ILAGAN, ISABELA, Philippines?One wept for her province as she questioned her defeat. The other, also refusing to concede defeat, vowed to pursue his fight for his people?this time, hopefully, as a priest?again.
Isabela Gov. Maria Gracia Cielo ?Grace? Padaca and Pampanga Gov. Eddie ?Among Ed? Panlilio?who both had to contend with politically entrenched families?were among the casualties in the country?s first automated national elections.
Questioning her loss to Rep. Faustino Dy III in the gubernatorial race, Padaca on Friday said: ?I weep for Isabela ? More than my sadness, I wish the Isabelinos well. I wish them success. I wish (for) them good governance.?
Speaking at the Governor?s Palace, Padaca, a Liberal Party candidate, said she planned to ask the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to investigate reports of vote-buying and the black propaganda that was used against her during the campaign.
?The Dys and the Albanos outdid themselves a hundred times over sa pagsalaula sa eleksiyon (in making a mockery of the elections),? she said.
Dy, an administration candidate, was proclaimed gubernatorial winner on Thursday night, along with running mate Rodolfo Albano III.
Black and white
Padaca lost by 3,438 votes. She garnered 271,319 votes while Dy got 274,757.
In 2004, Padaca burst into national headlines when she defeated Dy?s brother, former Gov. Faustino Dy Jr., in the gubernatorial fight, ending the clan?s 34-year hold on the provincial capitol.
In 2007, she defeated former Gov. Benjamin Dy, but her victory was overturned by the Comelec last December after a recount. She later filed an appeal.
Winner Dy brushed off Padaca?s charges. ?If we bought and harassed voters, I could have won by a landslide,? he said. He offered to reconcile with Padaca and other rivals.
?How can you reconcile black and white?? Padaca told reporters.
Padaca was ahead by at least 3,000 votes on Thursday afternoon before votes from Angadanan and Palanan towns allowed Dy to slip past her.
Asked if Aquino had a Cabinet position for her, she said: ?It?s too early to tell? I do not have plans now. I?ll cross the bridge ? when I get there.?
Padaca and Panlilio have a few things in common: They are both leaders of Kaya Natin, a movement advocating moral leadership and good governance. Like Padaca, Panlilio was ousted as provincial governor weeks before the election campaign began when the Comelec, after a recount, upheld his 2007 opponent Lilia Pineda as winner of the gubernatorial race that year. Final ruling on the case was still pending at the time of Monday?s elections.
The priest-activist said he would still be around as a ?positive force??outside of electoral politics.
?I would love to return to active priesthood and I believe (my three bishops) will accept me back,? Panlilio, 57, said. ?I just hope that when I?m accepted, I will be given the freedom to be engaged in a positive way by helping civil society attain social transformation.?
He said he was taking that track because the ?Church should be at the service of the people.?
Pineda was proclaimed newly elected Pampanga governor on Wednesday night. She captured 488,521 votes or 65.98 percent of the total. Panlilio got 242,367.
As a priest, Panlilio ministered to poor communities and headed the Archdiocese of San Fernando?s Social Action Center of Pampanga for 27 years before he ran for governor in 2007.
He was thrust into politics when no alternative candidate wanted to challenge then reelectionist Gov. Mark Lapid and Pineda.
Panlilio, the LP provincial chair, said he was not thinking of any position in the administration of president-apparent Sen. Benigno ?Noynoy? Aquino III.
?I?m not close to Noynoy,? he said.
He said the 242,367 votes he got on Monday were a ?sign that there is a reform constituency? in Pampanga.
?I see a bright future in those numbers. I hope they become a critical mass in the years ahead,? he said.
What Panlilio found strange was that 408,495 of 1,211,162 registered voters in Pampanga did not vote.
Panlilio said while he respected Pineda?s proclamation, he was not ready to concede.
?I can only accept a candidate?s win if it was a clean election. I don?t think it was because of the reported massive direct and indirect vote-buying weeks before and during the election,? he said.
He saw several reasons for his defeat, some his own doing, including decisions he made that alienated some supporters and his inability to negotiate.
But the one factor that weighed him down was the ?orchestration of efforts to immobilize me,? he said. He was referring to the ?recall? campaign by Pineda?s allies, the recount case filed by Pineda, a provincial board that criticized him at every turn or withheld budgets, and the use of media to portray him negatively.
He said: ?I was guided by Gospel values like justice and patriotism.?
?He is leaving the capitol without any stain of corruption. He started radical reforms ... His moral armor is strong,? said Harvey Keh of the Ateneo de Manila University School of Government.
Also proclaimed in Isabela were Representatives Rodolfo Albano Jr. (first district), Ana Cristina Go (second district) and Napoleon Dy (third district).
No winner has been proclaimed in Isabela?s fourth district because the returns from Santiago City have yet to be transmitted to the provincial board of canvassers. Reelectionist Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao nurses a slim margin over his rival, Danilo Tan.
In Abra, election officials proclaimed Joy Valera-Bernos winner of the fight for the lone congressional seat, ending a tense contest that had prompted the police and military to put their forces on high alert.
Bernos got 48,212 votes from 27 towns to beat incumbent Rep. Cecilia Luna, who chalked up 46,880 votes.
Bernos is the daughter of detained Bangued Mayor Dominic Valera, who was accused of killing the driver of Luna?s son, Ryan, in an April 29 encounter. The young Luna defeated Valera in the Bangued mayoral race.
In Pangasinan, incumbent Gov. Amado Espino Jr. and Mapandan Mayor Ferdie Calimlim were proclaimed winners of the gubernatorial and vice gubernatorial races.
The tally from 46 of 47 Pangasinan towns and cities showed Espino with 822,325 votes while his opponent, Rep. Victor Agbayani, got 296,177 votes. Only the votes from Agno have not been canvassed. With reports from Vincent Cabreza and Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon