11 APRIL 2007
i R E P O R T — I S A B E L A ' S N O N - D Y N A S T Y ' D E T O U R '
THE PRESENCE of democratic space, however, means that rumors saying that Padaca has done nothing for Isabela crop up every so often. Another persistent rumor is that her brother is receiving payoffs from jueteng, something that Padaca firmly dismisses as gossip.
In 2005, Padaca met with Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, other Catholic clergy and then Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Angelo Reyes to discuss jueteng. After the meeting, she made headlines by announcing that mayors and policemen in Isabela were among the beneficiaries of jueteng. Padaca believes that the Manila meeting helped in drawing national attention toward jueteng. As a result, jueteng was stopped in Isabela and other parts of Luzon for a full year.
Last year, though, Padaca announced that jueteng had returned to Isabela. She has had a hard time in the fight against jueteng, especially since the Philippine National Police transferred Isabela's provincial director (who had been sympathetic to Padaca's cause) last year and replaced him with a series of officers in charge. A regular provincial director was appointed last January.
Still, Padaca believes that jueteng operators in Isabela make less profit because she is the governor.
Along with jueteng, Padaca is also fighting another pernicious problem: illegal logging. She formed an anti-illegal logging task force because she wasn't satisfied with the job done by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Last year, the task force was able to confiscate more than 2,000 pieces of illegally cut log. But like jueteng, illegal logging remains. And more often than not, the problem's persistence is blamed on Padaca.
"This is what my people in the capitol fear, that when we cannot cover all [the issues] it seems like we're the ones who have failed, when we should just be playing a supporting role," she says.
If she had her way, she would rather not run for re-election, she says. "I wish there was someone other than me who could take over, somebody other than me who has more fire in his belly for things like this," she says. But Padaca says that it's too soon to expect that Isabelinos will prioritize a candidate's platform over their personality. "This is why they say I'm still the best bet."
She is expecting a tougher fight in the May elections. "One of the reasons why I think I won in the last elections was that they underestimated me," she says. "But this time, it's different."
She says that she is bracing herself for anything and everything, even below-the-belt accusations. After all, her rivals have had three years to lick their wounds and plan their campaign. Now, she says, "my opponents will take me seriously."
Errata: In our first uploaded report, we said Mercedes Uy was the former mayor of Cauayan, and that the province of Isabela owed P700,000. Mercedes Uy is the former mayor of Ilagan and the province of Isabela owed over P700 million, not P700,000. We regret the errors.
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