Citizen Action Guide to Pampanga

Area Profile 

Pampanga is a first class province some 84 kilometers northwest of Manila, located at the crossroads of the Central Luzon region. It is bounded by the region’s other provinces: Nueva Ecija in the north-northeast; Tarlac in the north; Zambales in the west; Bataan in the south; and Bulacan in the east.

It has a total land area of 218,068 hectares of mainly flat terrain and its active volcano, Mt. Arayat, is the only distinct mountain. The other mountainous areas are along the Pampanga-Zambales border. It has 19 municipalities and three cities.

Pampanga remains agricultural with 53,644 hectares planted with rice, 11,433 hectares planted with corn and 2,622 hectares with vegetables. About 6,536 hectares are devoted to orchards while 34,466 hectares are for fishponds. The Office of the Provincial Agriculturist said the province yielded 47,921 metric tons of rice in 2013.

Pampanga has thriving cottage industries in wood carving, furniture-making, guitars, casket making, manufacture of all-purpose vehicles, and production of processed meat that has penetrated the markets of Metro Manila and other provinces. 

It is home to the handcrafted Parulsampernandu  (San Fernando lantern) that displays a kaleidoscope of colored lights, and the ‘Ligligan Parul’ or giant lanterns contest that features ones as big as 24 feet and whose lights rhythmically dance with music on Christmas holidays.  

The province’s quarry industry produces expensive top construction material silica-rich sand which the Mt. Pinatubo spewed in 1991, after 400 years of dormancy. This became the top local revenue earner.   

As of June 2014, PhP 1,100,565,000 was collected from quarry revenues -- up from last January’s PhP 675,997,500. In 2013, it earned a total of PhP 283,902,500 from the industry alone, and in 2012, Php 292,017,500.

Many economists consider the province’s development since the 1980s as remarkable with a fast growing tourism sector and service industry. The Clark Field Zone (CFZ) is a major economic driver particularly for the cities of Angeles and Mabalacat, the surrounding towns like Porac and Magalang, the capital city of San Fernando, as well as Bamban town in Tarlac province that shares a boundary with Mabalacat. 

Foreign investors in partner with local businessmen pour in light assemblies; semiconductor manufacturing for electronics and computers, and garments -- all for export; business process and knowledge process outsourcing; eco-tourism-driven business such as top-rated hotels, resorts and restaurants mainly in Angeles City along CFZ’s perimeter fence stretching up to the highly urbanized Barangay Balibago. These trickle out to the Mabalacat and San Fernando.

But it is a let-down for the local government units (LGUs) and the business community that the CIA’s more expansive facilities lost out to the smaller, facility-limited and flood-prone Sangley Point in Cavite in Southern Tagalog as site for the country’s second major international airport. This is near Metro Manila and deemed strategic for the target of having  a twin international airport system for the country.

Pampanga also has a big share of overseas foreign workers (OFWs), being second to Bulacan in the region and ninth nationwide. In 2006 it topped all provinces with PhP16.6 billion in total remittances. 

In 2013, the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) ranked Pampanga sixth of 10 Philippine provinces in terms of economic and business growth with a rating of 0.3983 based on the index its economic and business activities in 2011. 

The UA&P School of Economics’ study ‘Market Potential and Prospects of Philippine Regions, Provinces and Cities’ included indexes such as 2010 tax generation from local sources, 2011 construction activities that covers industrial, commercial and residential, and 2012 gear of consumption activity through the number of  the big local hamburger chains. 

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Region III reported major strides in land distribution to beneficiaries in the province through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) which the Congress no longer extended after it expired June 30 and which farmers called a sham. 

Farmers’ groups have claimed the government continues to ignore their call for free land distribution and continues to allow big estates to be converted for commercial use. Private investors, through the generous assistance of LGUs, have converted thousands of hectares of palay lands in Lubao, Floridablanca, Mexico and San Fernando City into golf courses, malls, real estate projects and other commercial areas.

Included here are 1,125 hectares of lands and residential communities in Porac, of which 726 hectares are in Hacienda Dolores, plus some hilly and sloping ancestral lands made productive and home for over a century by generations of farmers and indigenous people (IPs). To date, Ayala Land’s Leonardo-Lachenal-Leonio Holdings (LLL) and FL Property Management Corp. (FL) are allegedly grabbing the lands from farmers and IPs.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) of the National Statistics Coordinating Board (NSCB) reported in January that Pampanga’s employment rate reached 93.4 percent. Yet this ‘impressive’ data failed to trickle down to majority of Pampanga’s citizens who feel they are under-employed.

PSA data also showed that the Pampanga’s poverty incidence has continued to grow to 7.6 percent in April 2014 from 6.4 percent of the first semester of 2012 and 5.9 percent also in the first semester of 2009. 

As of 2012, the NSCB said a one-fourth of Filipinos were poor. This means about 24 million Filipinos were living below the poverty threshold of PhP 19,000 to PhP 20,000 per capita per year. A family of five, therefore, needs a total income of PhP 8,000 monthly – or about PhP 95,000 to Ph 100,000 yearly – to be able to “move out” of poverty. These figures apply very well in Pampanga. 

In February 2011, several newspapers quoted International Labor Organization (ILO) director Lawrence Jeff Johnson as saying that it is the quality of jobs available, not the lack of jobs, which prevented Filipinos from escaping poverty.  Many poor Filipinos are among the so-called "vulnerable workers”: they are paid very low and have no social security, health insurance and other benefits. These include pedicab drivers, street vendors and unpaid family workers plying Pampanga’s streets and households, particularly in the cities of San Fernando, Angeles and Mabalacat.

In August 2014, the National Wage Productivity Board pegged the basic daily wage in Pampanga and the rest of the region between PhP 285 to PhP 336 for non-agriculture workers; PhP 270 to PhP 306 for agricultural/plantation workers; and PhP 258 to PhP 290 for agricultural or non-plantation workers. But it is not known whether local companies and other employers comply with these rates. 

In 2002, or a little more than a decade since Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption damaged many parts of Pampanga, geological scientist Dr. Kevin Rodolfo said in an article that the threat of lahar to the province will linger for a very long time. In such situations, the poor and marginalized are at most risk.

Rodolfo had repeatedly said it was a big mistake to have used lahar as the foundation of dikes which were supposed to secure the province’s central communities and business districts from floods and lahar rampage during rainy season.

Particularly flood-prone are the eastern towns that face Manila Bay and several other low-lying towns along Pampanga River. San Fernando City, for one, is inundated yearly. Mt. Arayat in the equally flood-prone Arayat town experienced landslides each in 2009 and in 2012 that buried several communities and killed 13 people. 

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the environment department has approved several mining concessions in the province’s mountain ranges bordering Zambales, including those which are to engage in open pit operations. Ore mining tests have started ruining upland crops and polluting rivers. 

On education, the PSA QuickStat reported in 2013 that the province’s simple literacy rate is 93.7 percent while its functional literacy is 84.1 percent.

The province has two state universities: Magalang’s Pampanga State Agricultural University and Bacolor’s Don Honorio Ventura State University (DHVTSU). The University of the Philippines Diliman Pampanga Extension Program in CFZ receives subsidy from the UP System. The three cities have a college each: City College of San Fernando, City College of Angeles and City College of Mabalacat. It also has 104 public high schools in 19 municipalities and another 19 in the three cities, plus the State-funded Philippine Science High School Clark campus also inside CFZ.

The province has 28 public school districts with a total of 530 pre-school, 626 elementary schools and 188 secondary schools. For the school year 2008-2009 enrollment in public elementary schools was posted at 218,899 with a teacher-pupil ratio of 1:49.

The capitol had allocated PhP 342,358,509 for seven towns for the construction of PhP 115,511,785 worth of school buildings; PhP 5,455,655 of comfort rooms; and PhP 4,023,818 of school covered courts, multi-purpose covered areas with stage and pathways.

Lubao got the biggest budget of PhP 109,679,624 followed by Magalang with PhP 109,679,624; Sto. Tomas, PhP 62,555,531; Minalin, PhP 28,389,237; Sasmuan, PhP 19,474,345; San Simon, PhP 13,755,189, and Sta. Ana with PhP 13,101,877.

While these numbers give a good look of the province’s populace accessing education, problems such as lack of parents’ employment, malnutrition and hunger still hamper many children from going to school.

Angeles City has overtaken Malate in Metro Manila as the country’s top red light district. Bars and beerhouses lining the streets of Balibago in Angeles City and other areas Mabalacat and San Fernando cities outdo each other nightly, practically without any ‘disturbance’ from LGU authorities. 

Two of the 14 confirmed new cases of HIV/AIDS recorded in Central Luzon in December 2013 are in Pampanga, the Department of Health said.

Local Government Unit Profile

Pampanga has a persistent share of traditional politicians and political dynasties in Philippine politics.

For one, there is Estelito Mendoza, the country’s Solicitor General and Pampanga governor during the Martial Law years in the 1970s. He was forced out of office as dictator Ferdinand Marcos was put into exile in Hawaii as a result of the 1986 EDSA ‘yellow’ uprising. Mendoza became prominent again as counsel for ousted president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada in the impeachment case for plunder. 

The Macapagal-Arroyo clan is also among prominent clans hailing from Pampanga. Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo serves as representative of the province’s second district. The daughter of the late Pres. Diosdado Macapagal is now on hospital arrest while awaiting trial for several counts of plunder.  She was a senator and vice president before suddenly being catapulted to presidency amid questions of constitutionality when Estrada was ousted in January 2001. 

Macapagal-Arroyo’s half-sister Cielo Macapagal and son Juan Miguel ‘Mikey’ Arroyo both had served a term each as Pampanga vice-governor. Mikey had made a shortcut to the House of Representatives as party list representative of Ang Galing Pinoy, a group claiming to represent security guards, tricycle drivers, farmers and small businessmen.

The Guiaos also continue be among the political players in the province. The late Bren Guiao was then president Cory Aquino’s Pampanga governor in 1986. His son, Joseller ‘Yeng’ Guiao, served as vice governor for three terms before winning as current first district representative. 

Father-and-son actors-turned-politicians Lito and Mark Lapid ruled Pampanga from 1995 to 2004 and 2004 to 2007 respectively. Lito is presently a two-term senator while Mark is the general manager of the Tourism Infrastructure and Economic Zone Authority.

Sen. Lapid recently moved residence from Porac to Angeles City, an act which many perceive as part of his intent to run as city mayor or as representative of the proposed lone Congressional district of Angeles City.

In 2011, the Office of the Ombudsman investigated Lapid and several congressmen linked to the PhP 728-million fertilizer fund scam. He admitted receiving PhP 5 million in cash in 2005 which, he claimed, the provincial government placed in a trust fund to buy fertilizer and farm inputs. But farmers’ groups denied getting any support through the fertilizer fund. Lapid denied that he used the said fund for his 2004 senatorial bid.

Former priest Eddie Panlilio beat Mark and incumbent Governor Lilia Pineda in the 2007 to 2010 term for governor. Many believed that Panlilio’s victory was one against traditional and patronage politics, political dynasty and jueteng, a popular yet illegal numbers game in the country.

Panlilio tried to institute transparency in the provincial government, including genuine bidding for projects, removal of the so called ‘for the boys’ or the commission being paid out to local officials by the winner of the rigged bidding, and setting order and efficiency in the processes. He also filed plunder charges against the Lapids for PhP 568-million worth of unaccounted lahar quarry funds. 

But Panlilio served for just a term. In 2010, Pineda, allegedly a supporter and financier of jueteng, beat Panlilio in the gubernatorial bid. Pineda, who prefers to be called ‘Nanay Baby’ or ‘Nanay’, is the wife of suspected jueteng boss Rodolfo ‘Bong’ Pineda. Rodolfo runs the legally mandated small time lottery which many believe is a front for his jueteng operations. He is said to be a political king maker and has likely mobilized resources to keep Macapagal-Arroyo in Malacañang for nine years. 

Pineda has earlier served as mayor in Lubao for three terms before running for governor. Her son Dennis has taken over as Lubao mayor for a term before winning as vice governor under his mother’s 2010 electoral ticket. His wife Yolanda Valencia Miranda is the mayor of the nearby town of Sta. Rita. It is open talk that Pineda, now in her second term, is simply warming her seat and is already letting her son run the province’s affairs. 

On the PhP 728 million fertilizer scam, PhP 5 million was allocated to Pampanga, but the proponent was unknown. 

The Commission on Audit (COA) in December 2011 has called on officials and employees of the Pampanga provincial government to return PhP 34,166,690.52 in unauthorized financial benefits they received the previous year as Cost of Living Allowance (COLA). 

The COA said the grant of the allowance is ‘irregular, illegal, unnecessary and excessive’ and a waste of public funds. It did not adhere to established rules, regulations, procedural guidelines, policies, principles and practices under Section 3.1 of COA Circular 85-55-A. The COA issued a notice of disallowance and called for a refund yet only PhP 263,821.80 has been returned.

The 2012 COA report on the Technology Resource Center’s audit said Mikey Arroyo has yet to account for PhP 1.955 million of his pork barrel channeled in March 2010 to a questionable non-government organization Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation, Inc.(KKAMFI). Another unliquidated PhP 100,000 fund release was noted from Arroyo’s pork barrel to Guagua Municipal Employees Multi-purpose Cooperative. 

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) listed a certain Ferdstar Builders Contractors to do a ‘drainage slope protection structure’ costing Php34.4 million. The project was reportedly completed in November 2013, covering 550 meters of dikes for repair along the Pampanga River, including 290 meters in Apalit, 130 meters in Macabebe and another 130 meters in Calumpit.

But CANA research yielded no information on Ferdstar except for its address at 100 San Antonio in Lubao, the hometown of the Arroyos and Pinedas. In 2007, it was awarded 19 government contracts for road projects and other infrastructure projects, each costing between PhP 386,622 and PhP 24 million.

In 2010 the DPWH cancelled 19 questionable flood-control projects amounting to PhP 934 million which were apparently approved two weeks before Mrs. Arroyo stepped out of Malacañang. The projects went through negotiated contracts and were signed even before funds were properly allocated. None underwent public bidding.

The DPWH’s Mt. Pinatubo Emergency- Project Management Office (MPE-PMO) released a list of contractors engaged in anti-flooding projects in areas which the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption damaged. The projects worth PhP 928 million were reported completed, including Ferdstar’s drainage project. But with Ferdstar in the list, the people feared that the projects were substandard and inadequate in protecting the local folks from floods and lahar particularly during rainy season.

Civil Society and Media

Media community. Local journalism in the province is vibrant with three local daily tabloids, one thrice-weekly, three weeklies; two local free television networks, a satellite of the national television ABS CBN with Kapampangan news and current affairs program; several cable television channels, one of which setting up another free television channel; one 5,000-watt AM radio and two AM stations.

The Pinedas own one of the three daily tabloids and was said to have attempted to buy the franchise of the yet to be set up local free television channel. Unable to do so, they spent for their own broadcast equipment for a television program production on a block time they intend to buy.

The five high profile media organizations here are the Pampanga Press Club (PPC), Angeles City Press and Radio (ACPRC), Central Luzon Media Association (CLMA), Society of Pampanga Columnists (SPC), Capampangans in Media Inc. (CAMI) and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Pampanga chapter. 

The NUJP-Pampanga has spearheaded campaigns addressing issues such as press freedom, media safety, Freedom of Information enactment; campaigns against media-repressive measures such as right of reply, libel and cybercrime law; and the continuous quest for justice for the victims of the 2009 Ampatuan Massacre and other killings of media workers. It was able to draw the support of the groups and members in many campaigns.  

Civil Society. In the 1980s, many progressive organizations here took part in the growing anti-fascist and anti-Marcos movement that peaked on the evening of February 26, 1986, when over 10,000 citizens across the province’s sectors massed up in Mabalacat by the bridge that links it to Bamban, Tarlac. Their resolve was to block at all costs the Scout Rangers from up north who had remained loyal to Marcos and were on their way via MacArthur Highway to reinforce the pro-Marcos military force at EDSA in Quezon City. This act was neither recognized as part of the ESDA People Power nor even documented.

The civil society environment in the province remains active with several progressive people’s organizations (POs) such as Bayan Central Luzon, Karapatan and Alyansang Mabubukid sa Gitnang Luson; the church communities of the Methodist, Baptist, United Church of Christ of the Philippines and the Roman Catholic Church; and civil society organizations such as Advocacy for the Development of Central Luzon (ADCL), Pinoy Gumising Ka Movement (PGKM), Save the Trees Coalition (STC), Tau Ating Upaya (TAU Guagua or ‘people have a say’), Alay Bayan-Luson Inc., (a disaster preparedness center), Metro Angeles Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MACCI), Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PamCham),and a handful more promoting environmental protection and green architecture. The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) of the Holy Rosary Parish in Angeles City is not only limited to electoral concerns.

The progressive POs  address broad people’s and nationalist issues like peasants’ right to land, workers and other professionals’ just wages, the right to form unions, human rights violations, and the rights of indigenous peoples (IPs) to their ancestral domain, among others. 

Local groups such as ADCL, PGKM, STC, TAU Guagua, ABI are less inclined to address ‘militant’ issues and are active in equally pressing concerns as climate change, environmental protection, promotion of green architecture and even the protection of local business initiatives.

It is worthy to note that most of the organizations mentioned easily coalesce on issues such as environmental protection, disaster preparedness, and LGU transparency.

LGU-Citizen Engagement

LGU-media. A formal and more structured LGU-media engagement has yet to be realized here. Some tete-a-tete are basically Kapehan-type forums (monthly for the mayor of Angeles City and occasional for other local politicians). On such venues the LGU officials set the agenda but reporters are not prevented from pressing on critical issues of the public.

The CAMI which is an organization of mostly Manila-based Kapampangan editors, columnists and senior practitioners of major newspapers hold local forums on Fridays, when resource persons coming from national and local agencies and LGUs  discuss the day’s relevant issue to the media.

Local reporters get to meet LGU officials during news conferences and big events but are rarely invited to cover planning meetings or observe biddings. 

LGU-citizen engagement. Panlilio’s electoral campaign and ascent to the capitol was said to be a very spirited period. Pampanga voters used their electoral power to engage LGU officials, and top military and police officials allegedly involved in the jueteng payola scandal by apparently choosing one not involved in the said illegal operations.

Save for some occasional dialogues and public consultations on pressing issues, there is no formal LGU-community engagement for greater transparency and accountability in the province.

In early 2014, farmers of Hacienda Dolores as well as residents and indigenous peoples in Porac decried the LGU’s resolution declaring their lands and home lots as untenanted, idle and abandoned. The LGU practically legalized the big developers’ land grabbing scheme and destruction of crops. The local folks’ defense of their rights to their farms and homes met with force the developers’ armed security forces and military elements.

The LGU and police unfortunately did not have any steps to keep order, thus raising suspicions that the real estate companies have bribed them. The capitol likewise failed to address the conflict which further escalated, resulting in the killing of two farmers and hurting and jailing of several others on trumped up charges of a barangay chairperson.

Opportunities and Threats

Opportunities. The Pampangos have a significant history on parliament of the streets and militancy. Many took part in the campaigns against the presence of US military bases in Clark and Subic Zambales until the early 1990s, the massive anti-APEC summit in 1987, the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, and the anti-fascist/anti-Marcos/anti-martial law mass mobilizations that much contributed to the people’s uprising leading to the EDSA revolution.

The Pampanga press has been one of the most active in the country during the dark Martial Law years and has been just as vigilant in drumming up issues which militant organizations raise. Several local journalists have become part of the mosquito press that braved the proverbial ‘Sword of Damocles’ on the period when writing on relevant issues can mean being abducted by the state’s forces and never to be seen again.

Thus, an initiative for people’s engagement of LGUs for transparency and accountability can flourish here on several factors:

1. Different CSOs, NGOs, POs and civic leaders. Determined organizations from different sectoral, political and ideological persuasions and civic leaders actively addressing a multitude of issues thrive in Pampanga. Their advocacies range from agrarian reform, workers’ wages, human rights, children and women’s issues to relief and rehabilitation efforts and business initiatives.

2. Different Church denominations and their communities. Several denominations of the Church, church leaders and elements and their respective communities have been active in the conscientization of their ranks for the deep involvement for the need for social change since the late Marcos’ rule. Working here for different advocacies are religious communities of the Roman Catholic, the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Methodist Church, Baptist Church and a few other multi-faith groups including the Promotion of Church People’s Response.

The Social Action Center of Pampanga and Holy Rosary Church in Angeles City, Sisters of St. Scholastica and the Sisters of the Benedictine Order are actively advocating for IP rights, women and children’s rights, and environmental protection

3. Growing public awareness against abuse of public funds. The growing national call for public transparency following pork barrel controversies translates to local public initiatives to address local governance and transparency and citizen-government engagement. The times are akin to the period preceding the ‘EDSA yellow uprising’ when the citizens were again conscious about their rights as citizens were emboldened to demand for more answers and hold government officials accountable for their action.

4. A section of concerned journalists. There is at least a section of community of journalists here which have remained steadfast in the people’s mandate and need for information as a basis for good governance. These journalists through decades have proven their commitment to serve the people of their constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of the press and information, and to be vigilant on need for transparency in governance.

5. Favorable political and civil climate. Forming a citizen action group in the province is both imperative and timely. The issues confronting the government on public fund abuse creates an impetus for the Pampangos to seriously involve themselves in the need to monitor LGUs and to be vigilant in broadening movement of citizens holding their national and local leaders into account. The recent arrest of former Major General Jovito Palparan is a also a boost to the community of human rights defenders and families continually seeking for justice.

Threats. It was earlier noted that Pampanga has a continuing share of political dynasties from the province. These remain a big threat to the people’s initiative for transparency and governance.

1. Political divisiveness and politics of patronage. Some parties in the province clamor for the dismissal of the plunder case against Macapagal-Arroyo. Many if not all her “ward leaders” are out for political leverage in preparation for the 2016 elections. Macapagal-Arroyo had poured billions of pesos in the second district of Pampanga while she was president and had continued this under her Congressional office as part of fortifying support.

The ‘Nanay, Nanay Baby’ or ‘madaling lapitan’(easy to approach) factor sits well on ‘utang na loob’(debt of gratitude) which the Filipino masses are vulnerable to. Being allegedly beholden to these politicians therefore impede efforts for public transparency and accountability.

2. Continuing caveats for local media. Local journalists, particularly those in print, so often have to deal with caveats. Most print journalists, including correspondents of national newspapers, are simply paid per story. The small papers are wholly dependent on government legal notices and whatever share of ads they can grab. Since they get income from these notices and ads, they sometimes restrain themselves from addressing issues which may involve their advertisers, thus affecting their natural role to report facts to the public, especially if these pose threat to the public.

3. Desensitization and cynicism. The CFZ’s promise of economic growth in Pampanga has potentials to desensitize a significant section of the middle class who stand to earn more. The poorer section, meanwhile, grows more cynical to the government and has the tendency to be drawn to jueteng and other quick-money schemes. There is also a big need to break the tendency of many citizens to launch ‘proxy wars’ through the media. A common example of this is the situation where citizens seek the help of the media to report on or expose an issue but refuse to get involved and stand up for it, thus letting the media to do the battle for them.

4. Gap in citizens’ understanding of LGU processes. While there is increasing awareness of the citizens in their need to engage the LGUs on governance and accountability concerns there remains a gap especially in rural communities on understanding the processes that can help them effectively address their defined advocacies. Citizens need to be equipped with technical know-how on engaging LGUs on issues such as budgets and procurement process, and they also need help in mobilizing resources for campaigns.