By Joey Natividad
NAGA CITY (BicolToday.com/05-Aug-2012) – Convoys of jeepney arrived early Thursday morning, August 2, at the Naga City Coliseum, unloading passengers. Two hours later, thousands of people swelled at the coliseum grounds, and entered the building passing through lines of security and policemen. The people wore shirts, color-coded with “Yes” or “No”, identifying themselves as either for partition of Camarines Sur province, or the latter, for one united province.
The second wave of arrivals were the fancy cars of lawmakers and public officials who would be attending the Senate committee on local government hearing on the creation of Nueva Camarines province. The hearing was held in Naga City, a chartered city independent from the Provincial Government.
The thousands of people were not there to present their opinions, since their views and stand were not important. They were there as part of the Operation Hakot launched few days ago by politicians of Yes and No camps as power projection and show of force. They were also there to cheer for their politician-masters, and to jeer at their opponents.
Proponents of Yes and No
On the Yes side for Camarines Sur partition, Congressmen Arnulfo Fuentebella, the main author of the House bill 4820, Luis R. Villafuerte, Rolando Andaya, and Dato Arroyo who did not show up in the historic hearing to avoid public scrutiny over the controversy surrounding his mother, ex-President Gloria M. Arroyo. Mayors and local officials and supporters backed up the lawmakers side.
On the No side, Governor Lray Villafuerte, Vice-Governor Fortunato Peña, Congressman Sal Fortuno, several board members seated on the opposite panel. Several mayors and local officials, including supporters, gave strong level of confidence.
Senate Committee Hearing
The lawmakers had already railroaded the bill at the House level without a real public hearing, and it landed at the lap of Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos as chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government.
The Senate panel also included Senators Manny Villar and Gringo Honasan, while Senators Tony Trillanes and Joker Arroyo were absent.
The debates and presentations from various speakers churned out data and statistics justifying the province partition, or its keeping it up as a whole.
In several occasions, Congressman Villafuerte and son, Governor Lray, engaged themselves in personal backlash and word war, igniting cheers and jeers from the thousands of spectators.
Senator Marcos, trying to be objective as possible, prevented himself from being carried away from the emotionally charged heated arguments.
Later, in media interview after the hearing, Senator Marcos said it will take 3 weeks to wind up all the presentations before being presented at the Senate plenary for Third Reading. In finality, the Senator hinted a plebiscite will be conducted in the province before its passage into law after President Aquino’s approval. The expected plebiscite has already been churned out by Yes proponents as part of media hype laying the ground for people’s acceptance.
Senator Honasan, later said, the speakers presented conflicting data and statistics coming from various government sources, each trying to validate their presentations.
Promises of Growth, Prosperity
Never before in Camarines Sur history where there were descriptions of prosperity and growth in the province except what were presented by both camps. Promises of ending poverty were churned-out before listeners who mostly belong to the province’s poorest. The province has about 82% of its population at the poverty level.
Left-wing groups have scoffed at the idea of partition several months ago, saying two Camarines provinces will not liberate the poor from poverty. “Their poor living conditions will not get better after the partition,” said a militant activist.
No Jobs for Young Politicians
Beneath the noble objective of slicing the province into two, traditional politician families are already expanding that their children are already growing up without assured jobs in politics. Young politicians are already waiting at the pipeline, and there are no vacancies to fill up unless the old guards fade away or go into retirement.
“The wise solution is to break up the province. With a newly-created province, new posts will be created for governor, vice governor, board members, and possibly additional seat for the House post later, aside from the present two seats available in District 4 and 5 which will comprise the merger,” said an observer in sarcasm.
The observer pointed out the Fuentebella children are politics-ready, and they need vacancies to fill up and they cannot win in the gubernatorial race in the big province. But, in the present set-up, there are no posts available.
Meanwhile, Governor Villafuerte has been market-testing his son protegee, Migz, in his early 20′s, in his village visitations, titillating the young crowds who are too young to vote in 2013.
“Migz has difficulty in image-projection before the public, either he cannot decide to be a “Mr. Pogi”, or an upcoming political leader. Nobody has heard if his young head has vision or ideals, except to flash out some charming smiles before the crowd,” said the observer.
The new province will be a contractors’ paradise within the next 6 years after its creation.
About a minimum of 3 Billion pesos worth of infrastructure projects will be implemented within this period. The projects will cover the cost of construction of a new provincial capitol complex, new government offices to house department provincial offices, a provincial hospital, airport, pier, road constructions and improvements, and buildings for provincial police and army headquarters.
“Say, One Billion pesos of these will go to corruption, or grease money representing 30% of the total project cost of 3 Billion pesos,” said an insider in the Department of Public Works and Highways. “Still, the contractors will get their share of the profit.”
“Aside form construction and infra projects, a billion more of government money will be used to purchase cars, heavy equipment, office supplies and fixtures, amenities, computers and others. There are secret commissions and payolas, starting from the awards and bids committees upwards to the new power wielders. Sometimes, most grease money are paid out in advance before the bidding,” said the insider.
Jobs for Loyalties
About 2,000 new jobs will be created. The new provincial government may employ 400 at the start, from office personnel to the environmental group, Sagip Kalikasan – the favorite dumping ground for employment by politicians as rewards for their men in their services and loyalties during elections.
New provincial director posts of government agencies and downline personnel are also at the whims of the new power-wielders in exchange for loyalties.
Hundreds of construction jobs will be dished out to political ward leaders as sign of rewards for their loyal service. [Bicoltoday.com]
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