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Nograles: From human rights lawyer to ‘Arroyo lapdog’

By Jeffrey M. Tupas, Germelina Lacorte
Mindanao Bureau
First Posted 19:33:00 02/04/2008

Filed Under: Politics, Conflicts (general)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines -- Even those who are not residents of the First District, the biggest in the three districts of Davao City in terms of voting population, know Representative Prospero Nograles.

Thanks to the countless billboards and other signages, the worst of all was the one embedded on a walkway that looked like an epitaph and carried the name of Nograles, best known for his nickname "Boy" or "Nogi."

There is even a slum area along Roxas Boulevard here called Nograles. There is also a park called Nograles in the village of Puan.

Basketball courts are erected with photos of a smiling Nograles on it.

That his name is littered all over the First District -- his turf -- could be an advertising attempt for him to advance, if not maintain, the momentum that he gained out of his rollercoaster political ride, his critics said.

His journey to the top, on the other hand, was described as a something that was borne out of failure, motivation and ambition. Militant organizations believed his way up was paved by his being a "rabid supporter of the administration."

Antonio Ajero, a veteran journalist who saw the "growth" of Nograles, said the lawmaker carried with him a checkered political career.

"It was not a sweet journey for him. For several times, he lost his political bid to other politicians who also belong to equally prominent families. It is good that he is there now, wherever it will lead him, as it could mean great opportunity for Mindanao and for Davao," said Ajero.

The 60-year-old congressman started his political career in 1984, albeit not successfully when he failed to get a seat in the parliament.

In 1987, he ran against and lost to lawyer Jesus Dureza, now another official whose closeness with Malacañang is unquestionable. But in July of 1989, Nograles took the seat from Dureza following the decision of the House Electoral Tribunal.

In 1992, Nograles challenged Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who was first elected into office in 1989. He failed to crush the reelection bid of Duterte, something that did not stop him from pursuing his political ambitions by later running again as the representative of the first congressional district of Davao and winning the position over Dureza.

When the term of Duterte, Nograles' archrival, ended in 1998, Nograles attempted to run for city mayor but he failed to defeat the Duterte-backed candidacy of Benjamin de Guzman.

Carrying a semblance of a real fighter, Nograles did not flinch and he is now about to complete his term in the Congress until 2010. Since winning his third consecutive term, Nograles has been considered a leader of one of the leading political clans in Davao City.

In his stay in Congress, Nograles was able to author 17 House Bills and co-authored 85. He chaired the Special Committee on Law Enforcement and its subcommittee on Gambling, Committee on Housing and Urban Development, and the Committee on Rules.

His lawyer son, Karlo, said his father was a "very hands-on and hardworking leader."

"He believes any task has to be done, must be done personally if possible. By doing so, he sets an example for others to follow. He believes that nothing comes to you without hard work and perseverance."

Karlo described Nograles as a father who made sure that he knew what was going on in the lives of his children, without controlling them.

"He always genuinely concerned with, and interested in each of us. He talks to us and always reasons with us like adults, even when we were still young. He respects and values our opinions and always takes time to discuss matters with us. He makes sure that there's always quality time spent with family," Karlo said.

Finishing a law degree with honors from the Ateneo de Manila University, Nograles placed second in the 1971 bar examination with an average 90.95 percent. Even his early educational records were more than satisfactory, having been a valedictorian at the Ateneo de Davao Grade School 1959, with honors in Ateneo de Davao High School in 1963 and with honors when he took up Bachelor of Science in Political Science in Ateneo de Manila University in 1967.

He was also named one of the Ten Outstanding Young men of the Philippines (TOYM) for Law and Human Rights in 1975. When Nograles became the chair of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Davao Chapter in 1979, he created the human rights committee and designated as head lawyer, Larry Ilagan, husband of now Gabriela Women's Party Representative Luz Ilagan.

Jeppie Ramada, secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) for Southern Mindanao, said Nograles was recognized as a human rights advocate during the Martial Law years. As the years went by, however, Nograles, Ramada said, "transformed himself into a rabid ally of the administration."

"He has failed the people who believed in him as he failed to deliver his commitment. The people have seen hope when he became majority floor leader as he vowed to support pro-people legislations like the P125 wage increase being demanded nationwide?but he turned his back on the people when the government softened on this demand," Ramada said.

Ramada said Nograles even signed a manifesto with thousands of workers who wanted a rate increase.

The militant leader said Nograles? turncoatism was highlighted by his efforts to block the impeachment complaints against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

"We believe that no one in Congress now can match Nograles for being a rabid lapdog of the President. Not even Representative Jose de Venecia. Nograles is backed by the Palace so we could only expect nothing from him," Ramada said.

During the 2007 elections, Nograles was widely criticized for allegedly funneling millions in pesos worth of money supposedly to support the local candidates of Lakas to finance the bid of Kalahi Partylist, an overseas Filipino worker group headed by his son Karlo.

Allegedly masterminded by Nograles himself, the bid of Kalahi was shrouded by controversy as it allegedly resorted to cheap vote buying. Nograles and his son denied this allegation.

Aside from being the Billboard King, he was called by a Davao broadcaster the "Burlesque King" for an alleged extra-marital affair. Nograles retaliated by filing a libel case in 2001 that sent Bombo broadcaster Alexander "Lex" Adonis to jail. According to court records, Adonis identified Nograles as the man seen running naked in a Manila hotel after the husband of his alleged paramour caught them in a hotel room.

Adonis was sentenced to four and a half months in jail in early 2007.

But in November 2007, Nograles filed a bill abolishing the jail terms for journalists accused of libel and instead, increasing fines for the offense.

House Bill 2802, the proposed measure "aims to encourage the media to be more vigilant and active in their crusade against graft and corruption," according to Nograles, in a statement at the House of Representatives.

In filing the bill, Nograles said the imposition of a higher but reasonable set of fines would be enough to make the media practitioners more cautious in their exposés while protecting the citizens? constitutional right to information and freedom of speech.

Weeks after learning about Duterte's increasing interest in Adonis' case, Nograles had the broadcaster scuttled out of the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) prison for an unscheduled check-up at the Davao Medical Center (DMC), a move that worried Adonis' wife who wrote Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, about the safety of his husband's life. Dapecol physicians have confirmed of the spots on Adonis' lungs after spending more than six months in prison.

Adonis' wife also called Nograles' bill as mere "media gimmick." She challenged Nograles to work for Adonis? release. "Would you set Alex free to show your colleagues that you want free expression to blossom?" Gladys Adonis, quoted in a local paper, wrote in a letter to Nograles.

"Will you tell your colleagues in Congress that you're withdrawing the libel case against Alex if only to show that you care about journalists?" she asked.



Copyright 2014 Mindanao Bureau. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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