MANILA , APRIL 29, 2010
(STAR) By Aurea Calica - GMA’S RIVAL: LP congressional bet Adonis Simpao campaigns in Pampanga.

MANILA, Philippines - Despite her position and wealth, there is no certainty of victory for President Arroyo in her quest for a congressional seat in her hometown in Pampanga, her rival for the position said.

“You can tell a Kapampangan that it will be very difficult to defeat a President because of her position, but we have shown in 2007 that it may be hard but it’s not impossible,” said Adonis Simpao, the Liberal Party (LP)’s congressional bet for Pampanga’s second district.

Simpao was referring to the victory of priest-on-leave Ed Panlilio in the 2007 gubernatorial race against board member Lilia Pineda, a close friend of Mrs. Arroyo and wife of suspected jueteng lord Rodolfo “Bong” Pineda.

“They cannot be sure of that (victory),” he said.

“But maybe that is what they think will happen with all their machinery, power and money , which we don’t have,” Simpao, 41 and an architect by profession, said in an interview in Guagua.

He said the people were beginning to respond to his candidacy, greeting him warmly during his campaign sorties, although he admitted the crowd in his recent Guagua rally could have been better.

Simpao said he would try harder to reach out to constituents to explain why they must try a new face in politics.

“We tell them the real situation here in Pampanga and the reason why the President is running for congresswoman of the second district of Pampanga,” he said.

Simpao said that unlike the President, he is a “true Kapampangan,” having been born and lived in the province all his life.

“I know the real condition of the Kapampangans and thus should be their rightful representative,” he said.

“I grew up here, unlike the President who says she is Kapampangan but did not grow up and was not born here. It’s true that her father (the late President Diosdado Macapagal) is Kapampangan but the President did not stay here,” he added.

“How can she represent the Kapampangans when she has never experienced the hardships that the people have gone through and were going through here,” Simpao said.

Iligan or the governorship

Simpao said the President should have opted to run in Iligan because it’s where she grew up, as she had admitted.

Better still, Simpao said Mrs. Arroyo should have chosen to run for governor and face Panlilio “if it’s true that she really wants to serve the Kapampangans.”

Simpao described himself as an ordinary man with a small construction business whose experience in public service was mostly with socio-civic organizations.

“And in those small organizations we would see the kind of leadership we need. There must also be participation among the constituents, there must be consultation and not just simple implementation of what the leader wants,” he said.

“Decisions must come from the bottom to the top then down to the people again,” he said.

Simpao said voters should also realize that Mrs. Arroyo had not been fair in distributing government funds. He said much of the funds for projects went to her father’s hometown in Lubao.

“We are telling the people that she is using these funds to blind us when in fact, if we look at it, she had been a senator, vice president and president,” he said.

“If she really wanted to do these projects, why only now? She could have done so in the past,” Simpao said.

“When she filed her certificate of candidacy, that’s where we saw that she used government funds, the people’s money for her own (early) campaigning,” Simpao said.

Simpao said he has been getting assistance from the LP and that the personal visits of its standard-bearer, Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and his running mate Sen. Manuel Roxas II, along with LP senatorial candidates, have greatly helped him.

He rebuffed speculations that he was ready to accept money in exchange for his withdrawal from the race.

“All I can say is that they should not even try (to offer money) so nobody would be shamed. I am content with the little hard earned money that I have,” Simpao said.

Simpao complained that LP bets were being harassed and that he even received death threats.

Low profile

Simpao bowed his head and blushed when LP senatorial candidate Martin Bautista said at a rally recently in Guagua that his voters would be remembered for supporting a man who stood up against a powerful but dysfunctional leader.

He could not resist a wide smile, although he appeared uncomfortable with the shower of accolades.

Manila-based journalists had a hard time telling who among those on stage was Simpao.

Media coordinators called him in and a man in a pale yellow polo and jeans stepped forward.

Simpao said he was hopeful that his provincemates would realize they have had enough of Mrs. Arroyo.

Speakership war

Malacañang, meanwhile, shrugged off reports that the Nacionalista Party would be fielding its own candidate for speaker of the House of Representatives to challenge President Arroyo, who is believed to be eyeing the House leadership if elected congresswoman of Pampanga.

Deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar was commenting on reports that the NP would be pitting reelectionist Rep. Anna York Bondoc of the 4th district of Pampanga against Mrs. Arroyo.

On Monday, Bondoc voiced her wish to be speaker.

Bondoc is a granddaughter of the late former Senate president Gil Puyat and daughter of the late Rep. Emigdio Bondoc.

“That’s not surprising because the NP is not an administration party so we would not expect them to support anybody from the administration party who runs for the speakership whether it is the President, assuming she wins and assuming she wants to run for speaker, or anybody else from the administration party,” Olivar told a news briefing.

He also maintained that Mrs. Arroyo’s priority in her last days in office is governance and not campaigning for her congressional bid.

LP officials earlier said the party would likely field former Quezon City Mayor Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte as its candidate for speaker. Belmonte is running for a seat in Congress representing the fourth district of Quezon City. With Paolo Romero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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