• Vilification campaign that failed

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    MARLEN-V.-RONQUILLO

    Now, this question can be answered. What was the vilest and most cynical campaign launched to defeat a candidate in the May 13 elections? Easy. It was the vast clerico-elitist conspiracy of the anti-Apeco groups to defeat Sonny Angara.

    In a perfect world that could not take place. The APECO, a freeport located in Casiguran, Aurora, at the end of Luzon’s eastern seaboard, has mostly pluses with very negligible mi­nuses. And that statement is as straightforward as straight forward can be.

    First, the context.

    For the first time since the Commonwealth, a project of that size is being under­taken in a depressed area—a project meant to unleash the the area’s full potential for the benefit of its people. After a century of getting zero government attention, Casiguran is finally receiving the state support it so sorely needs, thanks to the dogged efforts of the Angaras to pass the law that created the freeport.

    The Apeco project is also timely. Casiguran is currently transitioning from a mono-economy, logging, to the equivalent of a modern gold-rush town. The Angaras saw the need to rescue it from decay and stagnation.

    Even if the Apeco were to turn into a Solyndra, the investment would still be worthwhile.

    Here is a town remote and poor, ignored by the government for a century, now getting the attention it deserves. If the investment failed, but there is no reason why it should, at least the government made its best effort.

    The trouble brewing on the West Philippine Sea puts in doubt the authority of the country over its 200-mile EEZ there.

    But from Casiguran onward into the vast Pacific, the 200-mile EEZ is un­contested. It is ours. Our primacy and domi­nance will never be questioned. We can do whatever we want to do here, without any foreign vessel intruding. And we will have the fishing grounds all to ourselves. You know what? The rare and coveted bluefin tuna abounds in the eastern EEZ.

    Lastly, we all have a mental picture of a remote town getting an economic anchor. With the freeport Casiguran will finally emerge from isolation and underdevelopment and into the 21st century’s economic mainstream. We all know what would come next: a powerful broadband, satellite campuses from the universities, hospitals, three and five star hotels, all the amenities of modern life. With it, a community of civic-spirited bloggers.

    For one reason or another, the priests of Casiguran and their elitist allies dread the prospect. To stop progress they have come out with tortured reasoning and inaccurate data to support their rigid and unbending position.

    They claim Apeco is costly and riddled with corruption, and farmers are being driven away from their land. The project is the preserve of the Angara dynasty
    But the project is owned by the government, not by the Angaras. How can the government land-grab something it already owns?

    The priests belong to the Prelature of Infanta. If you get hold of the letters to their superiors about the project, you will see the extraordinary vitriol and the total absence of Christian charity they contain.

    That vileness carried over into the senatorial campaign. They used the media for their own purpose, and they were very good at it. They came up with plausible story pegs to attract media coverage. They staged a Long March, not once but twice. Even Mao did not have that kind of energy.

    Before the campaign, the main hate-object was Senator Ed Angara. They shifted their attack to the son, Sonny, perhaps realizing that the older Angara would soon retire and was useless as a target.

    It didn’t matter if Sonny had made it his advocacy to protect the underclass through legislation. The 40-year-old congressman, now Senator-elect, must be destroyed.

    Fortunately, the media got wise to the anti-Apeco group’s antics. In time, its pronouncement lost its luster, with its press releases now ignored.

    These detractors claim Apeco paid P450,000 per hectare, obviously suggesting overpayment. The truth is that only well-developed farms were paid that much.

    You know the price of land in the villages these elites live? P100 ,000 per square meter or P100 million per hectare.

    In the end, the electorate overwhelmingly voted for Sonny, a sweet vindication not only himself but for the entire family.

    mvrong@yahoo.com

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