CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—Political observers and officials in Pampanga had assumed Governor Lilia Pineda would run uncontested in her reelection bid next year. But that scenario changed on Saturday.
On the 26th anniversary of the People Power Revolution, City of San Fernando Mayor Oscar Rodriguez, an ally of President Aquino and chairman of the League of Cities of the Philippines, signified his willingness to run as governor. He promised to spread in the province the benefits of good governance, which this capital city has reaped in the last eight years.
“Let us serve Pampanga,” the theme of the event on Saturday night, was seen to be his rallying pitch.
But Rodriguez regarded himself as incidental in his 2013 bid. Drawing a lesson from the peaceful citizen-backed military uprising in 1986, he said people, not candidates, should decide the future of the province.
To some 500 community leaders in the province, he threw this challenge: “Show me how far you can take this cause and I shall bet my life on it.”
“Who am I to back out from a fight that means change to our beloved province?” he said.
Pineda welcomed Rodriguez’s plan, saying the people would eventually decide who is fit to lead them.
She said she has put a lot of focus on addressing the health needs of Pampanga residents because those are what the poor people need. “But this does not mean that I neglect education, livelihood and infrastructure programs,” Pineda said by telephone on Sunday.
While Rodriguez served as a court stenographer in the 1970s, he also worked as a leftist labor organizer and went underground after the declaration of martial law.
He studied law while under detention and passed the bar after he was released from prison. He later organized free legal assistance groups and defended victims of human rights violations.
After his stint as provincial administrator, he was elected representative of Pampanga’s third congressional district as a candidate of the late former President Corazon Aquino in 1987. He again ran as representative in 1995 and served three consecutive terms until 2004.
He was among the prosecutors in the impeachment trial of former President Joseph Estrada in 2000 and 2001.
The 2013 fight, Rodriguez said, would not be easy because Aquino’s thrust for transparent and accountable government was at stake, noting that electoral politics mainly runs on money and political patronage.
In the same event on Saturday, former Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio, who lost his reelection bid to Pineda in 2010, asked Rodriguez to run because “we need a governor in the province, a leader in the province.”
“There’s a constituency for reforms,” said Panlilio, a Catholic priest.—Tonette Orejas