THE woman who felled a dynasty in Isabela finds it hard to believe that she is the 2008 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Government Service.

Isabela Governor Grace Padaca [PCIJ file photo]“It…never crossed my mind to wish for it, it’s so beyond me,” says Isabela Governor Maria Gracia Cielo ‘Grace’ Padaca.

Padaca, 44, was cited for “empowering voters in the Philippines’s Isabela province to reclaim their democratic right to elect leaders of their own choosing and to contribute as full partners in their own development,” according to the 2008 Ramon Magsaysay Awards board of trustees.

Padaca is on her second term as governor. In 2004, she wrested the post that various members of the Dy family had monopolized for 34 years.

Padaca, who was among local government officials featured in the PCIJ’s “Faces of Change” series in April, says the transition from dynasty to democracy had been an uphill struggle. She inherited a bureaucracy mired in patronage politics and which owed a hefty debt. There was also a lack of cooperation from many of Isabela’s mayors. Padaca had been unable to convene provincial bodies such as the school board, the health board, and the peace and order council. And despite her best efforts, perennial problems like jueteng and illegal logging still persisted.

Isabela’s people still trusted her however, electing her to a second consecutive term last year.

This time around, says Padaca, governance has been a lot easier. “I’ve already learned so much, the nitty-gritty of administration.” There’s also been better communication between Padaca and Isabela’s mayors. She adds that if they are not loyal to her, then at least they respect her.

Padaca is in the midst of a campaign to protect Isabela’s forests, which are being decimated by timber poachers. In the past two weeks alone, her government has confiscated 45,000 board feet of timber worth P500,000. Another checkpoint that was established in a river netted 38,000 board feet of wood.

Still, says Padaca, 800,000 up to one million board feet remain in the forest. Padaca adds that this issue is important, as its affects 16,000 families in Isabela. Twenty-five percent of the Sierra Madre National Park is also within the province.

Another initiative that Padaca has spearheaded is the ‘Kaya Natin‘ group with Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio and Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo. The group hopes to share the lessons they learned in Isabela, Pampanga and Naga with the rest of the country.

Padaca hopes that Isabelinos have learned the lesson of valuing elections, of “making them one big good way of improving our plight.” She hopes that Isabelinos will take this to heart, no matter who the candidate is.

What is essential for good governance, she adds, are good, sincere and competent leaders. ” Leaders who boast a good heart and a good mind, people with integrity, whose words match their actions, people who can inspire and lead people to a better place.”

1 Response to Dynasty slayer wins Ramon Magsaysay award


Ambuot Saimo

August 2nd, 2008 at 4:59 am

CONGRATULATIONS!!! Gov. Padaca and the whole people of Isabela Province! You deserve the emulation and we SALUTE YOU!!!! You have proven that “Davidism” is still alive – we can topple Goliaths using sling shots or ballots. Continue the good work.

To other provinces still lorded over by clan dynasties: If the Isabelinos were able to do it, why cant’ you?

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