[PHOTO -President Benigno Aquino and Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.]

MANILA, OCTOBER 8, 2012 (INQUIRER) By Michael Lim Ubac, Norman Bordadora - Politics is addition. That is a long accepted adage.

Malacañang on Thursday welcomed politicians identified with the other side of the political fence—party mates of Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo—to be part of a grand coalition of the administration for the May 2013 polls.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda did not see anything odd with the political arrangement. He said in a Malacañang briefing the Aquino administration could not just close the door on those supportive of the President’s legislative agenda in both chambers of Congress.

“I think during the past two years they have been supportive of the programs of the President,” said Lacierda, when the Philippine Daily Inquirer asked him if he saw nothing wrong with uniting with the Nacionalista Party (NP), Marcos’ party.

Mr. Aquino’s father, the late Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., was killed during the regime of Marcos’s father, the strongman Ferdinand Marcos. The elder Marcos in turn was ousted during the 1986 People Power revolution which installed the President’s late mother, Corazon Aquino, in the presidency.

The NP is fielding Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV as its senatorial candidates.

Asked how the President would see this latching together of divergent political parties, Lacierda said what was “important” was their support for the reform agenda of Mr. Aquino.

“We don’t have any problem with that. We need allies … in pushing for reform in our administration. And if we can get these lawmakers to support our reform agenda, then well and good,” said Lacierda.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan said he was OK with a coalition with the National Unity Party (NUP) that is made up mostly of House members that staunchly defended then President Arroyo during attempts to impeach her and from allegations of corruption during her administration.

“Nelson Mandela once said that in a democracy we need to learn to work with people we dislike, in reference to those who in the past supported apartheid,” said Pangilinan.

“For as long as we are all clear that it is the President who calls the shots, then it is incumbent upon the LP (Liberal Party) to build the broadest unity possible among various political forces willing to lend their support to the President’s reform agenda,” he added.

Cayetano also saw nothing wrong with coalescing with Arroyo’s allies, even admitting the coalition would be beneficial to the administration.

“Is it pragmatic? Yes. Is it a compromise? No,” Cayetano told reporters in an interview.

Cayetano is a member of the NP which has forged a coalition with the LP for the May 2013 elections.

Other members of the LP-led coalition for next year’s polls are the Nationalist People’s Coalition and now the NUP.

“The coalition will not protect them,” said Cayetano of politicians who may be joining just to get away with any anomalies they may have committed in the past.

“It is not a get-out-of-jail card,” he said.

On Thursday, Lacierda would not disclose details of a meeting between Mr. Aquino and Sen. Loren Legarda in Malacañang, which from all indications showed the reelectionist senator had yet to sign on the dotted line.

Lacierda even appeared surprised when asked about the meeting.

The Inquirer reported Thursday that President Arroyo had sought the meeting with Legarda to talk about her running as a common candidate of the LP and its opposition rival, the United Nationalist Alliance.

“I’m not aware of it. I know that Secretary Mar Roxas and Secretary Jun Abaya were meeting with the President. I’m not sure if Senator Legarda was, I was not present in that meeting,” said Lacierda.

“We discussed many things, including foreign relations,” said Legarda in a phone interview.

She would neither confirm nor deny if she had accepted the President’s invitation to join the LP-led administration senatorial slate.

“Abangan (Watch for it),” was all she would say.

The Aquino administration has to learn to work with people it doesn’t like to make sure its reform agenda succeeds in Congress, an LP senator said on Thursday in the wake of the LP’s formal alliance with the NUP.

Sen. Francis Escudero, an independent and an ally of President Aquino, said the NUP had long been supportive of the President. With a report from Leila B. Salaverria

Ex-Isabela Gov. Padaca appointed to Comelec By TJ Burgonio Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:19 am | Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Maria Gracia Cielo “Grace” Padaca, a polio-stricken radio commentator who challenged and toppled a long-running political dynasty in her native Isabela, has been appointed election commissioner, Malacañang announced Tuesday.

The former two-term governor replaces information technology expert Augusto “Gus” Lagman in the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. transmitted the appointment of the 49-year-old Padaca on Friday to the Comelec, according to presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.

Lagman has failed to get a confirmation from the Commission on Appointments following objections by its chair, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who has not forgotten a 25-year-old slight.

Enrile has accused Lagman, a former official of the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections, of “vote trending” in favor of then President Corazon Aquino’s candidates during the 1987 senatorial race, in which Enrile landed last.

Unlikely political career

As a commentator of Radyo Bombo in Cauayan, Isabela, Padaca had denounced corruption and illegal gambling and logging.

An accountant, she began an unlikely political career when she ran for a congressional seat in 2001 against the influential Dy family in Isabela and lost by 48 votes in the controversial balloting.

The woman crippled since childhood by polio had little money and no political base, but did well in spite of the odds, campaigning in crutches and crisscrossing the province on a borrowed truck.

Thrust into national prominence by the election scandal, she again challenged the Dys in 2004 and this time won as governor. She was reelected three years later.

In 2010, she lost a third term by a slim margin in the country’s first automated elections. The case is under protest.

In 2008, Padaca received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service. Trustees of Asia’s version of the Nobel prize cited Padaca for “empowering voters” in Isabela “to reclaim their democratic right to elect leaders of their own choosing and to contribute as full partners in their own development.”

“As governor, she moved quickly to neutralize efforts by Dy loyalists to sabotage her governorship and astutely prioritized her agenda. She paid off two-thirds of the province’s huge debts and restored its fiscal credibility. She abandoned a bankrupt medical scheme for a sounder government-backed plan. And she launched a program to subsidize rice and corn farmers,” the trustees said.

Political vendetta

But her political enemies pursued her relentlessly. She has a pending graft case in the Sandiganbayan and a standing warrant for her arrest.

“For four months I’ve had an overnight bag in the car, ready to be arrested anytime. I planned not to voluntarily post bail as my way of protesting the process by which the case was decided upon, and the warrant of arrest issued,” Padaca said in a text message Tuesday.

“Things may have to change now, and I may need to post bail and let the judicial process take its course,” she added.

Padaca has asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the charges, which have no bearing in her appointment to the Comelec, unless she gets a conviction.

The former governor has been accused of allowing the Economic Development for Western Isabela and Northern Luzon Foundation (Edwinlfi), a nongovernment organization (NGO), to take loans for hybrid rice from a P25-million fund in 2006 without public bidding.


Padaca countered that public bidding was not required and the government was not adversely affected when Edwinlfi secured the loans. She claimed politics was behind the arrest warrant.

“A woman commissioner is our biggest asset. Now, there will be someone who will referee us,” Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said.

The Comelec en banc is currently composed of Brillantes and Election Commissioners Rene Sarmiento, Elias Yusoph, Christian Robert Lim, Lucenito Tagle and Armando Velasco.

Brillantes said the commission may delegate the poll body’s committee on persons with disabilities (PWDs), which is headed at present by Sarmiento, to Padaca.

“It’s a big program since we are registering PWDs [for the 2013 elections]… I think that would be a good committee [that she could head],” he said.

Offhand, Brillantes also said that with Padaca’s appointment and by accepting a government position, “she is considered to have abandoned her protest case.”

The Comelec chair referred to Padaca’s electoral protest against Isabela Gov. Faustino “Bojie” Dy III.

Big asset

“We are happy with our cofounder’s appointment as Comelec commissioner and we are thankful to President Aquino for the trust and confidence he has given to Governor Padaca,” Harvey Keh, lead convenor of the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership, said in a text message.

The movement believes Padaca would be a “big asset” to the commission “since she had the experience of running for public office four times,” Keh said.

“Her appointment further raises the integrity and credibility of Comelec. We are expecting that she will work toward instituting genuine reforms in our electoral system especially as the 2013 elections draw near,” he said. With a report from Jocelyn R. Uy


PADACA IS NOT GUILTYOF GRAFT, SAYS NOY By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) Updated October 08, 2012 12:00 AM

MANILA- Grace Padaca is innocent of the charges against her, even as she faces trial for graft and malversation of public funds.

The President said this was why he shouldered the P70,000 bail that the Sandiganbayan set for Padaca, who was a broadcaster prior to joining government in 2004.

Aquino said the case where Padaca was being accused of benefiting by helping farmers bring their loan interest down to one and a half percent, from a high of 30 percent, is absurd.

“I think the people of Isabela benefited from what she did and she was looking for solutions to help the farmers,” he said.

Former Isabela Rep. Santiago Respicio charged Padaca with allegedly granting a P25-million hybrid rice project to a non-government organization without public bidding.

A two-term governor who served for six years from 2004 to 2010, Padaca lost in her gubernatorial bid in 2010. She claimed that she was cheated by the Dy political dynasty in Isabela.

Her younger brother Marlo Angelo, a 47-year-old salesman, is now running for governor in the May 2013 polls as an independent candidate.

Grace was supposed to seek the gubernatorial race anew but backed out due to her Comelec appointment.

Palace blames Sandigan for non-arrest of Padaca

Malacañang also washed its hands of queries regarding lingering suspicions on how Padaca managed to evade arrest since May this year, when the warrants had already been issued by then.

“I have no idea. You should ask Sandiganbayan that. Again, it’s a separate branch of government. I have no idea why the Sandiganbayan never executed that arrest,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

He said the Sandiganbayan issued the warrant of arrest and the Palace has no information why she was never arrested.

Padaca, who claimed that the cases were a product of “political persecution” by her political enemies in Isabela, eventually showed up and posted bail.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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