|Gubernatorial bet Braganza (3rd from Right) with his political supporters|
Alaminos City Mayor Hernani Braganza today disputed reports that Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino’s political machinery would be a key factor in determining the outcome of the gubernatorial race in the province, saying “voters now resist the traditional politicians’ use of guns, gold and goons in electoral campaigns.”
Braganza, the Liberal Party’s gubernatorial candidate in Pangasinan, said voters in the provinces have grown wary of traditional politicians who rely on party machinery to woo supporters in electoral campaigns.
“The days of monolithic party machinery are over. Voters, not party machinery, win elections,” said Braganza, who once served as Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs with Cabinet rank.
Braganza cited as examples the victory of President Fidel V. Ramos, his uncle, in 1992 and of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, who won convincingly despite their rivals’ control over the dominant party machinery at the time. “The voters of Pangasinan are intelligent enough not to be swayed by trapos (traditional politicians) and their dirty tactics,” he added.
Braganza expressed optimism that Pangasinan voters would elect into office a gubernatorial candidate who has a track record of subscribing to the highest standards of good governance in order to improve the people’s living condition. “There are two questions that must be answered truthfully by the current governor. First, is he morally fit to govern? Second, does he honestly believe that he has improved the living condition of Pangasinenses?” Braganza said.
He noted that the governor has gone full-blast on disinformation campaign to counter his dwindling public support, which came as a result of two sets of criminal charges filed against him recently.
Last December, Bugallon Mayor Ric Orduna filed a criminal case of plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman against Gov. Espino for allegedly amassing more than P900 million illegally through jueteng operations. Orduna, a trusted associate of Gov. Espino, said he personally delivered the money to the governor since the time Espino was the provincial police chief until he was elected governor in 2007. Orduna’s allegations were corroborated by Fernando Alimagno alias Boy Bata, the PDP-Laban’s mayoral candidate in Candelaria, Quezon province, who admitted that he was one of the biggest operators of jueteng and jai-alai in Pangasinan.
Only last month, the National Bureau of Investigation filed murder charges against Gov. Espino, Rep. Jesus “Boyong” Celeste and newspaper publisher Jaime Aquino after a witness tagged them as the masterminds in the killing of Infanta Mayor Ruperto Martinez last December.
The witness, a 16-year-old son of Aquino, told NBI investigators that he was present when the trio held a meeting with a gunman who were allegedly hired by Gov. Espino and Rep. Celeste to kill Martinez. The governor and the congressman allegedly ordered the killing of Martinez after the mayor learned of their involvement in the illegal trade of a mineral called “itim na bato,” apparently referring to nickel being mined in Zambales and smuggled out of Infanta port. The teenage witness also told probers that Gov. Espino masterminded the killings of Jovencia Gasmen, barangay kagawad of San Juan, Alcala, and Bayambang Councilor Nato Sabangan last year.
Gasmen, a leader of an environmentalist group in Pangasinan, was shot to death by gunmen while scouting for signatories to a petition against illegal quarrying operations in Alcala. Braganza said the charges against Gov. Espino were serious since these came from people close to him.
“These witnesses know how the governor works, up close and personal,” he pointed out. Braganza said Gov. Espino should prove his innocence in court if only to convince Pangasinan voters that he is not involved in illegal activities. He pointed out that mayors supporting Gov. Espino would have no choice but to junk their candidate in the coming elections if the voters would not be convinced of the governor’s innocence. “There are feelers coming from the governor’s camp. His mayors are itching to switch sides because he has become a political liability to them,” Braganza said.
He explained that the Liberal Party in Pangasinan, however, was still examining the track records of these mayors to determine who among them were really committed to President Aquino’s “Tuwid na Daan” policy. At present, he said, the Liberal Party is closely working with leaders of civic and business groups as well as non-government organizations in Pangasinan to ensure the victory of the party’s candidates in the national and provincial level. “Traditional political pundits may be in for a surprise. These groups, all involved in community organizing, will help the Liberal Party deliver the votes for our candidates,” Braganza said.