding an inch. There is no guarantee of a peaceful transfer of power, because Ms Arroyo wants to hold on to power for as long as she can,” Acosta said on Wednesday in Bacolod City.

He also said the Comelec’s removal of LP governors—Grace Padaca of Isabela, Ed Panlilio of Pampanga and Joselito Mendoza of Bulacan—did not inspire confidence in its impartiality. With reports from Kristine L. Alave and Gil C. Cabacungan Jr. in Manila; Carla P. Gomez, Inquirer Visayas