Governor Raffy Nantes was one of the most beloved politicians in the province of Quezon. Raffy, prior to his death, was the Liberal party stalwart in Southern Luzon. He handled party funds and was chairman of the Liberal party for many years.
Days after the announcement of Liberal party standard bearer Noynoy Aquino's victory in the presidential polls, news about Raffy's unexpected death spread throughout the country. Radio reports say, the helicopter which Raffy and some of his staff were riding on, exploded in mid-air. Initial probe indicates pilot error. Still, some of Raffy's close friends are convinced that his death could probably be caused by sabotage.
Sources whom I interviewed pointed out the following:
1. The helicopter which Raffy bought a few months ago, has flown thousands of hours worth of flight time. It's one of the safest helicopters in the market. In fact, prior to the incident, the helicopter flew without any problems from Manila to Quezon. This just means that there was an integrity check made in Manila before the aircraft landed in Quezon.
2. The person assigned in securing the helicopter disappeared minutes before the arrival of the former governor. That guy, who is still missing at this point, was supposed to secure the area. No one checked on the helicopter prior to take-off.
3. Eye-witnesses say they saw the helicopter lift itself up three storeys high, when the rotor caught an electric post. There was a mini explosion. The governor reportedly shouted for help. No one came near the helicopter. It then exploded before it hit the ground, according to eye witnesses.
Days before the elections, a series of politically motivated killings occured in Quezon. Most of the victims were allies of the beleaguered governor.
There was also information that some of the former governor's staff either worked for the other side or were instrumental for Nantes' defeat in the polls.
Nantes lost by about 60,000 votes. Some of those who helped Nante's campaign says there were numerous cases of fraud reported during the elections. On the eve of May 10, the memory cards of PCOS machines were reportedly replaced by alleged members of Nantes' opponent. This, however, is unfounded.
What is certain is that some of the staff of the governor reportedly took off with a huge cache of money from the governor. The monies which are supposed to be allowances of local poll watchers did not reach the hands of the mayors, who were allies of the Nantes.
Some investigators told me that a certain "Mercy", "Aries", "Philip", "Jun L", "Dennis", "Villafranca", "Ryan" and even one of Nantes' cousins took off with the governor's money. One of them reportedly tried to do a Pontius Pilate--he told several town's mates that the governor did not give him a single cent. He was a local campaign coordinator in District 2, the biggest electoral area where Nantes had some problems. One of Nantes' closest associates however, saw the coordinator receiving money from the governor. "Mercy", another female coordinator, was reportedly given some money but did not remit these to Nantes' local allies. These people are now unaccounted.
Start of Nantes' travails
Nantes political problems began when he severed his ties with fellow Liberal partymate Erin Tanada and LAKAS-KAMPI Congressman Dan Suarez. When Nantes was just starting his political career, the Tanadas and the Suarez political clans supported him. He ran as a Congressman twice (?) and won handily over his opponents through the support of the Tanadas and the Suarez families.
Things started to change when he ran for governor. He won the post, with the support of the Tanadas and Suarez.
Nantes' relationship with the two reigning political dynasties drastically changed when Congressman Erin Tanada filed a very controversial proposal--Tanada wanted to divide the province into two. Tanada's plan is simple and practical--the province is getting smaller for the Tanadas, Suarez and Nantes. The proposed division was more of political accommodation than anything.
Nantes opposed Tanada. He rallied the people against the proposal. The Quezonians supported him. The planned political subdivision failed and it failed miserably.
That was a bitter political defeat for the Tanadas. Suarez, whose ambitions reportedly includes snatching the governorship from Nantes, sided with the Tanadas.
So, Nantes faced two formidable enemies--the Tanadas and the Suarez. Both Nantes and the Tanadas were political allies--they both belong to the Liberal Party, with Nantes as party treasurer. Suarez, meanwhile, is a Lakas-KAMPI member.
When Suarez reportedly failed to get a big loan from a government bank to finance his bid for the governorship, he shifted tactics. He allowed his son to challenge Nantes to the governorship. This reportedly was an acceptable alternative for the Tanadas, who, again based on very deep political sources, reportedly supported the Suarez political clan instead of their partymate, Nantes.
When Liberal party standard bearer Noynoy Aquino visited Quezon province, he tried to make the two camps, the Tanadas and Governor Nantes, bury the hatchet. Noynoy Aquino, according to party sources, is very close to Nantes. Erin, meanwhile, is also a former buddy of Noynoy when he was still Congressman of Tarlac.
In one of Noynoy's sorties, the two politicians vowed to support each other and to forget their differences. Erin and Raffy reportedly shake hands before Noynoy and Erin even raised the hands of Raffy.
Unknown to many, Tanada has allegedly ordered his local campaign coordinators to campaign for Nantes' opponent. In one of the party meetings, one source even testified that one of the Tanadas even asked their supporters to abandon Nantes or "they will lose the trust of the famiy." That explains why the local Liberal party chapter in Quezon failed to marshall their poll watchers at the time of the counting to secure and protect Nantes' votes.
Tanada grassroots organizers, who were all Liberal party members, campaigned for the younger son of Dan Suarez, a Lakas-Kampi stalwart. District 2, which is the biggest legislative area and traditionally, the place which brings the "votes" to the winning candidate, was slowly converted. Local political pundits say, Nantes' opponents poured millions just to get the support of the local government executives, down to the barangay captains. Sacks of rice were distributed to depressed communities. Some barangay officials, again based on third party sources, were even treated to leisure trips and at least five were reportedly sent to a famous honky tonk bar in Manila. One influential official got his dream date, courtesy of Nantes' political opponent (the date is a famous actress).
Political advisers of Nantes warned him of his impending defeat, but the camp of the governor allegedly refused to believe it. As a contingency, the governor reportedly allotted several millions to finance the poll watching operation for the Liberal party. It turned out, however, that the millions the governor gave to his campaign coordinators did not reach the mayors in time.
Nantes' rise and fall is a classic case in Philippine politics. It tells of a story of a poor, yet idealistic man who rose from extreme poverty to be one of the richest men in the province of Quezon. His sheer determination to succeed and his strong will to defeat poverty, are admirable traits. From just an industrial battery saleman, Nantes worked his way to the top. Through patience and hard work, Nantes transformed his small business into one of the largest in this country.
When he became legislator, Nantes' made his provincemates proud by being one of the most honest and the most beloved Congressmen. He shared his blessings with the poorest among his townmates and never missed a single time with them during their hardships and sufferings. He died a Patriot, a true blue Quezonian who conquered those who want to divide his province just to satiate their insatiable political avariceness.
Nantes, the beloved son of Quezon province, deserves justice.
President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III should order for a re-investigation into the true cause of Raffy's death. I understand that Raffy's wife already asked the US government to investigate. And I remember Aquino's statement when he visited Raffy's wake--that it is best for the people to know what really caused Raffy's sudden death.
Better if the Philippine government initiates the re-investigation to put an end to speculations about Nantes' death. Nantes' family deserves a closure. Was it an accident or plain and simple sabotage?