On August 19, 2008, the birth anniversary of MLQ in Quezon Province (where it’s a holiday), we deem it opportune to launch our baby, the SAVE QUEZON PROVINCE MOVEMENT. It is now a body corporate, no less than registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. As a corporation, it is now what the lawyers call – a juridical entity. By way of digression, why doesn’t the GRP, that’s the government of the Republic of the Philippines for you, just create a corporation under the Corporation Code instead of embellishing the MILF with high fallutin’ legal terminology, christening (they might issue a fatwa against us for this!) it Bangsa Moro Juridical Entity, and in the process shooting itself in the foot?
We invited various media representatives on the occasion. A good number of student leaders from the state universities from Lucban and Lopez and from private schools in Lucena City attended as well. They fielded interesting questions that crystallized the countervailing reasons necessary for the electorate to make an intelligent choice hopefully.
The students really are more of our target sector owing to their idealism and interest on issues rather than personalities. More questions of the implications of the division cropped up. They confessed that they emerged wiser from the brief symposium.
A great number of the media attendees however were sceptical as usual about the viability of the movement to counter the inevitability of finally dividing Quezon Province into two: Q del Norte and Q del Sur. Or to those who are uncomfortable with the Spanish language, Northern Q and Southern Q. They told us that what we are facing are the formidable mean machines of the two kingpins from the 3rd and 4th Districts, Congressmen Danny Suarez and Erin Tanada. These local leaders are not about to be embarrassed by this ragtag and impoverished team. Or so they thought.
We introduced the officers that make up the leadership of the movement. The initial reaction was short of violent because some of us are identified with the Capitol Occupant. John Bello being an assistant at the office of the press officer in the Office of the Governor; Hobart Dator as the brother of Lucban Mayor Apin Dator and brother-in-law of congressional hopeful Victor Reyes of San Narciso who challenged the Suarez old man (his followers call him reverentially as the Big Boss) from the 3rd District; and of course this writer who has done some yeoman’s legal assignments by the victorious gubernatorial candidate last May, 2007.
The composition seems suspect of the invisible hand of the sitting governor. But one thing bothered them. RPN is one of the authors of the law slicing Quezon along with his ally Congressman Procy Alcala and bedfellow Erin. They smell of a brewing proxy war in the coming plebiscite. But they also smell the awkwardness of the situation. It would be different if the governor outed himself against the division if the main proponent is Suarez by his lonesome himself. But Erin Tanada has already fired irrevocable declarations for the geographical divorce and has already spent good fortune thru his district engineer Ronnel Tan parlayed to the local officials sending home the message of Tanada as a strong proponent of the law. Remember that it was only he who brought the law before the Senate Committee on Local Government. His appearance, as if on cue, cut the proceedings’ corners. Who would dare cross the young Tanada in the presence of his grand old man’s soulmate Joker Arroyo? The law no longer passed the final reading. The second and third readings were lumped into one. The journal keepers made these legal requirements looked complied with by making it of record that the law did so. It eventually morphed into law without the signature of the President baptized as RA 9495.
What we are saying here is that the governor does not have to be told about the interest of Erin in seeing the final objective of the law. With a twist of fate, a congressman elected as governor, some perspectives were changed. Was it President Quezon himself who said, “only fools don’t change their minds?” The governor is no fool. His allies can’t read his body language and that pains him. The Suarezes, having been foiled in the governship, want an overwhelming vote of affirmation for its ratification. The stakes are indeed formidable. We are unwittingly gifting that family some kingdom come.
First, the new province needs a capitol site. Stake number one is a budget of P1B for acquisition of land and construction of administration buildings. With the rising cost of construction materials, an escalation clause of 20% looks reasonable. When one looks at the SOP at another 20%, then a good picture of the first benefit is not hard to think about.
Second, the operation of the Small Town Lottery. We know that the franchise holder of the STL is our kababayan based in San Pablo. She counts the good bishop of Lucena as a strong advocate of the now legal lottery for the masses. Once Southern Quezon gets its new boundaries, its new undisputed king will now exact a pound of his own “boundary”. The franchise of the Lady from San Pablo ceases at the tie lines in Atimonan and Padre Burgos. “Wala na tayong pakialaman, ika.” A gaping hole in the pocket stares the Lady in San Pablo. From the STL, the governor can demand a monthly intelligencia of P1.5M. What about the other officials like the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, the PNP Provincial Director, the mayors and so on down the line.
Remember that with the advent of a new LGU, we have the same duplicative officials. If the operator can afford to set aside these mindboggling monthly retainers, think about the gross income from the franchise! Why not be the owner-operator himself? Just like the district engineer or the contractor who became wiser. Instead of making a fool of himself to the politicians (running errands and picking the endless tabs), why can’t he seek the elective position himself? It’s all money anyway. Just like the bees, local leaders swarm around generous political patrons. Look at Nani Tan of Aurora and Bon Bon Villasenor of Lucban. Easily the operator earns a gross income of P50M a month. The operator takes care of the national and local intelligencia and still keeps a sizeable net. Think about the networth of the conjugal partnership of Bong and Lilia Pineda of Lubao, the hometown of GMA. This husband and wife team was able to elect two Presidents of this Republic already. While they appear a grovelling couple, some political beneficiaries already felt the discomfort of their gaze. “We made you! And don’t your forget that!” Erap conspired with Atong Ang in drafting the precursor of STL: the Bingo Two Balls. That early, Erap wanted the Pineda couple decommissioned. Ironically, Lilia failed in her quest for an elective position in Pampanga having been upended by a miracle that is Among Ed. Throwing just half of the gross to the crocs, the beast-tamer still manages and richer by about P25M a month. Not bad by any standard. That’s P300M a year, baby.
Third, how about the 20% development fund from the IRA? Let’s say that Southern Quezon gets half of the P900M original IRA, the new province retains about P450M a year. It’s doubtful however if Southern Quezon gets that amount. The Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines has voiced serious objections in the spate of LGU creations. The more there are LGUs, the more are eating on the common pie that is the annual IRA. It results in diminished IRAs. RA 9495 defeats the purpose. What takes the cake, no pun meant, is that the local messiah looks at the SOP (read: cut) from the 20% discretionary fund. Since the Big Boss is habitually on the take from the CDF, the 20% development fund is just another trust fund at his disposal. “Giving is an art, ika“. If the 20% DF is further chopped by 20% SOP, the new province is at least left with P63M a year divided up by 22 towns. Go figure. So where’s the development there? It’s personal development that seems apparent.
Fourth, since we (the dynasty) call the shots in Southern Quezon, why not create new congressional districts to bring further developments in the new province. Southern Quezon will just have 1st and 2nd congressional districts from the old 3rd and 4th. All they have to do is file a new bill proposing new districts and relaxing further the requirements for their creations. Their congressional confrere won’t object. Anyway these are bills of local applications. They won’t affect their own agenda. Besides, pay it forward. Maybe next year it’s our turn for a favor. And a host of others. Eventually we find ourselves being “served” by the entire family from Unisan. One family member can put up his residence, a multi-million mansion, in Gumaca or Lopez or Calauag and run uncontested as congressman or assemblyman (where we to phase out the cursed Presidential system and turn Parliamentary).
Now that the stakes are made clearer, we go now to the battle royale.
The sitting governor does not want his territory diminished. And for good reason. Having seen and wielded the gubernatorial powers broadened his perspective. After all there is nothing spectacular about the size and configuration of the province. 39 towns and 2 cities are chicken feed. With the advent of information technology, of which he is immersed being an engineer, the province appears small and can be micro-managed by a hands-on Governor. He has with him the complete directory of the telephone numbers of the local officials from the mayors down to the barangay tanod. The next project that he has in mind is to wire up all the municipalities so that teleconferencing in real time can be achieved wherever he is.
Recently, Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister of Singapore talked about the timeline of today’s technology. According to him with the stride of modern information technology, one year today is equivalent to 7 years 10 years ago. Obsolescence is the name of the game. In other words, 5 years today means 35 years in technological standard. Such that if we waste one year, we in effect lost 7 years. While IT brought tremendous impact on development, there are pitfalls nonetheless. He cited the cases of Korea and China which have the most number of internet users. Just recently these two countries were mired in internet hoaxes devoured as facts by a great number of their population. PM Lee reminded his countrymen that they could not afford to waste time just like the Koreans and Chinese who swallowed hook line and sinker dubious internet information that proved to their undoing. He never referred to the Filipinos as the worst Asian wastrels who drained away 25 years of their wretched existence blasting each other since the death of Ninoy Aquino. Come to think of it, since 1983, we lost 175 years in real time. No wonder we are the basket case in Asia.
Going back to the battle royale, the sitting governor has enough logistics to mount a crammed campaign to get the NO votes going his way. Quezon Power Plant pays an annual land tax of P240M. Team Energy paid goodwill money of P400M just recently. On the assumption that he saved P150M from these collections, all he has to ask from each barangay captain is to produce a minimum of 60 votes for NO in exchange for P10, 000 with the prospect of bonuses if the barangay chief exceeded the governor’s expectations. In the plebiscite, we don’t expect the entire province to participate. We have 800,000 registered voters. In regular elections, our turn out is only 80% or 640,000. By experience, plebiscites in large measure don’t interest the voters because no personalities are involved. As a rule, we are not issue oriented. Remember we are not a reading nay writing people and that’s our undoing. Give or take that the turn out province- wide is in the vicinity only of 10% to 15%, that’s 120,000 votes more or less. We have 1,200 barangays. By giving each barangay captain a quota of 60 NO votes computes to 72,000 NO votes. The rest, 48,000 are YES to complete the projected 120,000 turn out. The governor has a secret Plan B. He has the money language. As if the Suarezes don’t know.
Not only that, his argument of non-division is the better argument. One Quezon no matter where you look at it is the better option.
“ONE QUEZON pa rin!”