Lito Lapid in Angeles City

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Sunday, June 29, 2014


LEON GUERRERO -- Manuel "Lito" Lapid is a always an interesting character. He is a good copy for people in media. His life story is one for the books. Seldom he opens his mouth, but when does, he makes sense. How many times he was insulted by people who don't know him, and even people who were once close to him? Yet he ticks.

When he run against then incumbent Governor Bren Z. Guiao in the gubernatorial race in 1995, the so-called intellectual voters were sneering at him. After the last ballot was counted, it indicated that not only those people living below poverty line voted him but the A and B did too.

Last Thursday morning last week, Lapid, aka Leon Guerrero, went unannounced to the Comelec office at the Angeles City Hall compound and transferred his voter's registration. As a registered voter in the city, the speculation is that he may either run for mayor or congressman. When I interviewed him in his residence at Friendship Plaza in Barangay Anunas recently, he said he may run for mayor and will consider also running for Congress in any case the city will be made into a lone congressional district. So nothing definite yet.

LIFE STORY -- Lapid was orphaned at age two. His father Jose, older brother of action star Jess Lapid, was so good on horses that he was then the leading stuntman of action pictures produced by Premiere Productions. He died so early and was not able to witness the success of his youngest. His mother was laundrywoman and had difficulty to provide three decent meals a day to the siblings.

Lapid at a young age did all sorts of odd jobs. He was a member of the SOS daredevil when he was spotted by Jess Chua, then an independent filmmaker and made him as a lead star of the movie "The Jess Lapid Story." It was this movie that ranked him as an action star and became a leading man of many pretty actresses in the celluloid world. He produced dozens of box office movies and Leon Guerrero is one of the most popular.

POLITICAL LIFE -- If Chua gave Lapid his movie break, it was then Pampanga Governor Estelito Mendoza who ushered him to enter politics. Mendoza convinced Lapid to run in tandem with his cabalen, Dr. Rogelio Reyes who was to contest Guiao for governorship. Reyes lost, but Lapid won as vice governor and was presiding officer of the Provincial Board dominated by Guiao's allies. He must have impressed the Pampanga constituency that in the next election, he faced Guiao and garnered the biggest majority of votes on record. He won in every town with more than 80 percent of the votes, and counting was not yet over when Guiao called to congratulate.

He finished his three terms as governor, and was drafted in 2004 as part of a senatorial slate fielded by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Insults after insults were heaped towards Lapid, but he survived the elections and got elected. He ran for reelection and again he won.

MAKATI EXPERIENCE -- In 2007, Lapid run against then well entrenched Mayor Jojo Binay in Makati City. He suffered his first political defeat. His political patron, First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, who promised him extensive support, suffered a heart attack that nearly cost his life and was confined even after the elections at the St. Lukes Hospital. His comfort zone is not the Senate and can't be an effective legislator because he is not articulate and lacks the eloquence demanded from a legislator. As put by former Senator Nene Pimentel, "Lito can be a better governor or mayor than a senator."

LAZATINS AND NEPOS -- If ever there will be a face-off between Lapid and incumbent Mayor Ed Pamintuan, it will be some kind of a political battle royale. Pamintuan is no pushover, as shown in the last poll. But political dopesters are not discounting Lapid's victory either, with the support of the two political families, the Nepomucenos and the Lazatins. In the end, the block vote of the influential INC may determine the winner. But as it is said, it ain't over till the fat lady sings.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on June 30, 2014.

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