Manila Times Online, December 12, 2004

Savaging a Mother
By Marlen V. Ronquillo

To Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo of Aurora, her "Ulirang Ina" award is the "mother of all awards." The others, such as the general recognition that she was one of the best woman lawyers in the country during her days in active law practice, can go and can be taken away. Welcome compliments perhaps. It is the "Ulirang Ina" award that she cherishes most. It is the story of her life.

Her children, all under 40 years old, are her "crown jewels." The pride is understandable. The second of her four children graduated with honors from Wharton School, then topped his law class at UP. After Harvard Law, a blue-chip law office in New York asked him to start work immediately. The oldest of the four also came from UP Law and is now a partner in one of the best law offices in the country. The third child finished medicine under a seven-year course, which UP PGH offers only to the best and the brightest medical students in the country. After a post-graduate course in the US, she was asked to stay on with an attractive offer. She said no to her recruiter, saying she can practice in the Philippines and her widowed mother needed her more. The youngest, a UP business graduate, also had her MBA from Wharton School.

All of the four are in fact more than qualified to be in the Cabinet of any government.

I am telling this story to give background and context to a big lie that has gained life and notoriety-that the Aurora governor has been a coddler of illegal loggers. And that she won the Aurora governorship last May because of money from logging interests. How can that be? On the one hand, there is this "Ulirang Ina" a nurturer of life, a caring hand that has shaped, guided and raised her children to be assets to their country and to be part of Aurora's source of price. Not just plain contributors to the country's growth and dreams but to be contributors in a big and awesome way. And on the other hand, a coddler of loggers who destroy and savage life. The two just don't wash and jibe.

The people of Aurora, who know better and know their governor well, are up to now still asking how this canard has managed to get life in the media. It is understandable that the Aurora tragedy has to have ready villains. But why smear the reputation of a governor, popular and well-loved, and who won by a margin unprecedented in recent history of Aurora politics? It is possible that there is a sinister agenda behind the smear campaign against Gov. Angara-Castillo and the Angara family.

The governor assumed office only in July and has been pre-occupied since with big and small matters, from reviving a bankrupt capitol to activating a motor pool with not a single vehicle in good running condition. But tragically, in the rush to find easy villains, the only person who can give life, hope and real development to Aurora was tagged as the culprit behind the recent tragedy.

Even with all their faults and flaws, the Angara family in Aurora has been beyond things politicians normally do when they are in complete political control of a province-shakedown contractors and business interests. The Angaras would rather excel in their profession and charge competitive fees for services rendered than ask favors from loggers, contractors etc. They think this is too vulgar and entirely without class. Within the Angara family, there is this sense that you do not go to Harvard or Wharton just to be a petty shake-down artist back home. Even before the Knowledge Society was even coined, the Angaras have been living off their brainpower and mastery of certain professional niches.

I have asked several people in Baler on the background of the priest who made the blanket accusation that the Angaras have been coddling illegal loggers. The priest, according to several sources, was too cozy with the politicians that the Angaras wiped out at several provincial-level contests. There was this mention of a European trip that the priest allegedly made that was supposedly bankrolled by the defeated politicians. And a "consultancy" for the priest that was logged under a fictitious name in the previous Aurora administration. These reports are still to be verified but if some priests can be rapists and pedophiles, a rotten egg can really turn out into a political partisan and shakedown artist.

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