The Spark that Crippled a Dynasty

The victory of Padaca in the elections for governor of Isabela over reelectionist Dy Jr., may well be history repeating itself.  But the most difficult challenge facing Padaca at this point is how to preserve the victory of the people of Isabela.

What made her win?  What were the factors that led to the fall of the Dy dynasty in Isabela? — Dabet Castañeda, Bulatlat

Every morning for 14 years, almost every household in the province of Isabela anticipated the radio program of Grace Padaca at DZNC-Bombo Radyo.  But her most important announcement came in February 2004: She was running for governor against Faustino Dy Jr., the incumbent and head of the family that ruled the province during the last four decades.  When the ballots were counted, Grace Padaca emerged the winner and proved to be the spark that crippled the four-decade long Dy-nasty in Isabela.

The provincial election in Isabela – a province north of Manila – is reminiscent of the 1986 snap elections – a people raging mad against a dictator and a strong-willed, well-meaning woman running against him.  The election results reflected the people’s disgust over the dictatorship. Even as the dictator Ferdinand Marcos manipulated the results and declared himself as the winner, the people ushered their candidate Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino to the presidential palace through a people’s uprising.

The victory of Padaca in the elections for governor of Isabela over reelectionist Dy Jr., may well be history repeating itself.  But the most difficult challenge facing Padaca at this point is how to preserve the victory of the people of Isabela.

What made her win?  What were the factors that led to the fall of the Dy dynasty in Isabela?

Shy but smart, 37-year-old Padaca is a native of Cauayan, the city capital of Isabela.  A consistent honor student, her dedication to her studies came from being a daughter of public school teachers.  Her father, Bernardo Padaca, was a district supervisor of the Department of Education, Culture and Sports until his death in 1984.  Mother Amelia Magno is a retired home economics teacher at the local public school.  Grace has two brothers and three sisters.

Coming from a lower-middle class family, Padaca claims she has no property except for her 21” television that she bought at a discounted price.   But her lack of resources was never a factor even if she ran against the richest clan in the province.

In an interview with somewhere in Quezon City, Padaca enumerated three important factors that were crucial to her victory: 1) the people of Isabela wanted to free themselves from the claws of a dynasty; 2) she was a well-respected media personality; and 3) the people of Isabela were furious over the cheating and manipulations done by the Dy family when she ran and won against Faustino Dy III for the congressional seat of the 3rd District of Isabela during the 2001 elections.

The people have spoken

When news that Padaca has decided to run for governor came out, the people of Isabela had a lot to cheer about.  For a long time, no one dared to challenge the Dy family in elections. And with a reason: In the 2001 elections, the candidates of the Dy dynasty were practically unopposed for most positions in the province.

“Hindi nila kami binibigyan ng pagkakataong pumili, parang inuutusan lang nila kaming isulat ang pangalan nila to legitimize their positions.  Dumating na sa punto sa Isabela kahit aso ang patakbuhin ng mga Dy, mananalo kasi ganun sila ka-powerfu” (The people of Isabela were not given a chance to choose, instead we were just being made to perfunctorily write our names in the ballots to legitimize their positions.  It came to a point that even a dog can win in an election for as long as it is supported by the Dy family, proof of their power) , Padaca said.

There were attempts to go against the Dy family before but all efforts have failed. “Kaya ang nangyayari, sa susunod na eleksyon nakikisama na sila sa mga Dy kung gusto nilang pumuwesto sa gobyerno.  Yun lang kasi ang paraan para manalo sila” (Thus, candidates who challenged the Dy family and lost end up joining their political party in the hope of winning a position in government), she added.

Padaca recalled that Silvestre Bello III ran for governor against the Dy family but lost. He eventually joined the Dy camp.  “Nakukuha nila lahat ng oppositionists.  Ganun ang nangyayari” (They are able to neutralize all opposition to their rule.  That is what usually happens).

Padaca averred that the Dy family use patronage politics to perpetuate their rule.  She claimed that when Faustino Dy Jr. first entered politics, he sponsored a tour of village leaders to Subic; sent public school teachers to Hong Kong; and financed a trip to Europe for mayors.

But the people of Isabela have had enough of the Dy dynasty and were beguiled by a gutsy woman whom they knew only as Bombo Grace. Bombo literally means bombastic, it is also the moniker of the radio station where Padaca was a broadcaster for 14 years.

Padaca noted that for the first time in four decades, a United Opposition emerged.  Representatives from different political parties including Edwin Uy of the ruling party Lakas, Pempe Miranda of the Partido ng Masang Pilipino, and progressive party-list groups such as Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela Women’s Party became part of the United Opposition.

People from the marginalized sectors, specifically from the peasantry and the youth, volunteered for the campaign and became poll watchers for the united opposition.  Almost all sectors in the province of Isabela bonded together to go against their common enemy.

Padaca challenged the dynasty’s center of power – Faustino Dy Jr.  “He was the richest, most intelligent, and cunning member of the clan.  All other members of the Dy clan just follow his orders.  He practically ruled the dynasty,” Padaca said.

But for Padaca, the toughest challenge was not running against Faustino Dy Jr. even if he is rich, intelligent, and cunning.  It was going against a clan which had determined the political and economic landscape of Isabela during the last 40 years.  Padaca stressed that her victory could not have been possible if not for the support of the people who have suffered much during the rule of the Dy dynasty.

Media background

Being a radio personality was Padaca’s childhood dream especially because of her physical handicap.  “Gusto ko yun kasi naririnig ka ng tao pero hindi ka nakikita” (I liked radio broadcasting because you can be heard without being seen), she said

She started her career in broadcasting when she was a fourth year high school student at Our Lady of Pilar Institution in her town.  Because of her disability, she was exempted from Citizen’s Army Training.  Instead, she was asked to host a youth-oriented program at the local radio station of Bombo Radyo.

In 1986, the same station asked Padaca to help in its coverage of the snap elections between the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and Corazon Aquino.  She was also asked to help during the coverage of the People Power Revolt that followed.

Ironically, it was the Dy family who, unintentionally, paved the way for Padaca to get a regular job at Bombo Radyo.  During the People Power Revolt, Sonia Salvador, one of the station’s broadcasters, sang “Bayan Ko” during one of her programs.  This got the ire of the Dy family as they were supporting Marcos at that time.  The Dy family pressured Bombo Radyo to suspend Salvador who was also the station’s accountant.

Padaca, being a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), was offered to take on Salvador’s job as accountant.  A few months later, she was offered to host her own radio program “Sa Totoo Lang” (Only the Truth).

Her first hosting job led to her career as radio commentator for 14 years, from 1986 to 2000.  She said her being a broadcaster was a big factor in her victory in the elections for governor.  “The people got to know me.  Not just my name but the issues associated with me,” she said.

Padaca said her listeners were mostly peasants, teachers and the youth.  Most of her airtime was spent discussing ecology, governance and peasant issues.

Padaca was also revered as an honest and responsible broadcaster.  She said the owners of the station were very strict when it comes to ethics.  “As reporters, we feel guilty when our interviewee treats us to a bottle of soft drinks,” she claimed.

She retired from media work in 2000 when she felt she wanted to shift gears.  “I felt I have experienced all the best that could happen to a media practitioner,” she said.

She was also fed up with the same issues and the same commentaries.  Her exasperation was aggravated by the fact that Joseph Estrada was then president of the country.  “I could not spend everyday of my life as a broadcaster chronicling the life of this man,” referring to the former president’s womanizing, gambling and other activities which the people viewed as “unpresidentiable.”

The final straw was when she heard that another Dy, Cesar, who Padaca described as “happy-go-lucky, a former drug-dependent, a womanizer and who was being linked to jueteng (illegal numbers game) operations,” was planning to run for mayor of Cauayan during the 2001 elections.

She resigned from Bombo Radyo and worked for one year at the Commission on Audit.  She was assigned at the Cauayan branch of the Government Service and Insurance System, GSIS).

Cheating in the 2001 elections

Another factor which facilitated her victory during the recent elections was her experience as a congressional candidate of the 3rd District of the province in the 2001 elections.

“The people got mad when I was cheated by my rival, Bodjie Dy,” she said.  She was surprised that she gained popular support in other districts as well because they were mad about the cheating that happened in 2001.

The election returns for the congressional seat in the 3rd District showed that Padaca won in five out of eight towns.   But because Bodije Dy padded some votes for him, he was declared the winner.

“At the onset, I was resigned to the fact that I would lose because I knew they were capable of doing those things.  But the biggest pressure on me was when the people told me to fight because they were fighting for me too,” she said.

Padaca filed a case against Dy at the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET).  The recounting procedure needed a fund amounting to P850,000 so she wrote letters to anyone that she could think of for financial assistance.  To her surprise, funds poured in, mostly coming from young professionals.  One of those who responded was the late Enrique Zobel.  Padaca and her group were able to raise as much as P650,000 to sustain the case against Bodjie Dy.

Although the investigation revealed that Bodjie Dy padded his votes, the Tribunal still declared him as the winner by 48 votes in its decision released last December 18, 2003.

Padaca said that she was clearly the winner in that race.  But the Tribunal did not count the votes “Grace” in her favor.  The poll body asserted that her alias was “Bombo Grace.”  There were 150 votes that had the name “Grace,” which if counted would have Padaca winning by 102 votes.  Padaca was not surprised by the decision because most of the members of the Tribunal were affiliated to the Dy family.

While the case went on, Padaca was left unemployed until she found a job in one of the provincial offices of Enrique Zobel.  She worked as an accountant for one of Zobel’s haciendas in Batangas, a province south of Manila. She worked there for 10 months from May 2003 to February 2004.

Good governance in Isabela

“I would always tell the people that I cannot change Isabela alone.  I need their help,” she said.

Padaca said that once she assumes office at the Provincial Capitol, she will hire people who are more deserving, more competent and more professional than the ones who are there now.  She would be putting in experts who are experienced in the different fields of concern like health, education and agriculture.

Her proclamation as governor of Isabela was suspended by the Commission on Elections in a decision of its First Division last May 22 after Faustino Dy, Jr. filed a case against her for allegedly being supported by an armed group, the New People’s Army (NPA).  “I don’t have any way of knowing whether the NPA really supported my candidacy but if they did, I can only say thank you,” she said.

But for Gov. Grace Padaca, her much-delayed proclamation would only be the start.  “After my proclamation, it’s one down and 99 more to go,” she said referring to the bigger tasks ahead of her as the new governor of Isabela.

Source: Castañeda, Dabet. “The Spark that Crippled a Dynasty”. Bulatlat, 05 June 2004. Accessed 26 July 2009.


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