Sangil: The rise and fall of Tony Abad Santos

IT WAS in the 1980 mayoral elections when the politician son of former Angeles town Mayor Manuel "Putot" Abad Santos was running full speed. Party less and penniless yet he was able to show his hidden political strength. He placed second to winner Francisco G. Nepomuceno, besting popular lawyer Lorenzo Timbol of the ruling party at that time, the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) and Carmelo "Tarzan" Lazatin for the second spot.

Tarzan’s loss at his first political outing was not as hurting to his ego as to his old man’s pride, Rafael Lazatin, who served as governor in the fifties and Angeles mayor in the seventies. In the meantime, the old man noting his son’s feel to the people encouraged him to keep his public exposure.

Deep in his heart, Tarzan an inveterate gambler vowed to win the next time around. So in the first elections after the so-called Edsa revolution in 1986, Tarzan run for the first congressional seat with the help of the popular President Cory Aquino taking over the presidency after Marcos fell from power and went into exile in Hawaii due to the intervention of the United States government. It was a down the wire stretch and hotly contested between him and lawyer Arlene Buan. Supporters of the lawyer believed Buan won but the victory was stolen with the help of people close to President Cory.

In the meanwhile, Tony Abad Santos political star continues to rise. Writers and political observers at that time were predicting that he can achieve his dreams-that of following the footsteps of his father Manuel who was considered as Angeles most colorful mayor. And so in the 1988 elections, he bested two political giants, Rafael Lazatin and Francisco Nepomuceno. But Abad Santos luck will not hold too long.

Abad Santos was the first Philippine city mayor to be subjected to recall process where fifteen percent of the Angeles electorate were needed to sign a recall petition. The required number of petitioners wasn’t met so he got lucky he was successful to keep his seat at city hall. The Angeles constituents observed that the city was misgoverned and corruption remained unabated. A filed case against him in the Ombudsman got him a 90- day suspension. It was the beginning of his downfall.

When Abad Santos made a US trip in his first year as mayor, he placed the City Government under his vice mayor, Edgardo D. Pamintuan as acting mayor. In a brief period Pamintuan made spectacular moves to get dramatic attention. He succeeded. The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in June 1991 ushered him to the tide of good fortune.

On the first Tuesday of February 1988, the newly elected Vice Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan who by operation of law presides at the city council banged the gavel to start the maiden session under a new city administration. The limited space in the hall hardly accommodated the crowd in the gallery mostly campaign leaders, relatives and friends of the freshly elected officials, the first to be elected under the restored constitution of 1987.

The freshly ironed barong Tagalog and the horned-rimmed glasses of Pamintuan made him look more than respectable as he stood in the elevated podium scanning the assembly of men a lady who composed the city council.

(Next: Focus on Ed Pamintuan)
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