OPINION: Tough class acts of Pros Amatong

BLOGISTA

By Cha Monforte

Nov 24

The last time I got an opportunity to interview today’s best known provincial elder-statesman Prospero “Pros” Amatong was in the late 80s, when he was still the governor of the erstwhile undivided Davao del Norte. That time I was then with the defunct Northern Star published by late Cesar “Rasec” Sotto. Thursday was like the same day repeating in terms of ambiance in my interview with him in the 80s.

The grand old man in Davao del Norte-Comval politics was still at his signature form at home: he donned pure cotton white shirt and shorts, while Ma’am Luz sit nearby. The same – he has been smoking menthol then and now. For all those greatest political and electoral feats after over 4 decades in public service, Pros Amatong remains down-to-earth and charismatic, speaks candid, terse jab, punch lines and unleashes keen political thoughts, while the Amatong ancestral house in Purok 3, Nabunturan remains largely the same inside: wooden, archaic and its kitchen downstairs can still be seen from the sala. Nabunturan’s greatest father is unblemished: not a single Ombudsman complaint, not even from anonymous complainant, has been filed against him in his 45 years of public service.

He’s one unscathed after serving as Nabunturan councilor (3 years), Nabunturan mayor (14 years, 2 years in New Corella), undivided Davao del Norte governor (9 years), District 2 Comval congressman (9 years), 2 years as project manager of the Philippine National Oil Corp. and 6 years as project engineer of the then Bureau of Public Works, his first stint in government.

He has two episodes when his mandate was cut short: the first on September 28, 1977 when he was purged by dictator Marcos for being with the opposition and replaced by Vice Mayor Zosimo Bugas who served for 4 years, and on March 31, 1986, after reclaiming his mayoral seat in 1980 polls, when he was appointed by President Cory Aquino as the OIC governor of the Davao del Norte.

Now at 77, Nabunturan’s kingmaker visibly remains yet so influential in town and even the whole province despite his exit from political corridor of power in 2007. “When I say I’ll no longer run, I’ll not run,” he says in vernacular adding that he differs to others who make a lot of fuss over their political decisions. His decision of no longer running for office in 2007 polls is tough class act of seasoned and experienced politician. But from it, he bequeathed his political power to his successor son now Cong. Rommel “Bobong” Amatong. At a time when he retired began the baptism of fire in politics of his political heir. All out of the service-rich patriarch, the neophyte scion becomes a shoo in. This shows though particularly for Davao del Norte now that there were no two or more Amatongs holding the reins of power at the same time.

In the circles of politicians and barangay kapitans asking for projects from him, his bluntness is well known. Davao del Norte Vice Gov. Victorio “Baby” Suaybaguio recalls that when Amatong fumed anger he surely would give the proponent the project requested. “It’s like a situation of a father scolding a son,” Suaybaguio says as he recalls how Amatong counterparted much for the province when he built Totit during VG Baby’s stint as Tagum mayor.

It’s in Amatong’s brand of management that government projects must always be placed on the ground based on “felt need”. Same words then and now. Visibly this is one of the cornerstones why he stayed long in public office. “The felt need is determined by experience,“ he says. When he went on a spree of opening new roads and building bridges in farthest villages across the then undivided Davao del Norte after EDSA Uno people power, he ended up beloved by many not only in Comval but also in Davnor. As to one of the values he holds dear, he talks on the need of a no-changing character that must be in place in every politician regardless of the stardom status one may have reached in his political career. But, he added, it should be the people themselves who’ll remind politicians in power who’ve changed in character.
After all those punishing years in public service, include there Jun Pala’s Kumander Puti witchhunt when he became the OIC Davnor Gob, the acknowledged Comval father Pros Amatong remains oozing with charisma and gems of political thoughts despite that he’s gone south of his age now. But by and large, as I see him now, he’s one great political statesman-elder, who has rich legacies that have reshaped towns and provinces and vast experience as a vintage master politician behind him from whom today’s provincial and local politicians ought to take stock of for advice if not emulation. (For online edition, visit my blog at: https://cha4t.wordpress.com, for comments and reactions, e-mail: chamonforte@yahoo.com, or ruralurbanews@yahoo.com)

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