POLITICIANS have forgotten that the power they have belongs to the people, so they tend to misuse their authority and take advantage of their positions to serve their selfish interests, Isabela Gov. Ma. Gracia Cielo Padaca said in a lecture at the University last September.

The reason for corruption, Padaca said at the 5th Padre Burgos Memorial Lecture Series, is politicians’ lavish and immoral lifestyles.

Padaca, who rose to national prominence after defeating the well-entrenched Dy political dynasty in the 2004 elections, said values play an important role in practising good governance.

“If used well, power can be a good thing. It can make you do so many things to uplift the conditions especially of the poor people. It can make you give strength to the weak; power to the common man. But if you are not grounded, if you do not have the right values, then you could easily get tempted,” Padaca said in her speech during the forum, which had the theme “Bagong Pulitiko sa Pinulitikang Pulitikang Pinoy.”

Padaca, who was reelected in 2007 and given the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service this year, said government officials also tend to be overwhelmed with so much power.

“After being governor for four years, I have realized that people with government positions have enormous power,” she said, adding that one signature can cause the release of millions of pesos and that a simple “yes” or “no” can affect the lives of so many people.

“People who have become so used to power for so long forget that that power does not belong to them but to the people. That [power] should not be used for their personal needs,” said Padaca.

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Some government officials resort to corrupt acts like getting kickbacks, accepting bribes, and protecting illegal gambling because of the “lifestyle” that they want to keep upon entering the political realm.

Padaca cited a former Isabela official who had mistresses and illegitimate children, which had to be provided for beyond the meager government salary.

“Some lessons we had as children follow, guide, and even control us the rest of our lives. (and I think it is very important) for us to be careful what we expose our children to, especially in their most impressionable age,” she added.

Padaca also said politicians need spiritual guidance.

“I firmly believe that the spiritual lives of our leaders should also be uplifted. They too need advisers that will direct them to the right path. I think that enriching their spiritual lives will bring many good things.”


Rising above difficulties

The former Bombo Radyo broadcaster, in crutches since being struck with polio at age 3, ran and prevailed four years ago against Faustino Dy Jr., patriarch of the family that had ruled Isabela for four decades.

“The most important thing was not to give up the fight,” said Padaca as she recounted her election victory. “I said that even if I lose, at least I can have peace of mind. I will not be one of those complaining, feeling mad about the things that were being done to us as people but not doing any thing to stop them.”

“Growing up being physically handicapped, I had many experiences with hard work and effort that did not immediately bring success or bear fruit… I have always been firm in the belief that if you do what is good then you achieve what is good,” Padaca said. “Buti na lang at may ‘luka-lokang’ katulad ko na naisipang bumangga sa pader.”

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However, Padaca said that it was not madness that drove her to run for office but her “complete faith” in God.


Vision of change

Padaca said that the thing she hates most is hearing people say that those in power will forever remain in their pedestals and that they cannot do anything but accept it as fact.

“I told the people of Isabela that even if we have changed the political structure of Isabela there are still other things that we have to continue to fight. We also have to free ourselves from our own wrong attitudes, from our misplaced values, our bad habits; we should not just rely on others to do the thinking for us,” Padaca said.

She also said she had asked her constituents to see her as an example of a person who did not use her physical condition as an excuse to become a burden to the people around her.

Padaca added that disability does not only apply to physical aspects. Laziness, selfishness, and total dependence to others are also “serious disabilities,” she said.

“Maybe the Lord gave Isabela a governor physically weaker than all her constituents so that when they see her, they will realize that one can rise above their difficulties, as long as they choose to do something about their condition,” Padaca said.

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