Friday, December 20, 2013
NUEVA ECIJA YEAR-ENDER: UMALIS SUFFER MIX FORTUNES, SANTI DESTROYS P3-B CROPS
CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija – The Year of the Water Snake in Nueva Ecija has been a mix of the good and the bad, with the province - the country’s rice granary getting battered by calamities that destroyed billions of crops - some former local officials getting linked to suspected pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and the Umalis suffering contrasting fortunes in their respective electoral bids in May.
The destruction wreaked by typhoon Santi in October topped all other news in the province over the past 12 months. The super howler killed at least three people and destroyed P3 billion worth of crops alone, not to mention damage to properties, toppling power lines and turning many areas in the province into virtual wastelands.
The province was placed under a state of calamity and President Aquino was supposed to pay a visit when an earthquake struck
diverting Malacanang’s attention away.
The province just barely survived Labuyo when Santi came. For three full weeks, the province was without power.
On the political front, Gov. Aurelio Umali and his wife, third district Rep. Czarina won third terms in their posts, the former pulling off his fourth poll victory over the Josons, the once proud and mighty dynasty that ruled the province for 48 years.
A third Umali, Board Member Emmanuel Antonio, however, lost in his mayoral bid in Cabanatuan to five-term Mayor Julius Cesar Vergara in their highly anticipated duel preceded by a prolonged word war over the Highly Urbanized City bid being pushed by the incumbent mayor. In April, Vergara and his men were charged with theft before the city prosecutor’s office for allegedly stealing the video camera of a crew from TV 48 identified with the Umalis’ camp.
Emmanuel Antonio’s debacle dealt the Umalis – unbeaten since they entered politics a decade ago – their first electoral defeat.
Aurelio’s running mate, Vice Gov. Jose Gay Padiernos also breezed through reelection and became the first non-Umali to beat a Joson in positions involving the Capitol.
Year 2013 saw the emergence of new political stars in the province such as Estrellita Suansing of the first district who beat a Joson and Magnolia Antonino-Nadres of the fourth district who survived a disqualification case thrown against her by a political rival for being an American citizen.
Womanization of Nueva Ecija politics has become a byword after several women politicians soundly defeated their male counterparts in the various elective posts. Three of four congressional districts are now ruled by women while three of five cities are now sitting as mayors, the most prominent of whom is Adrianne Mae Cuevas of the provincial capital Palayan where she defeated a former political kingpin who once reigned as mayor and congressman for three terms each.
Shortly after getting reelected, the governor announced that his wife Czarina is seeking the governorship in 2016.
The year saw the rise and fall of dynasties.
The start of 2013 saw the appointment of a Novo Ecijano as the new provincial director of the Philippine National Police. Senior Superintendent Crizaldo Nieves assumed the post in January, replacing Walter Castillejos who has barely warmed his seat.
Nieves, a native of Zaragoza town, survived an acid test with the generally peaceful and orderly conduct of the elections in spite of the fact that 60% of the cities and towns were tagged as hot spots and Governor Umali aired concern over the defective precinct count optical machines (PCOS).
The months before and after the elections were marked by several incidents. Shortly after the polls, the municipal hall in
Antonio town got burned in a fire, leaving the new
Mayor Antonino Lustre with no office.
Prior to the polls, the former three-term mayor of
City, Ernesto Natividad, was arrested
while undergoing dialysis treatment in a Manila
hospital. He was believed to have gone into hiding after he was charged with
multiple murder along with several others in connection with the attack on a
cockpit arena owned by his political rival in 2006.
A flood of sympathy went his daughter Maricel’s way, catapulting the latter into a surprise victory over incumbent Mayor Christian Tinio. The younger Natividad would pull off another surprise, getting married to former San Leonardo mayor Froilan Nagano who just blew his congressional bid.
Violence erupted in Gapan in August when four persons were massacred following an attack by gunmen. The target of the attack, Emerson Pascual survived and tagged barangay chairman Montano Barlis as the one who shot his group. Barlis was later arrested while Pascual was later elected barangay chairman of Pambuan in October.
Later, the election officer of Gapan also got wounded in an ambush, prompting Padiernos to summon the local police to shed light on the situation. The police chief was later relieved.
In May, forester Edgardo de Luna survived an attack by suspected illegal logging syndicates. He was again attacked in June and survived. He was later transferred to another region.
Power was cut off in Pantabangan town in March by the First Gen. Hydropower Corp. allegedly over the failure of the municipal government-owned Pantabangan Municipal Electrification System (Pames) to settle over P50 million worth of unpaid bills. It was the third power cut off in eight months and it was costly for the sitting mayor. who lost as a result.
Also in March, Vice Mayor Ester Lazaro assumed the post of Mayor of the Science City of Munoz after the sitting mayor, Efren Alvarez lost a graft conviction case before the Supreme Court. Alvarez later went missing after a warrant for his arrest was issued. His younger brother, comebacking former three-term mayor Nestor, trounced Lazaro in the May polls.
Aside from Alvarez, quite a number of local officials also faced charges. Mayor Richard Ramos of Lupao, Mayor Lucio Uera of Pantabangan and others were slapped graft charges.
At least five former municipal mayors, four in southern Nueva Ecija, were identified as having requested in 2006 funding assistance from then-agriculture secretary Arthur Yap. The letters ended up with Napoles’ office at Discovery Suites. The ex-mayors denied receiving the funds.
Napoles was also said to have owned a resort in Cabiao town but local officials had no knowledge that it actually exists.
In July, Novo Ecijanos lost a kababayan in the Cabinet when Antonio Nangel was replaced as administrator of the National Irrigation Administration barely a week after getting scolded by President Aquino. His successor Claro Maranan later relieved six division managers in the province. (Manny Galvez)
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