NOW IT CAN BE TOLD
It was near the end of his term in 1998 when then Congressman Bobby Tanada introduced the bill proposing the division of Quezon. That came in the heels of his parting of ways with his congressional seatmate and gubernatorial candidate in 1998, Willie Enverga. Bobby Tanada was heard saying he would support Enverga in the latter’s quest for the governorship, not only because they were apparently distant cousins on the Ebarle side in Lucena, but also because the latter was mahinhin and mahiyain. Bobby thought he found his soul mate in the person of the ex-governor. Groveling local leaders praised the couple as “mga dakilang anak ng mga dakilang ama.” It was the beginning of what everybody thought was a robust political alliance. In fact, a grandson of Bobby Tanada was the ring bearer when the now congressman of the 1st district, Mark Enverga, was married at St. James the Great in Alabang.
The elder Tanada came all out in support of Enverga in 1998 against the onslaught of the well-oiled machines of David Emralino of the LDP and Lakas standard bearer Agnes Devanadera. Enverga was buried by Devanadera in the avalanche of votes in the 1st district while in his hometown Mauban by at least 9,000 votes. Emralino prevailed in the 2nd district, while the late Benny Marquez ruled in his own 3rd district. The 4th, where Bobby Tanada reigned supreme, rallied Enverga to the provincial capitol with a measly margin off Devanadera. Conceding defeat, the latter declared that at least “moral victory” was hers. Upon hearing the declaration, Enverga instructed his operators to cease manipulating the votes in Pagbilao.
THE FALLING OUT
It was a surprise therefore when Tanada and the ex-governor had a falling out somewhere in September, 2000. Apparently the Tanadas were imposing on Enverga on how to conduct the campaign in 2001 when Bobby was running as senator while his son, Erin, as congressman. Both sorely lost in those elections. The Tanadas were still engaged in idea that Enverga was neck-deep in debt with them. Zeny Tanada could not believe what she saw from a lackey’s footage showing the presence of Manny Portes, a known aide of Enverga orchestrating the political rally of Lu Yumul in Atimonan. She tried to call Grace Enverga in her cell phone that just kept on ringing.
Right after the elections in In the elections of 2001, Enverga openly rooted and financed the fledgling congressional candidacy of Lu Yumul. The Tanadas were riding on the crest of their perceived popularity when Bobby Tanada was a member of the panel of prosecutors from the House of Villar in the impeachment case against President Erap Estrada, the then Speaker Manny Villar cleverly bound over to the Senate right after his invocation. Bobby, and his handlers, the chief of whom was the much lamented Concepcion Chit Asis, who has by now repackaged herself as a self-proclaimed political consultant gravitating around the in uteru cordon sanitaire of Noynoy Aquino, thought that the efforts of the Tanadas in kicking out Erap would be rewarded handsomely by Quezon electorate by crowning the father and son the coveted positions. Enverga was already nursing hard feelings against the father and son whose swagger as the monarchs of Quezon offended the royal blood of Mauban.
To those who know Enverga, it did not come as a surprise when he turned his back from his benefactor. He has the uncanny talent of using people at the right time and at the right place. He is obsessed with the idea of being the political kingpin of Quezon. Or the last man standing. He brags about his 100% batting average. No loss in six elections since 1988.
His first foray into dynasty building was in 1992. Unfortunately his sister Jasmin was resoundingly trounced by the late Jun Punzalan. He was heard boasting to his subjects in the University Site that his magic remains when his son, Mark, was overwhelmingly elected as congressman of the 1st district in the last elections, waylaying veterans Ely Pasamba and his inaanak, Mauban Mayor Dingdong Llamas. What few know was the fact that the entire resources of the province in the last year of the wily governor were poured in his son’s district. Two weeks after the elections in May, 2007, Enverga thru his point man Vice-Governor-elect Kelly Portes approved a quick supplemental budget without committee insight worth P145M. The former Vice Governor Jayjay Suarez wanted to know the details of the allotment. He was not dignified an answer. What the ex-governor does not know is that there is now an ongoing documentation that 90% of the appropriations were not delivered.
P410M FROM ERAP IN 1999
It looked like Enverga had already paid his political debts to the Tanadas when he parlayed a fourth of the P410M presidential pork to Chit Asis, its fate was never known.
In February, 1999, Erap released to the provincial governor of Quezon P410M in discretionary fund. The wheel-chair bound governor filleted the funds into three, one-fourth went to the third district, and another fourth was favored to the 4th district. Half of the funds or P205M was used exclusively by Enverga to unreported projects. That money could have concreted at least 41 kilometers of roads. That could have cemented the Tayabas-Mauban road and assuaged his kababayans of their generational distress as early as the 1900s. Reports show that the money was diverted to regravelling of unknown municipal roads and alleged deliveries of selected barrows to far-flung barangays. Then congressmen Raffy Nantes and the late Marcial Jun Punzalan of the 1st and 2nd districts were famished of the funds by the ex-governor.
Erap knew that Tanada was a beneficiary of the money. It was simply beyond the grasp of the ex-president why Tanada was at the forefront of his impeachment. Reports reached Erap that there was no proper accounting of the funds handled by Chit Asis. It was Enverga who was feeding Erap of information. Walang utang na loob, ika. Danny Suarez on the other hand was coy and ambivalent. For that Erap and Suarez remain in good stead.
With the falling out, Erap unleashed his fury against the Tanadas in 2001. He coursed millions of cold cash thru Enverga’s minions for Yumul’s war chest other than the short term assist of the ex-governor thru his confidante, Manny Portes. A gofer of Ronnie Puno now based in Alabat was heard saying that after her victory, Yumul was not heard since. The Iglesia Ni Cristo went all out with Yumul who was eventually sworn in as the second legislator who hailed from the town of Lopez, the first being the late General Gaudencio V. Vera in 1949-53. The Tanadas nursed their own first defeat and went home to Makati to hibernate until 2004.
To them Enverga was a marked man.
Despite the substantial support let loose by GMA to the young Tanada, it was no assurance that he bought his loyalty. After warming his seat, Erin went all out calling for the impeachment of the President, not only once but twice. For GMA, it was the height of treason. The Tanadas could not be appeased. They have attitude problem. On the other hand, the Tanadas believe that they are only true to themselves or their family brand known as mavericks or patriots or nationalists. Yet their track records speak otherwise. A former lady supporter from Sabang Dos in Calauag, itemized the sins of the Tanadas. According to her the elder Tanada is a corporate officer of Pet Plans that caused untold misery to thousands of parents who invested in pre-need educational plans for their children, most of whom were Quezon residents who relied on the reliability of the name Tanada. She adds that he serves as counsel to Meralco who positioned itself as nothing but pure business in imposing unexplained rates increases to millions of consumers. Lastly she adds that Bobby Tanada ignored the pleas of the labor union for additional compensation and other reasonable working conditions in Universal Motors where the former senator is an officer-director. One contractor could not believe that the old man allowed the demands of his chief of staff, the self-proclaimed organizing genius, Chit Asis, when he was a 2-term Quezon congressman. The Tanadas could not even go after Enverga because the wily Mauban fox has the goods against them because even Tanada could not offer a passable explanation on how they consumed the one-fourth Erap fund. Asis even bragged openly how the SOPs were divvied-up. To most therefore there is much hypocrisy somewhere.
GETTING EVEN WITH ENVERGA
Before the House adjournment in 2001, Tanada and Enverga were thick in bad blood, the former authored the bill dividing Quezon. Tanada’s timetable however lapsed. He was confident that then Congresmen Nantes and Suarez would pick up the bill and shepherd it to approval. It was archived however because the two were already eying the governorship come 2007.
In the presidential elections in 2004, Erin Tanada ran alongside GMA. His campaign was fully fueled by Malacanang. With enough campaign logistics from their benefactress, the Tanadas were spared of disposing their recuerdos. The young Tanada won hands down against the bet fielded by Danding.
But Erin has a long memory. Enverga is still the governor in 2004 until 2007. By slicing Quezon into two, the young Tanada believes that goes with the funds which is Enverga’s principal obsession. By legislating two Quezons, Erin slashes half of the SOP of his nemesis.
This situation illustrates the exercise of naked power for its sake. Nothing salutary is achieved. This is nothing but an ego trip of a city bred legislator out in glorifying an alleged ancestral significance. In the same manner when the Bondoc Peninsula circumferential road was named after an obscure resident after an enabling law was sprung on us. Indeed Congress in its willy-nilly existence has gone berserk.
ERIN REINTRODUCES THE BILL
In July, 2004, with his seat still unused, Erin lost no time in reintroducing the bill and sought the help of his co-sponsors. The bill was not accompanied by intelligent or incisive research and factual basis supportive of its approval.
There were no recorded public hearings in the congressional committee tasked in collating data or in the province itself nor were there any intelligent discussions or consensus or position papers filed from concerned sectors or organizations from the affected local government unit. While the three congressmen, Nantes , Alcala and Suarez inked the bill, it was nothing but a sorry expression of solidarity. Ironically, now a fait accompli stares us in the face.
IT WAS A PERSONAL THING
It was after all a personal thing. The Quezon division is nothing but a trivial power play. The young Tanada was quoted as asking, “anong feedback sa bill, nagkakagulo sila ano?” He said the law is good as approved. Few will turn out in the plebiscite, and the uninformed will just say yes.
I remember one old lady in Kinatakutan in Tagkawayan who remarked, “kapag ang mga kalabaw ay nagsu-agan, ang mga bul-o’y maa-apakan.”
That seems to be our fate. We are left to our own devices and it is up to us to rearrange our lives.