IN 1988, I was correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Federico D. Pascual aka Dik, a cabalen from Mabalacat was the editor-in-chief. I phoned the editorial desk for a newsbreak and the deskman told Dik I was on the other line for a possible front page material. After finishing my dispatch, Dik requested me to write more stories about the political situations in Pampanga. I started with the interesting three cornered mayoral contest between Francisco G. Nepomuceno, Rafael L. Lazatin and Antonio Abad Santos. (All dead now)
In that year, Corazon Aquino, widow of the slain Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, was president and the first local elections were called. Antonio Abad Santos was appointee OIC vice mayor, as they were called then. Few weeks before elections, I visited him in his office at the Morlan building and after his last visitor, I sat down with him for the interview. He was locked in battle in the city's mayoral race with the two considered political giants who were both former provincial governor and belong to the ruling families in the province.
Abad Santos was more known in the political and media circles as "Bubusok" because he was a firebrand. In that mayoral contest he was the underdog, having almost an empty funds to mount a campaign vs Rafael L. Lazatin and Francisco G. Nepomuceno. He won despite the odds. The electorates gave him a clear majority. He only served one term and can be remembered as the first seating mayor who was subjected to an election recall. He survived that too.
In the 50s, Rafael L. Lazatin defeated incumbent Governor Jose B. Lingat in the gubernatorial race. Peace was the theme Lazatin bannered in his campaign for the province which was at the time violence was the rule of the day. He served with distinction a provincial governor. Later, in 1971 he run for mayor in Angeles City against incumbent Eugenio N. Suarez and come backing Rafael Del Rosario Sr. Again the same message was his theme in the political campaign. Almost every house in the city were posted with a red colored heart shaped poster. He was, thus far, the only mayoral candidate winning an election without the support of the Iglesias Ni Cristo, a religious group which to this day can tip the balance on a close contest.
The best known and by far the most engaging political rivalry in Pampanga was between Francisco G. Nepomuceno and Lazatin. While Lazatin was the no-sense type, Nepomuceno was the non-serious character and easy going who loved to crack jokes even in his political meetings. He was a former councilor during the time when Manuel Abad Santos was mayor of Angeles town in the early fifties. He served as provincial board member, one term congressman and three term as governor of the province. It was in 1980 when he was elected mayor defeating lawyer Lorenzo Timbol and Carmelo "Tarzan" Lazatin. Nepomuceno will be long remembered as one colorful politico who in his time led a militia group that engaged the dissidents, at the time that Angeles City was tagged by the military as the nerve center of the Huk movement. (More in the next article)