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Election 2013, Features, Peace & Order, Politics

From Lagayan to St. Francis: Abra bet wants to change town’s name

Whistleblower and challenger for the mayoral post, Bernardine Joson. Photo by Rem Zamora for ABS-CBNnews.com

Whistleblower and challenger for the mayoral post, Bernardine Joson. Photo by Rem Zamora for ABS-CBNnews.com

Text by Ira Pedrasa and photos by Rem Zamora for ABS-CBNnews.com

BANGUED – Abra province is always on the list of election hotspots, but a candidate in the town of Lagayan wants to change this.

Bernardine Joson, a whistleblower, will go head to head against her former boss in the municipal government, Jendricks Luna, who is part of a famous political clan here, as mayor of Lagayan.

Lagayan actually comes from the word “laga” or “to weave.” Long time ago, woven baskets were used as containers for vegetables or used catch fish. A symbol of the latter is prominently displayed in the seal of Lagayan. Fishing, aside from farming, is one of the sources of livelihood in Lagayan.

To most Filipinos, however, “lagayan” means bribery, or according to Philippine laws, the act of giving something to alter the behavior of the person receiving it.

Joson said the town’s name is “masagwa (in bad taste),” and it is her dream to change the name of the town to St. Francis of Assisi, which is also the name chosen by the Catholic Church’s new Pope.

The municipal town hall of Lagayan. Photo by Rem Zamora

The municipal town hall of Lagayan. Photo by Rem Zamora

Running for mayor

In 2011, Joson – then the municipal planning and development officer of Lagayan – filed plunder charges against Jendricks’ mother, former Abra Rep. Cecilia Seares Luna, and others for plunder, graft and corruption, technical malversation, unethical conduct, violation of the government procurement law and forfeiture.

Joson said the alleged plunder or large-scale graft took place from 2003 to 2010 and amounted to at least P133.9 million. Cecilia was mayor from 2003-2006. She was succeeded by her son Jendricks, who served from 2007 to 2010.

The complaint is still pending before the Office of the Ombudsman.

“Siyempre, tumatakbo ako as mayor dahil first, yung pag-file ko ng case sa Ombudsman, ine-expose ko doon ang tunay na nangyayari dito sa Lagayan na talagang rampant ang graft and corruption. Nag-file ako sa Ombudsman pero siyempre….our justice system, mabagal,” the 45-year-old said.

Using farm equipment for transportation. Photo by Rem Zamora

Using farm equipment for transportation. Photo by Rem Zamora

On the day of ABS-CBNnews.com’s interview, Joson was wearing a yellow, long-sleeved top, jeans and yellow flip-flops. Yellow is the election campaign color of President Benigno Aquino III, and Joson believes he can help get Lagayan out of its current rut.

The interview took place at her home, just a stone’s throw away from the welcome sign of “Lagayan.” A tarpaulin covered the exterior of Joson’s house to help hide it from strangers.

Inside the house, there were many rocks aimed at protecting her from death threats she gets frequently. “Nung pumutok ang plunder [case] ko, syempre kailangan ko namang i-extend ang buhay ko, hanggang eleksyon.”

‘Lagayan’ in Lagayan?

Joson said she knows that public money went to the pockets of the Lunas.

A waiting shed welcoming visitors to Lagayan. Photo by Rem Zamora

A waiting shed welcoming visitors to Lagayan. Photo by Rem Zamora

She said she was able to enter government service – after doing the rounds in the private sector – because her parents are friends of the Lunas. She said a cousin was supposed to run against Cecilia, but backed out as a compromise.

Joson believes, however, that Cecilia did not like her because she was “maingay” (noisy). She said she was not even given a regular employment contract, despite her many years of service in the municipal hall. It was only when Jendricks came in that she was regularized as part of governmental processes.

“Sinabi ni Cecilia sa akin iyan. Sinabi niya sa akin ‘Kung ipepermanent kita, kung iaappoint kita as permanent, dadating ang panahon na susuwagin mo ako.’ Kasi alam nila right from the start, nakita ko na ang sistema sa gobyerno,” she said.

Asked why she filed the plunder case, “Kasi nga wala naman tayong nakikitang program. Tapos gumagawa na lang ako ng accomplishment reports na wala naman.”

So why only now? She said she’s had enough.

Lusuak Spring in Lagayan. Photo by Rem Zamora

Lusuak Spring in Lagayan. Photo by Rem Zamora

The Lunas

In a separate interview with Jendricks, he said Joson’s complaint is a sham, which is why it is not moving at the Office of the Ombudsman.

He said he cannot comprehend where and how Joson got her numbers for the plunder complaint, adding that a falsification of document complaint has been filed against Joson.

He said Joson did not have a good reputation when she worked for the municipal government.

Jendricks believes that Joson is backed by the Lunas’ rivals in politics.

Joson said, however, that had the Valeras and the Bersamins backed her, the case at the Ombudsman would have already moved. She said she will continue to stand her ground.

Death threats

Elaborating on the threats she has received after she filed the complaint, Joson said: “[Sa] Text, maraming text. Kahit noong nasa Manila kami, nakakatanggap ako ng text. Iuuwi daw nila yung ulo mo. Tapos yung ulo mo, isasako tapos dadalin sa Abra tapos yung katawan mo didikdikin, gagawing corned beef.”

She said she wanted to give up then, if not for her family. She said she needed also to protect them.

“Wala nang pupuntahan ang takot kasi patay lang naman ang pupuntahan natin eh. Any moment from now, kung talagang panahon na natin, kahit ilagay mo ako sa aparador, kung kukunin na tayo ng Diyos, wala na,” she said.

For her protection, Joson said she was first taken in by a religious group, until she entered the jurisdiction of the Witness Protection Program (WPP) of the Department of Justice.

She said, however, that she did not like being in a secret place. “Mayayabang sila,” was how she described her guards.

Her dream of ridding Lagayan of the Lunas was what brought her out of her secret place despite the threats.

“Sabi ko, hangga’t inaantay ko ang justice system natin na umikot, matagal talaga. Pumasok din ako sa WPP kasi may provision doon sa WPP na speedy trial ng cases pero wala din naman nangyari. Sabi ko, I cannot just sit here inside this room waiting for nothing. Sabi ko kailangan kong kumilos para yung ipinaglalaban ko na mabago ang Lagayan ay makamit ko. Doon ako nag-decide na tatakbong mayor,” she said.

The main public school, Lagayan Central School. Photo by Rem Zamora

The main public school, Lagayan Central School. Photo by Rem Zamora

David vs Goliath

Jendricks and Joson will be up against 8 other candidates for mayor. Jendricks, however, expects all of his rivals to back out by election day.

If Joson does not and gets just 10% of the votes, Jendricks said he will step down and won’t accept his win.

Joson said Jendricks only perceives he is popular. “He is now a barangay captain, but he’s the de facto mayor [of Lagayan]…Siya ang deciding factor. Di pumupunta ang mga tao sa 84-year-old na mayor [Purificacion Paingan] ngayon, dun sila sa Dangdangla sa Bangued (where Jendricks resides).”

She said the people are only afraid of Jendricks. She said that if she wins, she will return the freedom of speech to the people.

She admits is up against a Goliath, but “gigisingin ko ang kamalayan ng tao. Sabi ko sa kanila: ‘Wala akong pera. Pero alam nyo ang sitwasyon dito sa Lagayan. Eto sila, nandyan kayo. 26 years sila, nandito kayo. Tignan nyo ang Lagayan, tignan nyo ang kalagayan nila…Parang mga kabuti ang mga sasakyan nila na naglalabasan.”

Despite the slow pace of her case, Joson said she still believes in the government of the people. “Bilang baguhan sa pulitika, pinapanatili ko ang tiwala ko sa gobyerno.”

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/03/26/13/lagayan-st-francis-abra-bet-wants-change-towns-name

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About SysOp

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Discussion

33 thoughts on “From Lagayan to St. Francis: Abra bet wants to change town’s name

  1. Basta awan pinnabuteng, mangabak ka apo joson! Sika ti namnama ti Lagayan nga nabayag nga nabaybay-an. God bless you..

    Posted by iban | April 2, 2013, 12:36 am
  2. the photographer had some lackings…..the waiting shed he had shoot…that was the old stage beside the municipal hall. the school building at lagayan central was the old one…where is the new one,mr. photographer? wg mo sbhng d mo nakita ung bagong gusali sa lagayan central school. i smell biased on your photo shoot REM Zamora. check it out!

    Posted by foolish-tician | April 2, 2013, 12:37 am
  3. This is our chance kailian nga mangsukat iti leader tayo. Haan tay nga palabsenen daytoy inted ni Apo tayo a Dios a chansa tayo, haan tay nga agbuteng. Kaasi iti ili tayon a Lagayan. Intay panunuten ti masakbayan, ta di tay to pagbabbabawian

    Posted by hansbuck | April 2, 2013, 12:50 am
  4. Your courage is a replica of our pride of Abra- GABRIELA SILANG! May God guide n protect u. We hope to have more of your breed come 2016. Hopefully DIEGO S will come out from their shells.

    Posted by Tagamasid | April 2, 2013, 8:21 am
    • The Lunas will not kill her neither if she wins. It’s a political suicide which in doing so, it’s the end of their political life that will drain everything they have worked hard for. No one could evade legal justice forever and even if it does, the wrath of divine justice will always follow.
      The best thing they can do is to protect her and her family at all costs because maybe some evil politicians are planning to use her as a “sacrificial lamb” just to discredit or destroy their political image. They need to keep her alive if they want to stay longer in politics where the electorate or Abrenians all over the world will be impressed with their change of hearts. If I were Joson, I rather more scared with my other so-called pretending questionable supporters than my political opponents. Don’t take my words though….but just hope for the best…SOMEONE is always watching us…..

      Posted by future generation | April 2, 2013, 11:49 am
    • courage ni Gabriela Silang ti adda kaniana? weeehhh?? diay courage ni Gabriela Silang ket para ti tattao,ni Berna Joson, “natured” nga agpayso ta “natured” nga nagtakaw.. tinakawan na ti kaofficemate na diay capitol, arig na tinakawan na dagiti sagguniang bayan members ti lagayan ta inyutang/inloan na ida ti GSIS. ayna haan yo man nga iyarig isuna ken Gabriela Silang ta dinto ket tagbaten ni Gabriela Silang diay dua nga ima na kas dusa na nga nagtakaw. ania aya ti credibilidad na daytoy nga tao? AAAWWWAAAAANNNNN!!!

      Posted by butengak | April 8, 2013, 6:18 am
  5. unay ka metten REM ZAMORA apay madim pinicture jay GYM nga Baro ngay? Jay Baro nga PNP BUILDING, jay maar aramid nga irrigation, you are a bias photographer.

    Posted by lagayan stalk | April 2, 2013, 11:10 pm
  6. why do you have to change the name of lagayan, mrs. joson? your reason is not that acceptable. Mr. Photographer, if you are truly a professional in your profession please don’t be biased . I think its not Mrs. Joson nor the Lunas will make big difference in lagayan. because they are both hiding their true intention why they are running the post. Its up to the Lagayaneos to decide who will win( ay mali it will be the one who will give bigger fund for vote buying will win). we all know that luna is capable in doing that, but i think Mrs. joson can do that also because of the big fish supporting her (or DUROG). Im just praying that one day all the residents in lagayan will decide in their own will without fear and live peacefully and a happy never ending town. ( THE TIME WILL COME, NOT NOW, BUT SURELY WILL COME JUST WAIT)

    Posted by True Blooded Itneg | April 4, 2013, 10:33 pm
  7. Here comes again this name changing.
    Whatever. the f_*_ k. g name given to a. F_-*;+k_;-g place. it will be the same hell if we keep on electing f_+;)*k _-; g people. Id rather have that name Lagayan. anyday .

    Posted by litteg | April 5, 2013, 11:13 pm
  8. Agbibisin met dtoy.agambisyon met.haha

    Posted by django | April 6, 2013, 11:18 pm
  9. ikaw mrs joson tapos na sana noon yan eskwela kasi ninakaw mo kasi pati waiting shed

    Posted by project | April 7, 2013, 12:50 pm
    • ala agtagtagainip kan san project, hoy agriing ka man, ania ti power na ni joson kadagita ibagbagam gonggong sika a ti nagtakaw ta sika ti taga iggem ti kwarta ta apom kababain kayo pay, sapay ta palugodan ni apo ni joson ta pati sika awan panganamon gong gong ka torkak ka nga talaga project. che itsura mo lang koto.

      Posted by lunaot thot | April 13, 2013, 11:46 pm
  10. sika met joson kaskala kuraprapnit nga agis -.speech met yanti picture mo

    Posted by project | April 12, 2013, 3:52 am
  11. ket sika project kas kala met alimatek nga sumipsip dita apom nga ampatuan ti abra ta LUNAn ng amo yo, no kurarapnit ni joson sika alimatek boba

    Posted by lunaot thot | April 13, 2013, 11:42 pm
  12. mabalin kadi apo nga haan tay aapost ti makadakes ditoy tapno awan ti masungbatan

    Posted by lunaot thot | April 13, 2013, 11:55 pm
  13. ni joson haan nga popular jay yammi

    Posted by project | April 15, 2013, 2:39 pm
  14. sinno ya dayta nga joson dakkel aya nga tao ?

    Posted by project | April 16, 2013, 7:01 am
  15. The impossible dream!

    Posted by Cqb | April 16, 2013, 5:13 pm
  16. Damn lots of bullcrapp bla bla!!😳😳what d heck??? Once u will in position I can guarantee u be d ist corrupter…just shut the crapp out!!!!

    Posted by rachel@q8t | April 23, 2013, 9:22 am

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