Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bataan politics starts to simmer

From First Crack of Fel V. Maragay - Manila Standard Today

Over in Bataan, the battle among the rival political forces has started to simmer, adding heat to the summer months, as they maneuver to get the upper hand in the local elections that will take place about a year from now.

The Garcias gained political supremacy in the province after winning the most coveted positions in the 2007 polls. This early, their opponents have reportedly initiated talks for a tactical alliance to dismantle the well-entrenched ruling dynasty there. But the Garcias, led by Gov. Enrique “Tet” Garcia, seem unperturbed and ready to unleash their counter-moves against attempts of their enemies to challenge their political supremacy. Gov. Garcia, a shrewd politician, defeated the powerful Romans, Payumos and Gonzaleses in past elections.

His son, Rep. Albert Garcia (Second District of Bataan), won over Marie Gonzales, daughter of National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, chairman of the Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas. Another son, Jose Enrique Garcia, is the mayor of Balanga, the capital of the province.

Incumbent Rep. Herminia Roman (First District of Bataan), wife of former Congressman Antonino Roman, is reportedly planning to run for governor and fight Tet Garcia in the next polls. Or she could run for reelection and find herself pitted against Gila Garcia, daughter of the incumbent governor. Former Gov. Leonardo Roman may run again for governor. Former representative and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Administrator Felicito Payumo is not yet sure of staging a political comeback.

The fight among the rival forces has turned ugly as signs of mudslinging have begun to surface. The Garcias cried foul when an item appeared in a national daily insinuating that they were protecting a drug syndicate. The newspaper item said that Rep. Herminia Roman, whom the Garcia supported in the previous elections, was cutting off her political ties with the Garcias because of the issue of narco-politics.

The story stemmed from the report that a shabu laboratory, which was a stone’s throw away from the municipal hall in Balanga, was raided by anti-narcotics operatives in December 2007 despite the fact that it has already been shut down after a similar raid there three years before.

The damning story prompted Rep. Albert Garcia to deliver a privilege speech on May 12 and to denounce the alleged attempt of their political opponents to discredit them by linking them to narco-politics. He didn’t have any qualms in pointing to Rep. Roman as the suspected source of the “baseless and malicious story.” He ranted in his speech: “I feel deeply enraged that the Honorable Roman would go around telling people that the Garcias are involved in narco-politics. She was even quoted as saying that she can no longer be with the Garcias for reasons of morality.”

The congressman clarified that although there was a second raid of the shabu laboratory, it was no longer operating at that time. He said records of law enforcement agencies and the courts showed that the items seized in the second raid were the same items which were the subject of the first raid. He belied the insinuation that the drug factory was able to resume operation with the tolerance or connivance of the mayor. “There is no one in the family who has been involved, or will ever get involved in drugs.”

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