05 March 2007

'Abang' Mabulo dares to dream

THE INQUIRER, in its editorial today, chose fit to highlight a looming David-vs-Goliath fight in the first district of Camarines Sur after the Genuine Opposition fielded three-term San Fernando mayor Sabas "Abang" Mabulo against the carpetbagging presidential son Diosdado "Dato" Arroyo, Jr.

The money quote:

Unopposed candidacies, by and large, are unhealthy for our democratic project...Because in our system there is no minimum number of votes required to win political office (all a candidate needs is to have just one more vote than the next opponent), unopposed candidacies are virtual coronations. This may be useful in monarchies, but it is antithetical to the very spirit of democracy. “One man, one vote” (the great principle of equality) becomes “all it takes is one vote” (elections as ratification of a decision made much earlier, in the proverbial smoke-filled room).
Until Mayor Abang made up his mind over these last few weeks, that virtual coronation seemed inevitable. When Dave Bercasio wrote this post in November last year, he was already asking for names of capable and promising individuals who will stand up against Dato, who is being backed up by a formidable coalition cobbled by Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte (2nd district) and Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya, Jr. (former 1st district congressman).

Late last year, when news broke out about the coalition's plan to make Dato run unopposed, public reaction -- via DWNX -- was mostly negative; even former Iriga City mayor Emmanuel "Manny" Alfelor voiced out his exasperation, virtually challenging the entire first district: "Is there no one else?" This Election 2007 thread at the Go Bicol forum captures that anti-carpetbagging sentiment.

Notwithstanding the growing sentiment favoring his underdog status, Abang faces a tough challenge ahead he might as well adopt "The Impossible Dream" as his campaign's anthem. Even that Inquirer editorial's title underscores this fact; it had Dato's name in it even if approving of his bid.

But who is Abang Mabulo? To help address this information asymmetry, I googled his name and only came out with the following:

(1) He is Bikolandia's most outstanding municipal mayor in 2002, making him an automatic finalist in the Local Government Leadership Awards (LGLA), then being managed by the DLSU Institute of Governance. The LGLA is to outstanding mayors and governors as Gawad Galing Pook is to outstanding local government initiatives. Its growing list of winners can be found here.

(2) He is a trustee of the Ateneo de Naga University, joining the likes of Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo, City Councilor Miles Raquid-Arroyo and corporate whiz Monico Jacob. No wonder, the Ateneo community is solidly behind his candidacy, in spite of the fact that Dato earned his bachelor's degree from the same institution after transferring from Ateneo de Manila in the late '90s.

But yahooing it yielded this gem, a circa 2004 article by the Inquirer's Juan Escandor who allows us a peek into his public career and NGO background, which should explain why he became Bicol's best mayor a few years back. Renee Gumba of the Ateneo Institute of Politics said they are coming out with a better profile of the man that dares to dream the politically impossible.