Poor Bani, Pangasinan Mayor Marcelo Navarro. His multi-million-peso projects from sources abroad, national and local levels could not take-off because of political schisms exacted by his anti-progress dissenting majority-member municipal council whom he said have sworn loyalty and heed order from Congressman Jesus “Boying” Celeste (1st District, Pangasinan) and Governor Amado T. Espino – a classmate at the Philippine Military Academy. By earning the ire of the people I mentioned, everything stops revolving in this second class town known for its pristine beaches and underground caves.
But Navarro, a former police general, did not take the stunts of those tyrannical majorities in the august body sitting down.
Just like the counter-attacked by the US Marines in the bloody November 2004 “Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq, Navarro initiated a Recall Petition where 25% of the town’s registered voters would sign a petition and submit it to the local Commission on Election against the Vice Mayor and his willing conspirators at the Sangguniang Bayan, which stalls whatever pro-progress programs, for a special election for the Bani people decide if these negligent abusive dads deserve another term.
“I leave to the people of Bani the fate of these officials, “he told us media men in a press conference called by the Patrima media group.
“Why not sue them criminally with non-feasance (failure to perform an act) so your people would know their inaction,” I posed.
“I will not because court case drags for a while, unlike recall,” he told me.
“They (councilors) are not doing anything. Somebody is dictating to them,” he continued.
Because of this dissent his municipality was denied with P20 million in housing project that needs local counterpart fund. He deplored that probable employment and other multiplier effects for his people were prejudiced.
He said they snagged the P6 billion bio-fuel project that should be financed through a Private-Public-Partnership (PPP), P8.5 worth power plant, and others.
But one of my colleagues was too insistent. She pursued Navarro, a lanky mestizo skinned soft-spoken person one could mistake as an evangelist, how the rift with the governor start.
He said it started in the campaign period of the 2010 poll when he sought re-election for his mayoralty post (Navarro’s father and his brother used to be a hizzoner of Bani).
He confided to Espino that he would shift to Liberal Party from his Lakas-Kampi where he and the governor were party mates.
He said Espino welcomed his intention and told him “Magtawagan na lang tayo.”
He invited the governor that he joined him too with the LP (the party of then presidential candidate Presidential bet Benigno Aquino III).
But Espino told him to go alone as he (Espino) has a commitment with the then dominant Lakas-Kampi where then President Gloria M. Arroyo was the party chair.
After two weeks in the campaign period, to his surprise, ten of his policemen were relieved by the police provincial director.
“I was taken aback because I would be vulnerable although these policemen were assigned at the police station I called the PD (Provincial Director Colonel Percieval Barba) who told me he could not do anything. What I did is to go to (Camp) Crame and told the chief PNP about my predicament.”
The 10 cops were returned. But after a day they were relieved again. Navarro said he called the police regional director in La Union who returned the ten. But after two days they were relieved again.
“Pumunta ako sa itaas ng ikatlong beses. Doon siya (governor) nainis,” he said. He told us this resulted for the final returned of the police in a roller coaster power play between him and his PMA classmate of Class 1971.
He said vote buying in his town ran up to P3000 for a family.
Supporters of a rival and enemies told the people there to vote for a certain governor, a certain congressman, and his mayoralty rival. He continued that voters there told the vote – buyer that they would not vote for his patrons if they were obliged not to vote for Navarro. The vote buyer obliged to the condition of the voters who were mostly pro-Navarro.
He said he has no ill-feeling towards Espino. They were not only bunkmates and company mates (Delta Company according to former General Rey Velasco who told me when he was still the mayor of Sta. Barbara “that I used to summon them because they were my lower class”) but fellow Pangasinenses who speak Ilocano at the PMA.
“We were liked brothers at the Academy. When we were plebes we went to our house in Baguio City every Saturday and would go back to the academy together. He was my boxing sparring partner. He just loved to box with me because I’m tall and he is small.”
“Baka ni knocked-out niyo siya thus that ill-feeling he has with you,” my being a wanna-be boxing anal list, er, analyst made me posed that query to him.
“No, we were just sparring partner. I loved him,” he retorted to me.
But it seems his mistah does not love him.
After the conclusion of the poll where he won as a second termer mayor and Espino as second termer governor, he found himself and the governor as god father to a wedding in the town of Binmaley. He went to the governor who was in a huddle with somebody from Bani. He offered his hand to his former bunk mate and sparring mate.
He said Espino pretended he did not see him.
His constituent in Bani thought the governor did not recognize the former general.
“Guv, siya po si Mayor Navarro, mayor po namin sa Bani.”
Navarro said Espino was still nonchalant.
He said he decided to leave to avoid further embarrassment to him and his unwary constituent.
Thus he said when fellow Liberal Party and Philippine president Benigno Aquino III wanted to have his first presidential visit in Pangasinan by inaugurating a housing project in Bani, Navarro resolved not to invite Espino.
“I was afraid that what he did to me in Binmaley, he will repeat again in my hometown. I was afraid to be humiliated in front of my people. I was afraid that our Alma Mater PMA would be humiliated, too”.
The exclusion of Espino in that presidential visit in Bani created another issue in his second visit recently in Rosales town. In the column of Brando Cortez titled “Our province needs a better leader – Navarro” that see print recently in this paper.
Brando quoted Navarro “Sa observation ko ngayon at sa mga naririnig ko, naaawa ako kay Gov dahil para siyang bakal na nagiging marupok dahil sa sariling kalawang. Sana matuto siyang maglabas ng kanyang sama ng loob at magpatawad para gumaan ang kanyang kalooban.”
“Nagkatotoo sa Rosales ang kinatatakutan ko, nang hindi ko siya inimbita noong pumunta si Presidente Noynoy dito sa Bani,” sabi ni Mayor Navarro. “Hindi naman niya kinailangan sabihin sa Rosales na siya ang tunay na governor sa harap ni Presidente at sa buong Pilipinas”.
Media men who were there told me that “I-am -the- real- governor” remark of Espino was a dig also at former Governor Victor Agbayani, an LP, who was seen in tow every time Aquino visited Pangasinan. Espino defeated the former long reigning governor by half-a-million votes.
“Mistah, tama na! Ibaba mo na (the bitterness in your heart),”, Navarro told Espino in front of the camera of a national TV in that press conference.
“I loved him that’s why I don’t have any anger with him,” he stressed.
He said he extends his hand of reconciliation to him.
News hen Minnie Caburnay quipped after Navarro narrated his political odyssey with his mistah.
“L.Q (Lovers’ Quarrel) lang iyan mayor between the two of you!”
(You can read my selected intriguing but thought-provoking columns at http://mortzortigoza.blogspot.com. You can send comments too at firstname.lastname@example.org).