GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/31 August)–Last Tuesday, Rep. Manny Pacquiao did what his predecessors are said to have failed before: give an address to the people on the State of Sarangani District.
In an elaborate and pompous ceremony complete with red carpet reception, Pacquiao reported to the Sarangans what he has accomplished in a little over two years after he was elected as representative of the lone district of Sarangani.
It was an impressive report spiked by applauses for the many projects, mostly infrastructure, Pacquiao has delivered for the province. It is something his predecessors have failed to communicate, to say the least, or delivered, at worst.
By the report, it is easy to conclude that Pacquiao delivered more for his constituents in less than three years what former Rep. Erwin Chiongbian perhaps failed to do so in his last six years as congressman of the province.
The ailing Chiongbian was seldom seen in Sarangani especially during the last of his three 3-year terms. Chiongbian’s failure to regularly meet and address his constituents took its toll on brother Roy who lost to Pacquiao in the 2010 congressional race.
The Chiongbians, represented by Vice Gov. Steve Solon whose mother is a sister of Erwin and Roy, have been forced to strike an alliance with Pacquiao for their own political survival. Taking the opportunity of being the logical candidate to vie for the gubernatorial post that will soon be vacated by outgoing Gov. Miguel Rene Dominguez, Solon is forging personal friendship with Pacquiao to become the latter’s anointed one.
Pacquiao’s political dominance in the province is now virtually complete with Dominguez said to be contemplating on taking a break from local politics although the latter has repeatedly said in private that he is keeping his options open.
Pacquiao’s political fortunes have dramatically changed over the last three years. Far from the bitter loser he was in the 2007 congressional race in nearby General Santos City, Pacquiao is now a master of local politics, able to impose his will over allies who are all beholden to him for their sweeping victories in the 2010 elections - thanks to Pacquiao’s almost bottomless war chest and ever growing celebrity status then.
He is now plotting a political career that could one day end up in Malacañang.
But first he has to move to have himself elected to the Philippine Senate in 2016 and perhaps vice president in 2022.
Nobody has ever thought Pacquiao’s political career can be charted the way the Filipino boxing icon is now plotting his.
For now, Pacquiao believes he has all his allies in check.
But he better keep his ears on the ground within his own backyard.
A lot of longtime allies have reportedly resented the way he is handling his line-up for next year’s election.
On Wednesday, he openly and virtually endorsed Provincial Board Member Eugene Alzate as a strong candidate for vice governor – perhaps even a personal choice.
Alzate was recently convicted by the Sandiganbayan for allegedly embezzling P300,000 from the pork barrel of former Rep. Erwin Chiongbian. He was sentenced to 10-11 years of prison but is filing a motion for reconsideration.
Alzate was among the scores who faced graft charges following the 2003 fund scam expose in Sarangani. Former Gov. Miguel Escobar was also convicted of graft in a separate case and was sentenced to 10-18 years in prison.
Pacquiao’s personal choice of Alzate to become Solon’s running mate is anathema to his avowed goal of good governance.
Even if Alzate’s conviction is not yet final and executory, the fact that it reached conviction should already serve as a red flag for Pacquiao, who characteristically is known to stick by close friends no matter what.
If Pacquiao pushes with Alzate’s nomination, he is sending signals he can tolerate such kind of company.
Heaven forbid. (Edwin G. Espejo/MindaNews contributor)