OUTGOING Alaminos City Mayor and governor-wannabe Hernani Braganza is in a word-war mode against his cousin Board Member Ranjit Ramos Shahani, a party-mate, after the latter openly endorsed the candidacy of Gov. Amado T. Espino, Jr.
Braganza, the Liberal Party (LP) bet for governor of Pangasinan, minced no words as he accused Shahani of “betrayal” devoid of principles.
“This is a betrayal or a treasonous act of a member of the party at mabuti sana kung ang dahilan ay prinsipyo kundi pansariling dahilan ng kanyang pagbaliktad,” Braganza said Thursday during the KBP Forum.
Shahani, who is now running for re-election as board member under the LP banner, had aimed to be the LP’s official candidate for vice governor, but the party decided to field former PNP chief Arturo Lomibao instead.
Braganza noted that Shahani himself admitted that the reason for his sudden turnaround was because he was not picked as the LP candidate for vice governor.
Shahani had questioned the decision to field a Braganza-Lomibao tandem since, he said, it was never an option put forward by party leaders.
The LP was originally forming a Braganza- former Governor Victor Agbayani tandem, or an Agbayani –Shahani tandem, but Agbayani later declined to run for any position saying he wants to younger politicians a chance to serve.
“A Braganza-Shahani tandem is an insult to the intelligence of the Pangasinenses. We almost have two million voters in the province. Hindi po puedeng paghatian po ng magkamag-anak yong aming partido para lang ma-satisfy ang aming pansariling interes,” Braganza said.
Braganza said when he convinced Shahani to enter the selection process, he made it clear to Shahani that if he is chosen as the candidate for governor, a Braganza-Shahani team would not look good since they are cousins.
“Sabagay, young pagsabi niya ng pagsupurta sa kabila, well I wish him all the best. Sabi ho nga nila, ‘birds of the same feather flock together’,” taking a jibe at what Shahani ‘s earlier negative comments about Espino.
Braganza also belied the claim of Shahani that he went to Shahani’s house and almost manhandled him, citing as witness one of their relatives, a driver of the board member.
“We had a shouting match. But there was no throwing of punches as he alleged. I cannot do that to him in the house of my uncle (former President Fidel Ramos) and auntie (former Senator Leticia Shahani),” he said.
Former Vice Governor Oscar Lambino, LP provincial spokesman, said Shahani’s act will not go unpunished but they are still giving him the opportunity to redeem himself.
At the same time, Lambino stressed that Lomibao is very much qualified to pair with Braganza and seek the second highest position in the province.
“He’s very much qualified for the position, being a classmate (in the Philippine Military Academy) of Gov. Espino,” he said.
Braganza added that among the retired Philippine National Police chiefs, Lomibao is the only one who has no case filed against him before the Ombudsman.
At the same time, Braganza accused Shahani of being part of the conspiracy to suspend him as mayor of Alaminos City in a case filed before the Sangguniang Panlalawigan allegedly under the direction of Espino.
The case, involving the establishment of the Pangasinan State University campus in Alaminos City funded by the city government, was archived after Braganza argued that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has no jurisdiction in hearing the administrative case because Alaminos is a component city of the province.
Braganza described the charge as a political harassment.
The mayor, nevertheless, thanked his estranged cousin for turning over voluminous documents on alleged corruption of Espino.
“He called Espino the most corrupt governor of the province of Pangasinan. Now, sinasabi niya, siya ay the most transparent governor of the province of Pangasinan,” Braganza said.
Braganza also denounced the increase in real property tax (RPT) of the province by some 300 per cent under the Espino administration which he said had added a lot of burden on landowners, businessmen and farmers.
Braganza said the “If elected as governor, “ the Liberal Party will consider going to court and ask for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the implementation of the ordinance “which violated the rights of the people of Pangasinan.”
Noting that Espino has been labeling him an “NPA”, referring to the leftist group New People’s Army, Braganza said it was a badge of honor to have been a former student activist. He recalled being arrested by Espino when the latter was detailed at the Angeles City Metrodiscom.
“If I was an NPA or activist then, then Espino could be called “a torturer of the activists” as coined by the Amnesty International,” Braganza said.