22 May 2007

What the May 14 election results mean

NOW THAT both the Comelec and Namfrel counts have breached the halfway mark, I will venture to put forward the following observations on the election results in the context of Naga and Bikol.

1. THE LOCAL SCENE. These news stories via Manila Standard and Balita confirm the fact that President Arroyo's Team Unity candidates have dominated the local races, in spite of national media attention given to 'Abang' Mabulo (who lost his congressional bid) and Mayor Jesse Robredo (who beat back the Comelec-endorsed citizenship challenge launched by his opponent).

What does it mean to Naga? One, the Robredo administration clearly maintains a solid mandate from city residents; for the most part, it should be enough as the city has largely survived on its own -- even in the face of natural calamities -- without any support from the national government.

But two, it is effectively isolated, ringed by winning congressmen who mostly belong to the pro-administration parties. What I am worried about is the renewed brazenness that the Kampi stalwarts of reelected 2nd District Rep. Luis Villafuerte -- headed by his older son Bong -- in the recent attempts to impose their will.

The fate of the 15 Naga policemen accused by their superiors of alleged drug links -- Bong's handiwork according to his estranged brother LRay, who also won a landslide victory over his father's preferred candidate -- is a shape of things to come.

But I have a strong feeling this display of bravado betrays a feeling that the tide is actually turning, as Billy Esposo points out; what we are seeing are really opportunistic attempts to gain a beachhead in Naga while they still can. Because in 2010, they will no longer be as powerful, they won't have these same chances, and the roles can actually be reversed.

Luis Villafuerte will have been three years older; with the exception of LRay, nobody else from the clan appears ready to assume the mantle, most definitely not Bong and probably not even Jojo.

2. THE NATIONAL SCENE. What Fr. Ed Panlilio pulled off in Pampanga foreshadows a cataclysm that will, after political forces are realigned in the runup to 2010, swamp most administration bets.

The Senate race indicates the ugly national mood. I am not sorry that Joker Arroyo (fighting for one of the last three slots) and Ralph Recto (out of the Magic 12 as I write this) are doing badly.

Had he resisted Ate Glue's wicked charms to underscore his independent maverick persona, Joker would have easily made it to the Top 5. The same would have held for Ralph, whose decision to ditch the opposition actually allowed the overachieving Antonio Trillanes to join GO and make his phenomenal run possible.

Finally, if the current standings hold until the end, Bicol will end up having four senators: Escudero, Honasan, Arroyo and Trillanes. This would improve on the previous record when Roco, Tatad and Honasan served in the Senate from 1995-98.

It will guarantee that Bicol will have a fair shake in national policymaking; but it will not ensure that regional development will be accelerated to lift it up from the bottom of the standings.