Sunday, June 18, 2006

And Now, The End Is Near .... P1 Billion Warchest vs. Communists

President Arroyo, during a recent out-of town Cabinet meeting in Isabela province, announced that she is allocating P1 billion to fund the “final war” against the NPA menace which has plagued our country for more than 35 years. What struck me most about the President’s statement was not the amount but the place where she chose to announce it. You see, the incumbent governor of Isabela is Grace Padaca, who won the position with the help of NPAs.

In the last 2004 elections, Padaca was able to neutralize the armed group of her opponent, former Governor Fautino Dy, Jr., thru the assistance of the local NPA command in Isabela. Jun Dy was not able to go out and campaign as much as he would like because he and his family were under constant threat of being killed or kidnapped by the NPA. On the eve of election day, an NPA commander named “Salvador del Pueblo” announced over Bombo Radio-Tuguegarao (Gov. Dy had closed down the local Bombo Radyo station in Cauayan, Isabela) that they will fight “fire-for-fire” any attempts to “steal” the election from Padaca.

Isabela was one of the Comelec hotspots during the last 2004 elections. There were reports of rampant ballot box snatching, vote-buying, armed goons roaming around intimidating voters, etc. When the smoke finally cleared, Padaca emerged as the winner with a 45,000 vote margin against Jun Dy. Her victory was hailed as a triumph of alternative politics over traditional politics and Padaca became to be known in political circles as the “giant-killer.”

With Padaca now as governor, Defense officials are concerned that Isabela might be turned into a “vacation spot” of communist rebels or may be used as a jumping point for NPA incursions of other neighboring provinces. This may be the reason why GMA chose to announce her new policy directive in Isabela: to send a strong message to the rebels that they can no longer use Isabela as their R&R spot. The President’s announcement is bad news also for Governor Padaca as Isabelinos will construe this as a sign of GMA’s disapproval of her continued stay as governor of Isabela province. It may also be that GMA just doesn’t like Padaca because she supported Raul Roco as president in the last elections.
Not that Padaca doesn't know how to play politics. As soon as she won as governor under Roco's Aksyon Demokratiko party, she switched her affiliation to Liberal Party. Her apperance can also be deceiving. She is a wily, astute politician and she will be hard to defeat in elections because she still is quite popular among the people of Isabela. But with the NPA on the run, I wonder if they can still duplicate their election "antics" in Isabela in the coming 2007 elections.

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