THEY’RE off.

Candidates for local elective posts from congressmen to councilors are out of the gates.

It will be a very interesting race for the governorship with the main protagonists in the ring once again, sans Mark Lapid.

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The fight now between re-electionist priest-turned-politician Governor Eddie Panlilio and former Board Mayor Lilia “Baby” Pineda is a classic one-on-one duel.

Panlilio is in for a tough fight. And he no longer has the same messianic complex as he was perceived to have when he first ran in 2007.

With Lapid out of the picture, who do you think his voters would go for now? Interesting question but an answer is obviously seen in the moves of local government leaders -- from the vice governor down the line.

Take for example Mabalacat. Mayor Marino Morales supported Lapid in 2007. He delivered the votes for him although the slim margin of the former governor in his town did not offset the votes Panlilio garnered from other municipalities.

Mayor Boking is now supporting Pineda and there is no doubt that he could once again deliver the votes not only for himself but also for Nanay.

There are many other Pampanga mayors who are in the same boat where Boking was. Now they are paddling towards the same direction -- support for Nanay Baby.

With this reality, the political environment may not be that too friendly for Panlilio as it used to be. Add to Panlilio's dilemma, of course, is his enmity with the members of the provincial board. Their disgust in Panlilio plus the swing of votes from Lapid to Nanay Baby may just be too much for Panlilio to counter.

Nanay may just be the next governor of Pampanga.

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Pineda, the eventual governor, is seen to sustain her outreach for the needy, especially those with physical ailment.

Addressing health concerns would remain to be her top priority when she gets to the Capitol. She has been extending medical care from way back. In fact, a portion of their house in Lubao has been converted into a clinic where a doctor, a nurse daily attends to those seeking medical help.

She has a team that attends to those with cataract, cleft palate, kidney problems, heart ailment -- the list goes on. She has been doing this for years and years that is why she is always seen as a real nanay by a lot of people. Such compassion and care.

Nanay has also forged partnership with a network of hospitals and doctors, asking them to extend the same charities she has been favoring her Cabalens.

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In Bacolor, mayoral candidate Jomar Hizon is said to be challenging his opponents to a debate.

That is an outstanding approach to bring to the public their respective platforms of government.

What comes significant, if not downright teasing, is his own proposal for his challengers to bring someone who could help them with their answers.

"They can call a friend," Jomar said, indicating his readiness for a verbal tussle that would articulate his vision for the former Philippine capital.

This offer of Jomar to his opponents is seen like a "partida" if it were a game played in the streets. And he may really have an advantage over his fellow candidates insofar as belting out what needs to be done. Jomar looks pretty smart and his eloquence may just push him a notch higher in the mayoral race.

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The violence that marred protest rallies against tuition fee increases had made Sec. Emmanuel Y. Angeles, chairman of the Commission on Higher Education more endeared by the public.

Not that he liked the unruly protesters that broke some government properties. Nope, not that at all. But the way he handled the protests and faced the angry protesters.

On television news reports, Chairman Angeles got out of his convenient office and conducted a dialogue with college students who were angry at their respective school officials.

Not only he did get out of the comfort of his office and said his piece but Chairman Angeles announced that there will be no increase of tuition fees this year at Polytechnic University of the Philippines which was recently a hotbed of protest actions.

That was one bold move if not totally noble, as it was the right thing to do – assure students and parents that there will no increases without prior consultations. That’s the way it should be and that’s the way Chairman Angeles wants it – no unreasonable and sudden price increase.

Again, it’s not that he was being braved there but Chairman Angeles was judicious, prudent and very considerate to the plight of students. We doff our hats to you, Mr. Chairman.