Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A bold prediction: Lolong by a mile over Beltran

I have not seen Dr. Lolong Firmalo as serious as he was last Sunday.

Over Californian, Spanish, Italian and Australian wine, sinigang na kanduli, chicken adobo and Boer goat meat courtesy of Dr. Tato Sison in his resort in Pililla, Rizal, Dr. Firmalo and his wife Leonie, their daughter Trina, retired judge Cesar Solis, Gilbert Miniano, former San Fernando mayor Dindo Rios and his wife Ruby, former Romblon municipal councilor now Sun columnist Lyndon Molino, and myself talked about Romblon politics, a topic that sends people to convulse because it is the most potent brew ever invented by man.

Pililla seemed an out-of-town hideaway to discuss politics, but it is ideal. For one, Dr. Tato’s resort commands a spectacular view of the eastern part of Laguna Lake and the mountains of the Sierra Madre. For another, it is safe from eavesdroppers who might leak things said at the meeting, although, I said to the group that I will write about it for the benefit of discussion.

A gracious host, Dr. Sison quipped that he wouldn’t mind slaughtering more Boer goats—he has plenty—to ensure the opposition in Romblon, led, of course, by Dr. Firmalo, unseats Rep. Budoy Madrona and company in the May 2010 election.

This quip sent the group to a frenzied discussion.

The essence of the meeting was the one tough question that many have been asking: Who, in the opposition, will fight Budoy Madrona in 2010?

Romblon, it seems, has run out of politicians because no one, at least as the discussion went, wants to stand in Budoy’s way to a second term in the House of Representatives.

But before this question was dissected, the discussion revolved around Gov. Jojo Beltran. Beltran is a goner if Lolong decides to fight him as governor, many in the group agreed. The reason is obvious. The young Beltran, as observers opine, is far—very far—from the mold of his late father.

Using as a campaign motto what was supposed to be the last wish of Natalio Beltran Sr.—“Anak, huwag mong pababayaan ang Romblon.”—Jojo cheated the hearts of Romblomanons in 2007 straight to the capitol by repeatedly engaging in this tear-jerker of a huling habilin.

And true enough, waya gi pabad-i ni Jojo ka Romblon. He ransacked it. Way to go, Gov. Jojo.

So with this state of things now, Dr. Firmalo MUST fight Jojo Beltran, who embodies the pervasive personality of a traditional politician—lazy, unimaginative, and corrupt—and therefore, represents more harm and devastation to Romblon than any of the previous governors combined.

Well, there is an exemption to this view and he is Budoy Madrona who, when he was governor, mortgaged Romblon to the Land Bank of the Philippines, reason why we are drowning in debt.

The group is of the view that if Lolong fights Beltran, Beltran would not know what hits him.
This, Trina Firmalo said, is also the consensus of Lolong’s municipal leaders, who believe that Firmalo versus Beltran will be a no-contest. Lolong will trounce Beltran by a mile. “Milya-milya gid ang layo”, Lyndon remorselessly quipped.

Lyndon also said that if Firmalo decides to run for governor, Budoy, who is a take-all-or-nothing political animal, will be deathly worried. He doesn’t like the idea of the capitol occupied by an oppositionist, more so by his mortal political nemesis, Lolong, for fear that all the skeletons in the closet, the dirt of misgovernance past, will come tumbling down at his very doorstep if Lolong wins as governor.

A double whammy? Lolong beating Jojo means beating Budoy, too? So, what happens to Agriculture undersecretary Bernie Fondevilla?

Ah, Bernie, who is drooling over the prospect of becoming the next Romblon congressman and who, by the way, figures in the political equation only because he doled-out goodies in 2007, is nearing political extinction if he doesn’t act fast.

He has one week, to be exact. You see, Bernie is playing games, saying one day he will run, and then hiding the next. Is he afraid to spend his money or afraid of Budoy? Maybe or may be not, but the standard reply coming from Fondevilla, I was told, was that he is waiting for the green light from Malacanang. Come on, Bernie, you know that’s crap. Who, in heaven’s sake, would believe that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, your patron, regards Romblon with such importance that she determines your fate, your political career, and that she will make the decision for you?

This is the problem with Bernie and other Romblon traditional politicians. Because of lack of clear ideas and principles, they can’t decide, deluding themselves that the presence of a national patron and the availability of truckloads of money will get Romblon out of the rut. Will Arroyo’s raising Bernie’s hands in May 2010 solve our joblessness, poverty, and the other problems inherited and multiplied by Madrona and Beltran? Bernie, I’ll give you A-plus if you answer that question correctly.

Judge Solis was right. He said that in national politics, Romblon, a backwater province led by backwater politicians, has no leverage that it is well nigh impossible that Fondevilla, who is Agriculture secretary Yap’s lapdog and barker, would be asked or not asked by the President to run or not to run.

I am of the opinion that Fondevilla is playing coy about his plans because he, too, has become a traditional pol. He is also playing decoy to the opposition, delaying his decision using Malacanang as pretext to derail Lolong’s plans and moves. Is he sincere as an oppositionist? I doubt, but I believe Trina when he said that Bernie promised to help the opposition even if he doesn’t run.

I now say, Bernie don’t run. Just help Lolong and company. Anyway, you have a bright career ahead of you even if your bosses, Yap and Arroyo, would be hauled off to jail after the election. But if you run, make sure that Madrona doesn’t steamroll you. He is loaded. Are you?

On the other hand, I don’t doubt Lolong’s sincerity, particularly when he said that in the absence of Fondevilla’s final word, he is moving forward “to save Romblon”.

“Save Romblon”. Well, Romblon, like Private Ryan, is worth saving. It is OUR province, and we must do everything in our power to prevent Romblon from going to the dogs. The question, however, is who will lead the saving? Should it be Bernie? And save it from what? I am not too sure everybody understands whom or where to save Romblon from, and for whom shall we save it. For ourselves, the greater many; or for the traditional politicians, the fewer few?

I also don’t doubt Trina’s sincerity when she asked me later I must have time for Romblon. Trina—who just recently returned from Princeton University where she studied public affairs and international relations and is now doing consultancy work on rural development in Romblon—has the making of a progressive-minded public servant, but that’s for another topic.

In the meantime, I told her I have been devoting time for cultural work in the province, my polite way of saying that I don’t entertain the idea of being in politics again, unless I am shoved, and promised her I’ll invite her to have coffee.

That would be soon, Trina. And please, tell your Dad that if he intends to save Romblon, he should do it properly and quickly.

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