|Espino (Extreme Left) pressed flesh with his mayors|
By Arian Bermas
The mayoral bets of the Nationalist People’s Coalition in Pangasinan debunked claims of Alaminos City Mayor Hernani Braganza, the gubernatorial candidate of the Liberal Party, that they have expressed willingness to “jump ship” to the ruling party. “We are bound to support our partymates from the Nationalist People’s Coalition,” Mayor Manuel T. Collado of Alcala as he dares Braganza to name NPC mayoral bets who are allegedly transferring to the other party.
“He (Braganza) must now be running out of gimmicks and desperate in convincing people to join his camp,” a mayoral bet from the first district said. The LP is fielding only 29 mayoral bets, three of them seeking reelection. The statement of Mayor Collado was echoed by the 43 mayoral bets of NPC, 28 of them are running for re-election, as they affirmed they will never be swayed by reported “sweet offers” dangled by the Braganza camp.
Prospero de Vera, a Pangasinense who sits as director of the University of the Philippines’ National College of Public Administration and Governance, described the LP infrastructure in Pangasinan as “very weak and even non-existent in many areas.”
The mayoral bets also belied claims by the Braganza camp that the NPC is into the use of traditional dirty politics of “guns, goons and gold.” “We depend on our track record of performance, the strength of our party machinery, and the massive support of our constituents,” they said.
Pitted against incumbent Gov. Amado T. Espino, Jr, Braganza is facing plunder and other corruption charges filed by 11 incumbent and four former barangay captains of Alaminos before the Office of the Ombudsman.
The charges filed against Braganza were based on reported anomalies of the following unfinished or ghost projects: P300-million loan from the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) to finance the construction of a city hospital, a hotel, and some buildings for the expansion of the Pangasinan State University (PSU); P3.9-billion Hundred Islands International Airport; P31-million E-Kawayan Project (funded by Pagcor); P8-million Olympic-sized swimming pool funded by the Department of Tourism (P5-M) and P3-M from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of then Rep. Prospero Pichay; the P55.8-million Wetland Development patterned after the famous Don Tham series of fishponds of Thailand; P9.3 million renovation/upgrading of the City Plaza and Children’s Park project; P10.5-million repair of Cayucay Road; P2-million Gawad-Kalinga Eco Village project; P37.8-million unliquidated cash advances; and no physical inventory of the City’s property, plant and equipment worth P426.88-million. Just recently, 12 members of the Magdiwang group of barangay captains in Alaminos City joined hands with the Magdalo Group of the 11 incumbent village chiefs who filed the plunder case against Braganza, to express their disgust over the “rudderless leadership” of Braganza. With 39 barangays comprising Alaminos City, only 16 villages chiefs remain loyal to Braganaza as 23 barangay chairs have openly expressed disenchantment on his leadership. Political observers say that if Braganza cannot put his house in order as a City Mayor, how much more if he will manage a giant province like Pangasinan.
They said that if Espino won in an overwhelming landslide against a previous formidable gubernatorial foe in the 2010 elections, political kibitzers see a total annihilation to his present rival who is virtually unknown in many parts of Pangasinan. In the same vein, the NPC mayors reiterated their pledge of support to the reform agenda initiated by President Benigno Aquino III, saying the President’s advocacy runs similar to the NPC’s transformational politics.