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Mediamen in politics 

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THE BROADCASTER Diosdado “Deng” Pangilinan is, as of Oct. 4, the only currently working mediaperson in Pampanga who has filed a COC for the May 2022 polls.

Initially dismissed as “quixotic” when he first raised it in social media, his quest for the Mabalacat City mayoralty though has of late created so much buzz that warranted visitations from the incumbent’s camp. How feasible is his candidacy? That’s for the voters to decide.

Deng, by simply running, followed a long line of Pampanga journalists and broadcasters who dared: some triumphing, others simply harrumphing. As chronicled in this 22-year-old piece.

PAMPANGA POLITICS and media do mix. But the taste is often acrid.

I asked the venerable Katoks Tayag once why he never ventured into politics after his successes in journalism, literature, and business. His answer was that he did not have the temperament or the stomach for it.

A number of Pampanga Press Club members though have not merely tasted but even swallowed politics, all its sweetness, all its bitterness.

Joe Roman blazed the trail for mediamen-in-politics, winning a seat in the Angeles City council in the ‘60s.

Max Sangil aspired for the House in 1987. Coming in the aftermath of the EDSA Revolution, the elections were decided primarily by the Cory Magic. Max got steamrolled by Tarzan Lazatin.

In the 1988 local elections, by his own steam, Max was among the topnotchers in the Angeles City council. In 1992, he teamed up with Pacito Pabalan to contest the city vice-mayorship, with disastrous results. In 1995 though, Max emerged consejal numero uno in the slate of Mayor Ed Pamintuan.

Prior to the 1998 elections, Max – by operation of law – assumed the city mayorship, after Pamintuan and Vice Mayor Blueboy Nepomuceno resigned to contest the first congressional district seat. Max went on to run for mayor but lost anew to old nemesis, Tarzan Lazatin. (Fast forward to 2013 Max ran for city councilor in Tarzan’s four-man ticket and won. He lost in the next polls with two other Sangils – his nephews Jay and Christopher aka Tetta in the ballot.)

Sonny Lopez ran for councilor in 1988, concurrently running the campaign plan of his mayoralty bet, Don Rafael Lazatin. They both lost. In 1992, Sonny topped the city council elections under the aegis of Pamintuan. In 1995, he challenged Pamintuan and failed. In 1998, he ran as Tarzan Lazatin’s vice mayoralty bet and lost.

Perry Pangan was number one councilor of Mabalacat in the 1988 elections. His team-up with Boking Morales in 1992 was a total disaster for both.

Rizal Policarpio had the longest streak of losing: for the Mabalacat council in 1971; for Mabalacat mayor in 1980; for Angeles City councilor in 1988, even after his campaign leaflet was adjudged the most creative – a blow-up of the P2 bill with the picture of Rizal, the national hero.

Lino Sanchez tried but failed in his first and only attempt for a city council seat in 1992. His brother Robling won as Pulungbulu councilman in 1991; lost – for city councilor – in 1992 and 1995 despite his campaign against graft and corruption under the teaser Anti-Buwaya, twisted by some wit into anti ya mong buwaya (he himself is like a croc).

Melchor Duenas won as barangay chair of San Nicolas in 1991 but was reduced to a protestant in the barangay elections of 1997.

Lito Pangilinan ran in two elections for the city council and lost.

Jay Sangil was a close Number 12 in the contest for the 10 seats in the city council in 1998. A fine showing for a first timer made even finer by the absence of the INC votes in his tally. He would have landed in the Top 3 with the INC. (Without the INC, Jay lost again in 2001 but won in 2004. He had the INC backing in his re-elections in 2007 and 2010.He lost in his vice mayoralty quest in 2013, returning to the council in 2016 and 2019, and is again in the running for 2022.)

Toy Soto won as Barangay Dau councilman in the ‘80s and sat as OIC-mayor of Mabalacat in 1987, immediately prior to the 1988 local elections.

In the ‘60s, Don Tomas San Pedro ran and lost for barangay captain of Sta. Teresita, Angeles City.

(Ody Fabian ran – and lost – for the 1st district seat in the provincial board in 2004.)

There were also a number of non-PPC members who have dipped their fingers in the political pie.

All these in Angeles City: Rudy Simeon, dwGV station manager won in his first try for the city council in 1998 where Jab Tolentino of The Voice lost (Rudy got re-elected twice but lost in his comeback try in 2010 and has failed in his comeback tries since); Bernie Chavit of Central Luzon Times ran and lost in his council try in 1992; Arnel Panganiban of dwGV won as councilman of Barangay Pandan in 1997 but was not as successful in his city council try; Frank Olingay of Pilipino Opinion was twice Barangay Amsic chairman.

(Then there is the  broadcaster John Susi winning a council seat in Lubao in 2013, 2016, and 2019)

 

How fared the PPC boys as elected officials?

Joe Roman was unarguably the quintessential oppositionist, if we go by the accounts in The Voice on Angeles City politics in the ‘60s.

There was Joe hitting at Mayor Rafael del Rosario for “playing political possum” and causing the delay in the construction of the city public market. There was Joe blasting at the Philippine Constabulary for human rights abuses as they took control of the city police force. There was Joe exposing an overprice by the princely sum of P82,000 at the resettlement bureau. There was Joe damning the “tyranny of the majority” at the city council.

From the city council, Joe took his causes to the other fora like the Rotary Club, the pages of the local papers, and the local airwaves. He was the perpetual gadfly that pestered the city executives.

At his office in the old Pamintuan Mansion, this sign was posted at his door: “Don’t knock. Just bust in.”

His killer did not bother to knock at the Magnolia Rendezvous kiosk in San Fernando, a spit away from the town hall. He just sprayed him with bullets. Joe was then in the process of organizing the League of Municipal Councilors of Pampanga, having come from Minalin for snacks in San Fernando on the way home to Angeles City.

Sonny Lopez practically took after Joe Roman, notwithstanding the gap of a full generation separating them, as the foremost fiscalizer at the city sangguniang panlungsod during his incumbency. He was the thorn on Mayor Ed Pamintuan’s side as he laid bare before the public anything perceived to pose a clear and present danger to the Angelenos, like the indiscriminate quarrying at the Abacan River.

Max Sangil was the erudite majority floor leader who helped steer the council deliberations on a rational course. He was among the councilors with the most number of resolutions and ordinances filed – and passed.

Perry Pangan was – in keeping with his loquacious persona – the life of the Mabalacat sangguniang bayan when not pursuing the local infra works as council committee chair.

Melchor Duenas’ turf was renamed “San Casinolas” during his incumbency. He was even remanded to jail for some time after some arrested jueteng collectors he took custody of failed to appear in court.

 

What is there in politics that entices mediamen to wallow in it? 

The call of service is the standard clichéd answer of most. For the fun of it, some concur. For the funds in it, some others contend.

Mediamen get donors and sponsors for their election campaign far easier than other candidates. Thus, elections make an enriching experience to the enterprising among them. No names now, but who was that who was able to buy a motorcycle after his first loss, and a jeep after his second defeat? Wonder if it would be a car in his next failed try.

In local politics, mediamen appear to have the same chances as lawyers. Even par for the electoral course as good entertainers on the campaign stage.

At the council level, winning appears relatively less difficult for the mediaman than at the town or city executive level. Just look where mediamen have successfully landed in elections they participated in as candidates. Not one in Pampanga has risen above the post of councilor in an election. (PPC founding father Emerito de Jesus was long out of media when he won the Bacolor mayorship.)

This can be explained through the public perception of the press. The common citizen sees the general attributes of a mediaman – adversarial, analytical and articulate – as well as his temperament, as most appropriate for legislative work. With the collective belief that the sanggunian is no more than a forum for debates.

On a totally different plane is the mayorship where the man-profile of the holder covers statesmanship, sense of cool and collectedness, and sobriety appear unfit for the mediaman.

A good example here is Sonny Lopez. His bombast on the campaign stage so mesmerized the voters that they hoisted him to the city council’s topmost slot, earning more votes than his candidates for mayor and vice mayor. But the same banat style turned off the same voters, greatly contributing – arguably – to the less than respectable showing in his bid for the city mayorship in 1995.

It would look like the voters want their councilors “fighting” and their mayor quietly performing. Recognizing this, every newsman wanting to cast his luck in electoral contests will now know where to stand.

(Reprinted from the author’s book Of the Press, 1999 with parenthetical updates in italics) 

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