By Lala Ordenes, VERA Files
"THE election is war, there is no room for gentleness."
This is the advice of newly appointed Comelec Commissioner Grace Padaca to non-governmental organization (NGO) members who are fielding or supporting candidates in the 2013 elections.
"It doesn't mean you have to cheat, but you have to treat this as a war, you have to be strong, you have to be tough," Padaca said.
Padaca is a founding member of Kaya Natin Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership, a group that, according to its website, "aim(s) to espouse genuine change and ethical leadership" by "promoting transparency, social accountability, people empowerment and electoral reforms."
While Kaya Natin is an NGO, some of its members, whom they refer to as champions, are elected government officials.
Most of the group's more prominent champions did not win in the 2010 national and local elections. Padaca herself lost her gubernatorial bid to a member of the powerful Dy dynasty in Isabela. Another Kaya Natin leader, former priest "Among" Ed Panlilio, lost to Lilia Pineda in Pampanga, while former congressman Neric Acosta, who ran under President Benigno Aquino III's Liberal Party, lost in the senatorial elections.
Panlilio is also a founding member of Kaya Natin, together with Padaca, Ateneo de Manila School of Government's Harvey Keh, and the late Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo.
The Kaya Natin bets' defeat, according to Padaca, demonstrates the sad observation of Professor Leonor Briones of the University of the Philippines that "the easiest way to lose elections is to be good."
Two Kaya Natin champions will go against moneyed political clans in 2013: Panlilio will come face to face again with the incumbent Pineda, while Mayor Roque Verzosa, Jr. of Tagudin town in Ilocos Sur will challenge Ryan Luis Singson for the gubernatorial seat.
But now, Kaya Natin should be prepared to go to war, Padaca said.
"But I am saying this as Grace pre-Comelec," she qualified. Padaca has since taken a leave of absence from Kaya Natin.
(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")