A startling perception: Erap may be it
THE SOUTHERN BEAT  - Rolly Espina () - January 8, 2008 - 12:00am

Last Saturday, as the members of the council of former presidents of the Negros Press Club were meeting to discuss our call on the wake of the late Negros Occidental governor Alfredo Montelibano Jr. at the University of St. La Salle Chapel, the subject veered off to the prospective candidates for the next presidential polls.

Surprise, surprise, after assessing the names listed so far as potential bets, the preponderant majority of the former NPC presidents agreed that if former President Joseph Estrada were to really run and would qualify to do so, he would still emerge as the winner by a large margin.

Modesto Saonoy, who chairs the council, declared that Erap still has the charisma that has retained the loyalty of a big following among the masses. Even Ely de los Santos agreed that the masses still love Erap. “No doubt about that,” he pointed out.

Emundo Aspero and Primo Esleyer, also both former NPC presidents, acknowledged that Erap has managed to maintain his popularity among the masses.

“Somehow, despite the legal arguments about his alleged plunder, somehow the people have their own ‘common sense’ perception of the truth,” was how Esleyer put it.

In short, they still believe that Erap’s sins might not be that outrageous as they were presented before the courts.

Now, these are not perceptions by the hoi polloi. But one must agree that veteran newsmen must have strong bases for their belief that Estrada may still be the most potent candidate for the presidency even if they themselves may have reservations about voting for him.

What made it more stunning was that President Arroyo won overwhelmingly against the opposition bet in the last elections. Thus, she should have maintained her popularity with the Negrense voters. But it was almost the unanimous decision by the former presidents of the Negros Press Club that Erap is it.

Sipalay cops in hot water

Provincial PNP chief Rosendo Franco ordered the investigation of the police chief of Sipalay City and three policemen who were caught playing cards at the police station as captured on videotape by ABS-CBN.

Police chief John Trio was included in the investigation under the principle of command responsibility, not because he was directly engaged in the card game.

The point raised by Franco is that local cops must always be on the alert. Especially so in Sipalay where the San Jose outpost were attacked by New People’s Army elements last year.

In 2005, Senior Inspector Boifer Cotas was relieved from his post and 20 policemen were ordered to undergo re-training after the escape of five inmates.

Paglaum burglary?

The Bacolod police is investigating the reported burglary in the Paglaum Sports Complex of some P300,000 worth of electrical and metal materials.

Police Station I commander Noel Manaay ordered the probe despite the claim by Negros Occidental High School principal Nilda Monge that the stolen items, as claimed by caretaker Ramon Balquin, had been reported to the police last year.

While the controversy rages over the reported burglary, the incident has raised a sense of revulsion among Negrenses because the Paglaum Sports Complex stands out as the legacy of their former governor and Bacolod City mayor Alfredo Montelibano Jr. whose wake is still on after he succumbed to cancer last Jan. 3.

Montelibano will be laid to rest on Jan. 12 at the Montelibano family mausoleum in Hacienda Binitin, Murcia, after the 9 a.m. Mass, according to former vice mayor Roger Las Piñas and Roque Hofilena, executive director of the Negros Occidental Historical Council.

Montelibano constructed the Paglaum Sports Complex as part of his sports development program during his first term as governor. It was the site of the last Public Schools Interscholastic Meet before Martial Law and earned the added prestige of being the first venue of the Private Schools Interscholastic Meet during Martial Law.

The council of former presidents of the Negros Press Club issued on Saturday a statement declaring Montelibano as the best governor the province ever had because of his vision and his focus on his program of government.

Aside from the Paglaum Sports Complex, Montelibano is remembered by many Negrenses for his successful rescue and relief operations for Bacolod residents in the floods of 1971. But more important, his reputation gained added prestige when he launched the Negros Cares program, which saw Negrenses sending two shiploads of relief goods to aid the flood-stricken victims in Central Luzon. The former Philsucom chairman Roberto Benedicto made available two ships of his Northern Lines to bring the goods to Manila. The relief outreach also included several teams from the Negros Occidental Mobile Medical Team which combed the interior communities of the flood-stricken provinces to provide medical treatment to flood victims.

Later, as mayor of Bacolod post the EDSA Revolution, Montelibano cemented the most number of streets in the city.

He was, in the words of Ely de los Santos, a good administrator and manager of the city as well as of the provincial government.

A steady stream of Negrenses has made a beeline to the USLS where his remains lie in state to pay tribute to him. And the most surprising phenomenon is that many of those who paid him a tribute were the common tao!

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