WHAT would have surprised many observers of the local political scene was the silence of the rivals of the Radazas —who are being challenged in their 18-year control of Lapu-Lapu City—over the “gruesome” and “horrifying” murder of 16-year-old Christine Silawan. And, as expected, the enemies of the Radazas have not been quiet about the issue.
Christine’s half-naked corpse was found last March 11 with her face stripped of skin or otherwise disfigured, multiple stab wounds (20 in the body, nine in the arms, and one in the neck), and indications of sexual assault. Initial forensic findings showed the possibility she was not skinned but was doused with acid or some other “corrosive substance” and the probability that she was not raped. Yet the savagery shook the entire nation and the outrage made some people talk of the death penalty and justify the killing of drug suspects.
How could the forces seeking to topple the Radazas in the May elections not exploit the issue?
The city mayor is Paz Radaza and the House member from the city’s lone district is her daughter Aileen. Seeking to succeed Mayor Paz is her husband Arturo “Boy,” a former mayor and congressman. And wanting to replace Congresswoman Aileen is mom Paz. Aileen, it will be recalled, succeeded her dad who cut short what would’ve been a nine-year run; he was ill, he announced.
Boy stayed on the sidelines for two terms until Paz reached her three-term limit this year. Aileen would probably not do as mayor, so Boy had to file his C.O.C. though he might be severely limited in the campaign by his problem of mobility. Still the Radazas of Team Diretso with their vaunted efficient political machine and vast resources are the politicians to beat.
The challengers, Junard “Ahong” Chan of Team Libre and PDP Laban and Rolando Patalinjug of United Nationalist Alliance, could use every issue in their arsenal and still need to scrounge elsewhere for more.
And as challengers tend to do, they blame the incumbent officials for all the woes of the community. And the crime of the year in Lapu-Lapu was committed just a few months before election day.
Chan and Patalinjug did not speak out personally on the issue, but their respective campaigns, official and covert, have been sniping at Mayor Paz over:
*Her silence for a number days about the incident, specifically the plight of Christine’s family and the arrest of the killers;
*The mayor’s alleged failure to prod the police to stop the rise in criminality in the city: from the rampant drug use to unsolved killings;
*Her administration’s alleged deficiency in basic services, including inability to provide adequate lighting in dark areas of Lapu-Lapu, such as the vacant lot where Christine was killed.
Mayor Paz did take a few days to announce the reward of P1 million from the city government, visit Christine’s family and pick up the tab for the funeral and other related expenses. She took some time before appealing publicly for internet users to stop circulating the photo of Christine’s corpse. All that, after propagandists of the Radaza rivals had already aired several broadcasts castigating the incumbent officials.
How much influence would the Christine incident have on the results of the May elections? Few would know. The city’s independent political watchers are assessing the weight of the chance of Oponganons getting tired of the Radazas against the efficiency of the clan’s political machinery. The cynics are saying, “If many voters can be herded still like cattle, the party apparatus would still be the game influencer.”
The imponderable is the threshold of the voters’ patience. Might one gruesome crime of a church collector move that limit?