PAMPANGA is a province in the Central Luzon region. It is divided into 20 municipalities, two cities – Angeles and San Fernando – and four congressional districts. The province as of 2007 has a population of approximately 1.9 M and registered voters as of 2009 of 1,057, 615. (Data from the National Statistical Coordination Board)
San Fernando is the capital city of Pampanga. It is also the regional capital of Central Luzon. The city has an approximate population of a little more than 200,000. Majority of the population are workers, farmers and the urban poor.
Farming and fishing are the two main sources of livelihood in the province. Major products are rice, corn, sugarcane and freshwater fish. Pampanga has cottage industries such as woodcarving, furniture making, handicrafts and casket making. Other developing industries are tourism and semiconductor manufacturing in the Clark Special Economic Zone in Angeles City.
Pampanga is considered a bailiwick of Gloria Mcapagal-Arroyo because her father, the late President Diosdado Macapagal, was a native of Lubao town. Arroyo however did not grow up in Lubao and barely speaks the local language.
Traditional politics hold sway in Pampanga, with elective positions held by new and old political clans. It was also one of the controversial provinces during the 2004 national elections, which was fraught with allegations of cheating to secure Arroyo’s victory. Arroyo got 642,712 votes over her popular rival, the late Fernando Poe Jr. who got 84, 270 votes. However, there was an unexplained 14% increase in the number of registered voters in the province far exceeding Comelec’s projections.
In 2007, President Arroyo’s son, Mikey, ran for his second term as representative of the 2nd district of Pampanga. He was formerly Pampanga’s vice governor. A more interesting development is that in the upcoming elections, he has given way to his mother, President Arroyo, who has filed her candidacy for the same congressional position.
President Arroyo will run for Congress
Claiming public service was “emblazoned on my DNA (genetic fingerprint),” Ms Arroyo declared last December that she would run as representative of the second congressional district of Pampanga in the May elections, an announcement that was welcomed by her most ardent supporters but also touched off a storm of attacks from her critics, who accused her of positioning herself to become prime minister if the Constitution were to be amended and the country shifted to a parliamentary system.
In fact after announcing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s plan to run as representative of the 2nd district of Pampanga, Malacañang announced that her priority agenda in Congress is to push for charter change and that the administration’s party, Lakas-Kampi, would push that Arroyo be named House Speaker by the next Congress.
The Arroyo clique’s plans to sneak back to power have obviously been laid out. She would become House Speaker, push for charter change, and get elected as Prime Minister.
Recent news about Arroyo’s point persons running for seats in Congress have confirmed this. As of now, six of Arroyo’s closest minions have expressed their intention of running for Congress namely, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita (Batangas), Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap (Bohol), former AFP chief and current Presidential Management Staff head Hermogenes Esperon Jr (Pangasinan), Augusto Syjuco of the Technical Education Skills Development Authority (Iloilo), Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera (Quezon), and Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. (Camarines Sur). Two are taking the partylist route: Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes and Arroyo’s son, Rep. Mikey Arroyo, who is the 1st nominee of the party list party that is supposed to represent security guards.
There are also two other Arroyos in Congress who would surely run for reelection: her other son Dato of Bicol and brother-in-law Ignacio Arroyo of Negros Occidental. Add to this the 11 other Malacañang-sponsored and three other AFP-sponsored partylist groups.
Not yet included in the above list are the other Lakas-Kampi representatives running for reelection, or their relatives who would replace them, and those running for other parties but could easily recognize the glitter of gold.
Governor Panlilio removed by Comelec
In 2007, the gubernatorial race in Pampanga was a three-cornered fight between a “jueteng (or numbers game) lord” (Lilia Pineda, the wife of jueteng lord Bong Pineda) , a “quarry lord (Mark Lapid) and a “man of the Lord” (Catholic priest Ed Panlilio). The first two, Pineda and Lapid, are known staunch allies of President Arroyo. Lapid faces corruption charges related to his quarrying business while Bong Pineda allegedly controls the network of jueteng in Central Luzon, which is reputed to be the biggest. Pineda had been called before congressional probes on allegations that jueteng money was used to bribe provincial election officials in the previous elections.
Fr. Ed Panlilio won the gubernatorial elections in 2007 by a slim margin of 1,147 votes. According to Panlilio, it was a difficult battle. Having no money or even machinery, he relied on an army of volunteers that swelled to some 30,000, including 33 lawyers led by the country’s top four election counsels.
“Their creative way of campaigning, their vigilance on Election Day and the days that followed were largely behind my victory”, he said.
Volunteers for Panlilio guarded the ballots, sleeping at the town halls to avert any alterations of the election returns and certificates of canvass.
However, last Feb. 11 Comelec declared Lilia Pineda the rightful winner of the election following a recount that gave her a lead of 2011 votes. This Panlilio has contested saying that during the “appreciation” of the ballots, the ballots written with Pineda’s nickname “Nanay Baby” did not even number 100 ballots.
At present, the Comelec ruling has not yet been implemented and both Ed Panlilio and Lilia Pineda are running for the same gubernatorial position come May.
Human rights situation
Since 2006, there was massive deployment of military forces in the urban areas of Pampanga. Soldiers occupied municipal halls and military harassment and various atrocities victimized residents even in the villages of the main regional center San Fernando.
Among the targets of military harassment and negative propaganda were the progressive party list organizations Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela Women’s Party. A village official admitted to the People’s IOM team in 2007 that the military were under orders from their superiors to go after the members of militant people’s organizations and the progressive party list parties in accordance with a government policy to prevent these parties from winning in the 2007 elections. In fact, as early as 2005, the military has started to discredit these parties and instill fear among the population.
A number of party list coordinators and members had to temporarily make themselves scarce to avoid the military’s all-out campaign. There were villages where very few campaign posters and streamers of progressive party list parties were displayed after military troops stayed in these areas and instead anti-communist posters and streamers proliferated.
The whole region of Central Luzon also had the third highest number of extrajudicial killings (154) and the highest number of enforced disappearances (66) among all the regions of the country from January 2001 to October 2009, in the almost nine years of President Arroyo.#