INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

Machinery, track record to decide Pangasinan race

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Gov. Amado Espino Jr.

With less than a month before the election campaign period for local candidates officially begins on March 29, the gubernatorial race in vote-rich Pangasinan has become the most anticipated event this summer.

The contest is between Gov. Amado Espino Jr., who is seeking his third and last term under the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), and Alaminos City Mayor Hernani Braganza of the Liberal Party (LP).

Activities of both camps began a few days after the deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy in October.

Braganza and his running mate, former Philippine National Police chief, Arturo Lomibao, have been going around the province conducting “peace and development” consultations.

Espino and his running mate, Vice Gov. Jose Ferdinand Calimlim, have continued their promotion of “Baruy Pangasinan,” a cultural-tourism caravan launched in 2011, in different schools of the province.

 

Political machinery

Political analysts say that for a province with 1.6 million voters scattered in 44 towns and four cities, a candidate’s political machinery and track record would be very crucial to win the race.

Records of the Commission on Elections show that NPC has fielded 43 mayoral candidates, with 28 of them running for reelection. In contrast, LP only has 29 mayoral candidates, three of them seeking reelection.

These figures simply indicate that NPC is better organized and has a well-oiled machinery in the province.

Prospero de Vera, a Pangasinense and director of the University of the Philippines’ National College of Public Administration and Governance, says the LP infrastructure in Pangasinan is “very weak and even nonexistent in many areas.”

“They don’t even have a [candidate for] mayor of note in the fifth and sixth districts. In the third district, the strong mayors are all in Espino’s corner. The NPC’s sway over the fifth and sixth districts is overwhelming,” says De Vera.

Adding to LP’s woes was Board Member Ranjit Shahani’s public announcement in October that he was supporting Espino. Shahani is an LP stalwart and Braganza’s cousin.

Then in January, former Gov. Victor Agbayani, LP provincial chair, resigned as Braganza’s campaign manager, saying in a news release that he was giving Braganza a free hand in running his own campaign.

Local radio commentators viewed Agbayani’s backing out as a “serious shakedown in the party’s local campaign, revealing as it does, and differences in leadership.”

But Agbayani later clarified that he remains solidly supportive of Braganza’s candidacy.

Performance

Dr. Perla Legaspi, former director of UP Center for Local and Regional Governance and later vice chancellor of UP Diliman, says a factor that could make a candidate win is performance.

Legaspi says voters usually go for someone “who performed well, someone who’s been tested.”

“People speak highly of Governor Espino because he is really a performing governor. He has done many things that were usually ignored by other governors,” says Legaspi, now program chair at the Lyceum Northwestern University graduate school in Dagupan City.

For instance, she says, Espino improved health services in the province, enhanced agricultural production and strongly promoted the province’s cultural development program.

“These are areas that were not seen by previous governors because they were too focused on infrastructure [projects], instead of services,” Legaspi says.

As a result, she says, Pangasinan has won many awards in local governance, including the most-coveted “Gawad Pamana ng Lahi” regional award from the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

“Can we say that of Mayor Braganza? Maybe, we should also look at his performance as mayor of Alaminos City,” Legaspi says.

Mayor Hernani Braganza

But the mad dash for Espino and Braganza to get their names written on the ballot on May 13 has turned ugly.

In December, an LP member-mayor charged Espino with plunder in the Ombudsman. Last month, the National Bureau of Investigation filed murder charges against Espino and his close ally, Pangasinan Rep. Jesus Celeste.

Braganza also had his taste of plunder charges in January when a group of Alaminos City village chiefs filed a complaint in the Ombudsman.

Both camps denied the charges, saying these were “politically motivated.”

To Legaspi, the accusations against Espino were an attack to his moral ascendancy. “Obviously, they did not attack him on his performance as governor because he really performed well,” she says.

“But why are these issues cropping up only now? Why didn’t they come out before? It’s the timing that’s put into question here,” Legaspi says.

De Vera says the charges against Espino may have come “a little too late.”

“People [and local politicians] are still waiting with bated breath on what happens with these cases filed against [Governor] Espino. If the cases do not get traction, then the Espino camp’s assertion that this is just political harassment will be believable and will boomerang against the LP leaders in the province,” De Vera says.

Strongest

Despite the charges against Espino, he is still the stronger gubernatorial contender, Legaspi says. “Governor Espino’s good performance seems to prevail [among the voters]. Besides, Governor Espino is already tested,” she says.

De Vera says being an incumbent is an advantage for Espino. “I don’t know where Nani (Braganza’s nickname) can mobilize the same level of resources as Espino’s,” he says.

With barely three weeks into the campaign homestretch, Braganza can only bank now on the support of the LP national hierarchy, including President Aquino.

Legaspi says that a presidential endorsement will help but it will not guarantee victory. “It’s because in our country, politics is still person-based. We look at politicians as they are and not as LP or NPC candidates,” she says.

She says a presidential endorsement will benefit more the senatorial candidates than local candidates.

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of INQUIRER.net. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • Fire Lion

    Gov. Espino is the still the best option for Governor of Pangasinan. He improved the healthcare facilities and made the provincial and community hospitals more efficient and accessible to the masses and showed that he cared for the Pangasinenses. Iboto mi ka lamet Gobernador Espino!

  • Adrien4Others

    If I got Phil. history right, Gov. Espino has a track record as a human rights violator. In contrast,  Alaminos Mayor Nani Braganza was a human rights activist involved in the anti-dictatorship struggle that led to EDSA I. One should ask why Braganza — who has had it all before he turned 40 as two-term congressman (one of the Spice Boys), secretary of agrarian reform, press secretary, presidential adviser for political affairs —  turned his back on high places and run for mayor of a small town of less than 100,000. A genuine calling to serve, perhaps? During his three terms he transformed Alaminos into almost an oasis of peace and plenty in a country rife with injustice and poverty. Don’t take my word for it; just google “Alaminos+award” and you get about 210,000 results. Except that public works in Alaminos did not have his face plastered on them…

  • SuperHotFilipinaMaid

    The plunder charges against Braganza are baseless and downright silly. How can one pocket 3.9 billion pesos, for instance, (the full cost of the airport project) when loans for these projects are released by banks IN TRANCHES, in small amounts? The lawyer who filed that harassment case  is not only attention- and power-seeking, but also lazy. 

  • VenessaMacalla

    All cases filed against Gov. Espino are purely political harassment from polluted sources—1 admitted crook for his illegal activities in 1 juvenile teenager for his murder charge. On the other hand, the plunder case lodged against Braganza came from his 11 present Brgy. Captains and 4 ex-Kapitans from Alaminos themselves. Kitang-kita ang pagkakaiba.

    • Leah Lacsamana

      But it was no other body but the National Bureau of Investigation itself that filed a
      complaint on Feb. 12 for murder against Espino and Celeste for the death of
      Infanta Mayor Ruperto Martinez, who was killed in front of his house on
      December 15, 2012 at Barangay Cato in Infanta. Are you suggesting that the NBI is remiss in its duties?

    • Leah Lacsamana

      It was the NBI who vetted the detailed testimony of the 16-year-old witness — the son of Pangasinan-based newspaper publisher Jaime Aquino — who is also a close associate of the Gov. Espino. Why did the child go up against his father? The child has nothing to gain and  everything to lose why did he still choose to press charges? He is being painted as a juvenile delinquent — but is he? Why doesn’t the media in Pangasinan ask these questions?

      • Adrienne Maramba

        The child has nothing to gain and  everything to lose why did he still choose to press charges? 
         — How sure are you? 

  • Leah Lacsamana

    It’s dangerous and careless to insinuate that the filing of a murder case against Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino and Pangasinan 1st District Rep. Jesus “Boyong” Celeste is “politically motivated.”  Killings are a serious matter and casting doubt on these political killings is both wrong and dangerous. In fact, there are more than 240 unsolved killings in Pangasinan for 2012, many of them politically motivated. Only this Monday, a BIR exec was gunned down in front of his house in Urdaneta!

  • Leah Lacsamana

    As a public official duty bound to promote the welfare of the people and not their own personal interests, should not Gov. Espino face the charges against him and stop blaming politics as the reason for his legal problems. Are political candidates exempted from murder charges during election time? Are politicians immune from allegations of corruption during elections?

  • http://www.facebook.com/pelita.glorietta Pelita Glorietta

    Sa kabila ng mga kasong isinasampa kay Espino, nasa kanya pa rin ang simpatya ng mga Pangasinense lalo na ng mga mahihirap.  Malaking bagay kasi yung na-ospital ng isang linggo ang isang mahirap, nasa loob ng ICU (na may aircon pa), pero ang binayaran lang niya ay P750.  Ang mga buntis, na-engganyo ng manganak sa hospital dahil sa PhilHealth card na sponsored ng probinsiya. Abot-kaya na ang bayarin, ligtas pa ang ina at ang sanggol.  Hindi mo pwedeng ikaila ang mga magagandang proyekto ni Espino dahil mga tangible achievements ito na naisakatuparan sa maikling panahon lamang.

  • VenessaMacalla

    The murder charges filed against Gov. Espino is the joke of
    the century in Pangasinan especially among lawyers. After the killing of Mayor
    Martinez, his family and witnesses point to a political opponent as suspect for
    masterminding the gunslaying. But NBI Manila don’t want to listen. They rather
    believe the incredible story of a boy who have been imprisoned twice for theft,
    getting along with fake media and has been away with his family. The boy is the
    lone witness of 3 murder cases filed against Espino. But what is more chilling is
    that NBI Manila believes this fantastic tale. May I nominate this to Ripley’s believe
    it or not. 

  • Leah Lacsamana

    It’s dangerous and careless to insinuate that the filing of a murder case against Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino and Pangasinan 1st District Rep. Jesus “Boyong” Celeste is “politically motivated.”  Killings are a serious matter and casting doubt on these political killings is both wrong and dangerous. In fact, there are more than 240 unsolved killings in Pangasinan for 2012, many of them politically motivated. Only this Monday, a BIR exec was gunned down in front of his house in Urdaneta!

  • Leah Lacsamana

    “A government official was shot and killed by two still unidentified
    gunmen late Monday evening in front of his house inside a posh
    subdivision in a suburban village in Urdaneta City, Pangasinan, police
    reports said on Tuesday.
    Belated reports reaching the PNP national operations center
    in Camp Crame identified the victim as Jose Labonete, 46, chief examiner
    of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) office in the said city.The
    reports said that the shooting occurred at around 7:30 p.m. Monday at
    the porch of Labonete’s house at City Homes Subdivision in Brgy.
    Nancayanan.” (Manila Times, March 6). Ilan na bang officials ang pinaslang sa Pangasinan for the past 12 months? Hindi simpatya o suporta ang nararamdaman ng maraming taga Pangasinan para kay Gov. Espino — kundi takot!

  • http://twitter.com/toughraine analoraine edu

    1. What those ungrateful barangay captains in Alaminos city filed at the Ombudsman IS NOT a case but a REQUEST FOR INVESTIGATION ONLY.  Mayor Braganza’s opponents are SO DESPERATE because they cannot find a single dirt from him.  These barangay captains should not be given by the Lord with eyes since they cannot see the projects of Mayor Braganza in their very own barangays. 
    2. Media people in Pangasinan are SO AFRAID to contradict the governor.  Their news stories are all but the same.  That the masterminds are Gov. Espino and Cong. Celeste are always tagged as a “politically-motivated” news story.  Gasgas na ‘yan!  That is always their allibi!  Why don’t you search for truth?  In all your news stories about this one, you never established the motive behind his killing!  
    3. Track Record.  Mayor Braganza has a better track record than Gov. Espino.  WHY DID THIS NEWS STORY NOT CITE HIS PROJECT ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN ALAMINOS CITY ALONE?  He was a student activist, former DAR Secretary, Press Secretary, etc.  That is what you call track record.  Improved health services is being bragged by the Provincial Government, when in fact, the Western Pangasinan District Hospital has a worst health service!!!

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