Pampanga’s mayoral race scenarios in 2022

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THE COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) released the schedule for the May 2022 general election, including an eight-day filing of certificates of candidacy. The filing of certificates of candidacy from president down to municipal councilor, as well as the filing of nomination and acceptance, are on October 1 to 8, including weekends. The tentative list of candidates will be posted on October 29. Election period is from January 9 to June 8, 2022.

Those running for congressional seats, as well as elective regional, provincial, city and municipal posts (mayor to councilor) can campaign from March 25 until May 7. Meanwhile, voter registration ends on September 30, as earlier announced. Voters should be able to request the change of voting centers by October 29. The Constitution set elections on the second Monday of May, which falls on May 9, 2022.

As early January, political pundits have been talking the hind leg off a donkey or writing into account different details and opinions with relevance to the mayoral races in the three cities of Pampanga namely Angeles, San Fernando and Mabalacat. It is surmised in all probability a political scenario that never occured in Angeles City will emerge, first-termer and sterling performer Mayor Carmelo Pogi Lazatin will be re-elected unchallenged because potential candidate former mayor Edgardo Pamintuan has been appointed early February as chairman of the state-run Clark Development Corporation. In the May 2019 mid-term polls Comelec records showed there were 548 unopposed candidates vied for the positions of governor, vice governor, district representative, mayor, and vice mayor. Unopposed candidates often face “assured victories” as the law states that they only need at least one vote to win. In a scenario like this then, even if a majority of voters were to abstain, chances are the candidate would still end up getting elected. On the other hand in Pampanga’s capital City of San Fernando, the mayoral post will be vacated because incumbent mayor Edwin Santiago is serving in third consecutive term. The three-term limit rule is provided in Section 43(b) of Republic Act No. 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991. Hence, a three-corner fight is brewing between incumbent vice-mayor Jimmy Lazatin, incumbent third district board member Rosve Henson and ABC President Vilma Caluag.

In Mabalacat City, veteran photo-journalist and broadcaster Diosdado “Deng” Pangilinan has also declared to participate in the democratic process eyeing for the top post challenging incumbent mayor Chris Garbo. Probably, the most awaited one-on-one fight in the 2022 mayoral elections in Pampanga. What is supposedly a walk in the park for Mayor Garbo’s re-election bid could be an uphill battle? I have received reports “Deng” has been visible in the grassroots level forging strategic alliances with various political and multi-sectoral leaders grasping strongholds in the city’s 27 barangays. Aside being a former president of the Pampanga Press Club (PPC), Chairman “Deng” also served as head of board of directors of the Mabalacat City Water District (MCWD) for almost 20 years sculpting name recall to almost MCWD’s 50,000 consumers. In February, he was elected as one of the 2021 Metro Angeles Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (MACCII) board of directors and vice-president for external affairs as he rubs elbows with movers and shakers in real estate, banking, manufacturing, professionals, public utilities, academe, and services. He is also the founder of the number one news portal Iorbitnews Online in Central Luzon in a bid to provide the general public with the latest news trend through social media where they can get the news instantly anytime and anywhere in the palm of their hand. Knowing “Deng” for a long time, he could easily scrub and quash criticisms with satire and humor, which is more effective in any political debate, and in spite the fact “Deng” has never been elected into public office nonetheless he is well-seasoned in local politics and well-known to his would-be constituents. Borrowing the exact words of Lao Tzu, “Deng” said, “There is no greater danger than underestimating your opponent.” Then he added, “But don’t overestimate them either.” Can he wield his campaign trail with his skills as both a bludgeon and a shield damaging to his rival without hurting his own popularity with the Mabalaquenos? That’s something to look forward to as the election fever is on the rise.

In the national scene, Senator Ralph Recto urged the Comelec and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to coordinate and plan together on how to install an effective device that would detect and repel foreign-generated or foreign-funded content from disseminating inaccurate information, fomenting hatred and widening the division among the Filipinos. Recto added that the Philippine government should exercise its power to safeguard the 2022 national elections from foreigners that might meddle in the exercise of our country’s democratic system. On September 22, 2020, social media giant Facebook’s Head of Security Policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, announced that Facebook removed 155 accounts, 11 Pages, 9 Groups and 6 Instagram accounts for violating its policy against foreign or government interference which is “coordinated inauthentic behavior” on behalf of a foreign or government entity.

About 133,000 accounts followed one or more of these pages, around 61,000 people joined one or more of these groups, and about 150 accounts followed one or more of these Instagram accounts. Advertising in the above-mentioned social media accounts showed that about $60 in spending for Facebook ads were paid for in Chinese yuan. Facebook’s investigation into suspected “coordinated inauthentic behavior” revealed that the said activity originated in Fujian province of China and focused primarily on the Philippines and Southeast Asia more broadly, as well as on the United States. Facebook’s crackdown triggered discussions alleging that the move exposed China’s sharp power operations to disrupt democracies, including the Philippines, ahead of its 2022 national elections. These accounts posted in Chinese, Filipino and English about global news and current events. These social media accounts and sites, whether they are peddling fake news or counterfeit products or bogus services, and regardless of where they are being operated, should have no space in social media platforms, Recto stressed.