Thrilla in Lipa

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She dusted off a tear.  An adoring crowd of 5,000 people held its breath, an interregnum to an expected climax.  She said “I will run” and the crowd was ready to go.  To wherever she would lead them.  The Batangas capitol in May.  Tomorrow, who knows?  The electricity of that moment in Lipa City, when Mayor Vilma Santos announced her candidacy for Batangas governor, was hard to miss.  Those with a sense of politics can always feel those defining moments.

It is said that Karl Rove was once asked by the Elder Bush to give car keys to his son George W. and what Rove saw in their first meeting was a future president swaggering in a bomber jacket, not a near bum which George W. was then. As Rove handed the car keys to George W., he likewise indentured his political skills to his future president. Just two weeks ago on a sunny day in Lipa City, Vilma Santos, without a script and out of reel range, shook the ground of Philippine politics with her own defining moment.

She was no longer Vilma Santos, who became mayor on the usual formula of movie fame. She was, in the broader political landscape, several times larger than her small physical frame and her city mayor-status. She spoke of dreams, of family, of heeding a clamor, the usual stuff. But she did this with seeming earnestness and that obvious political gravitas. And because of the TV news crew, she did it on a national stage.

Indeed, will that Lipa moment merely take her to the capitol? Or elsewhere in 2010? Nobody is pushing Ms. Santos to run for president now. All of that is still presumptuous and premature. She has to wait for two months to take the capitol, that boorish character is a temporary hurdle. But give her a maximum of two years and there will be pressure for her to consider running for the presidency. Her advantage is that no superhuman accomplishments have to be accomplished to vest her with the perception of fitness and competence.

She already has been crowned with the tiara of efficiency. The reality is anybody could have done what she did in Lipa City. Most growth-driven Philippine provinces and cities grow on their own, with little help from government. Or, despite government.  She only has to do one third of what the Opus Dei-member former governor did and she will be hailed as the “best governor” of Batangas.

Ms. Santos has this uncanny knack of being associated with the positive things in her life, her colorful Romeo Vazques days entirely forgotten. This is very rare in politics, where the muck is what is always remembered. Even the grand old figure of Philippine politics, former Senate President Jovito Salonga, said there is something rare about Vilma Santos, an actress who went to politics and who later honed her craft in public administration. If the political handlers of the three known presidential aspirants managed to watch that thriller in Lipa, a redrawing of political plan is in order.

The leading aspirant cannot just live off the glory of his “Mr. Palengke” ads.  It will be a tired one by 2010, the public markets may no longer have local products to sell unless we check the savagery of unfair international trade and put the safety nets in place for our agriproducers. The other one has to put his “Sipag at Tiyaga” story to rest. It is now the generation of get-rich-quick tech wizards, of the Google duo who turned billionaires overnight, of Indian steel magnates who never started from scratch. It is not all about a booming voice, Kabayan should realize.  He has to recompose his story. Starting really small, as the late Inday Badiday’s coffee boy, and succeeding, is an episode good for one senatorial run. It would be an exhausted story by 2010. Right now, only Vilma Santos has bankable political script with a compelling narrative at that. – Marlen V. Ronquillo, The Manila Times March 25, 2007

RELATED ARTICLES: “Maligayang-maligaya ako!” – DAPAT sana’y nu’ng Biyernes pa nang hapon ginanap na ang proklamasyon ni Gov. Vilma Santos, mahirap nang kuwestiyunin pa ang malaking agwat ng kanyang boto kay Gov. Armand Sanchez.  Pero si Mayor Vilma mismo ang tumanggi. Gusto muna niyang makumpleto ang bilangan, naiiwanan pa nu’ng mga panahong yun ang boto ng Tanauan, Batangas. Sabi ng tatawagin na nating Governor Vilma Santos ngayon, “Kailangan kumpleto ang lahat ng lugar para mas maayos, gusto na nilang ganapin ang proclamation, pero sabi ko, hintayin na ang boto ng lahat ng bayan para mas malinaw.

“Maligayang- maligaya ako sa naging takbo ng kandidatura ko, wala akong masasabi sa ngayon kundi maraming salamat sa lahat ng mga kababayan kong nagtiwala sa akin,” maigsing sabi ng Star for All Seasons.  Marami nang programa ang nagpapaabot ng imbitasyon sa kanya para sa live guesting, pero muli, tumanggi muna ang aktres/politiko.  Forgive me, gusto ko nang ipaabot ang pasasalamat ko sa mga kababayan ko, pero gusto ko muna talagang matapos ang bilangan. Ayokong ma-proclaim nang hindi pa tapos ang lahat ng towns, gusto kong plantsado lahat, ayokong magkaroon pa ng problema, baka ma-technical pa tayo. Mahimbing na ang tulog niya ngayon, pero ang kasiyahan niya, ay hindi pa isangdaan porsiento, gusto muna niyang malaman at makitang stable na ang posisyon ng kanyang asawa sa labanan. Pangako ni Gov. Vilma, kapag maayos na ang kartada ni Sen. Ralph Recto ay pagbibigyan na niya ang mga imbitasyon, kumpleto na ang kanyang kaligayahan sa mga panahong ’yun. –  Cristy Fermin, Balita, 05/21/07

Vilma Santos prinoklama nang bagong gobernadora ng Batangas -IDINEKLARA na ng Commission on Elections bilang bagong gobernador ng Batangas ang aktres at alkalde ng Lipa City na si Vilma Santos.  Sa report ng ANC, nakakuha ng 475,740 votes si Santos kumpara sa pinakamahigpit nitong katunggali na si incumbent Gov. Armand Sanchez na nakakuha lamang ng 344,959 na boto. Ani Santos, agad siyang magsasagawa ng konsultasyon sa mga residente upang matukoy ang mga proyekto na kailangan niyang pagtuunan ng pansin. Samantala, inireklamo naman sa Comelec ni Sanchez ang pagkapanalo ni Santos. Sa report ng dzBB, naghain ng petisyon si Sanchez sa pamamagitan ng abugado nito upang maideklara ang “total failure of elections” sa Batangas.  Inakusahan ng kampo ni Sanchez ang kampo ni Santos nang ballot switching, vote padding at vote-buying. – People’s Journal 05/22/07

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