Monday, June 30, 2014

Sereno's KO blow ousts Ilonggo jurist

“We're all just playing our own game. I don't see it as a rivalry. We're just trying to play our best.” Michelle Wie

By Alex P. Vidal

A knockout blow. This was how many Ilonggos described the bad luck that befell on Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, who was eliminated from a short list of nominees for the next Supreme Court associate justice last June 30.
Fellow Ilonggos, however, were not satisfied with the way Jardeleza, a native of Jaro, Iloilo City, was ousted. They thought he was already secured up there in the tree when it was unceremoniously chopped off.
Jardeleza was reportedly one of the strong contenders for the SC position until his name was scratched out from the final five of the 13 nominees chosen by the Judicial Bar Council (JBC).
Only four of the normally five final nominees were left: Court of Appeals Associate Justices Apolinario Bruselas and Jose Reyes Jr., who received six votes each; and Commission on Audit Chair Grace Pulido-Tan and Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Reynaldo Daway, who got four votes. Jardeleza reportedly obtained the same votes.
Their names will be submitted to President Aquino for consideration.


As reported earlier, Jardeleza was knocked out from the race by no less than Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, one of the six members of the JBC, who challenged his integrity as a nominee.
According to Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te, a nominee may be disqualified if his integrity is challenged and if a panel member invokes Rule 10, Section 2, of the JBC rules with a provision that states, “when the integrity of an applicant who is not otherwise disqualified for nomination is raised or challenged, the affirmative vote of all the members of the Council must be obtained for the favorable consideration of his nomination.”
Sereno reportedly invoked the powerful JBC rule against the Ilonggo jurist, an equivalent to a knockout punch in boxing.
However, there seems to be a loophole in Jardeleza’s abrupt exit from the race. He was reportedly not allowed to defend himself against Sereno’s accusations even after asking the higher court to defer the JBC’s voting last June 30 and bar the chief justice from taking part in the voting after she had denied him his right to due process.


The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported last July 1 that
“before the vote, Jardeleza, a leading nominee, had appeared before the council to ask that it defer Monday’s voting so the full court could meet on it in Tuesday’s en banc session. After his appearance at the JBC, Jardeleza confirmed to reporters that the one who objected to his nomination was Sereno.”
Jardeleza is a true-blooded Ilonggo, who finished his elementary and secondary education in Iloilo City. He is no peanuts. In 1970 or two years before Martial Law, Jardeleza earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of the Philippines Visayas.
He earned his law degree at the University of the Philippines College of Law, where he graduated as salutatorian in 1974. In law school, Jardeleza was vice chairman of the Philippine Law Journal. He was admitted to the bar in 1974, after placing third in the bar examinations held that year. He obtained a Masters of Law degree from Harvard Law School in 1977.
Based on initial reports, it appears that Jardeleza and Sereno had a spat way back during their stints as professors of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law in Diliman, Quezon City.
The unresolved feud may have played a major role in Sereno's decision against Jardeleza's nomination. Was it a case of vendetta? A professional rivalry that developed into a personal grudge?  


There could be more than meets the eye in Sereno’s lethal shot that toppled Jardeleza from the race for a position that could make him the fourth powerful man in the country once he becomes chief justice next by stroke of luck.
Whatever it is, it should not have spilled over during the JBC selection process where Jardeleza was at the mercy of panel members that included a former "adversary" in the law school.  
Sereno may have other reason or reasons in impeaching Jardeleza’s integrity, and it may be buried deep in the JBC files unless Sereno is willing to talk about it in public. Since she has made it official to oppose Jardeleza, Sereno may be ready to back up her arsenal if push comes to shove, which most likely won't happen now that Jardeleza’s nomination has become moot and academic.  
The other JBC members are Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., Aurora Lagman, Jose Mejia and Ma. Milagros Fernan-Cayosa. Sereno, de Lima and Tupas are ex-officio members.

No need to tell P-Noy to relocate Malacanang to Iloilo

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”  John C. Maxwell

By Alex P. Vidal

When President Noynoy Aquino visited Iloilo City last June 27, Senate President Frank Drilon did not have to repeat the mea culpa he made in July 2005 when he asked then President Gloria Arroyo to relocate Malacanang to Iloilo because of heated anti-administration rallies in Metro Manila.
It may be recalled that a week later, Drilon and his fellow members of “Hyatt 10” withdrew support from Mrs. Aquino, but failed to topple the diminutive but wily Pampangena from the presidency when calls for withdrawal of support made to other governors in the country failed to snowball.
Ilonggos hated graft and corruption, poll cheating and the country’s lack of direction in the socio-economic and political spheres, but they were not ready to risk the country’s future in the hands of homunculi political adventurists.
The Brutuses, who were mostly members of the Arroyo cabinet, turned their backs from their lady boss and decided to cut and cut clean in a foiled bid to install Vice President Noli De Castro as new president and Drilon as new vice president.


All governors in Western Visayas, however, ignored Drilon except Iloilo Governor Neil Tupas Sr. Iloilo City mayor and now Rep. Jerry Trenas sided with Mrs. Arroyo, his former college professor. Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. and son, Rep. Raul Jr., also prevailed over the Ilonggos to rally behind the embattled Mrs. Arroyo.
In Bacolod City, then representative and now Mayor Monico Puentevella, Mrs Arroyo’s chief ally and regular companion in foreign trips, moved heaven and earth so that Negrenses wouldn’t jump ship despite his stormy relationship with then mayor and now Rep. Evelio Leonardia. Western Visayas – Antique, Aklan, Capiz, Iloilo, Negros, Guimaras – rescued Arroyo from FPJ’s Mindanao juggernaut in the 2004 presidential polls.
The political atmosphere when Mrs. Arroyo was in Iloilo in July 2005 was different compared last June 27, 2014. The nation at that time was like a brewing cauldron with opposition leaders, including some disloyal Arroyo minions, concealing a hatchet in their chests in the heat of the “Hello Garci” tumult that refused to die down months after Mrs. Arroyo put away the late Fernando Poe Jr. in the presidential elections.
President Aquino is not a hated figure compared to Mrs. Arroyo. Despite the skullduggery committed by some of his cabinet men and his bizarre mannerisms, President Aquino is still perceived by most Ilonggos to be incorruptible.
Rallies in Metro Manila ripped him not because he amassed unexplained wealth and murdered critics, but because of perceptions that he reenacted the same policies adopted by his predecessors that impoverished the nation and empowered the oligarchs.


When he made that infamous invitation to Mrs. Arroyo to transfer Malacanang to Iloilo in a speech, Drilon probably did not anticipate the tidal wave of negative reaction from the public. Without the “Hyatt 10” mutiny, the invitation would have been dismissed as a mere consuelo de bobo (an idiot’s recompense) for a woman leader who appeared to be fast losing a mass base as a consequence of that ill-advised “I’m sorry” spectacle.
Malacanang does not need to be transferred elsewhere literally. Malacanang is the president himself. A good president makes a good leader and leaves an indelible mark in the hearts of the people.
A bad president can never be absolved by any relocation of the seat of power. His incompetence and inefficiency will haunt him whether he holds office in Metro Manila or in Visayas and in Mindanao.


Aquino was in Iloilo City to inaugurate the P4-billion worth of infrastructure projects that included the P2.1 billion Iloilo circumferential road, the ongoing construction of the P700-million Iloilo Convention Center, the P550-million Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. Avenue, and the P170-million Iloilo River NHA Subdivision Phase I in barangays Lanit and Camalig in Jaro district.
Judging from the support shown by local leaders led by Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. and Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, we don’t see any tell tale signs that some Iloilo and Bacolod leaders will ditch President Aquino now that the choice for his successor in 2016 has become crystal clear.
Western Visayas governors and mayors, however, did not prevent some of their factotums to escort and spend precious time with Vice President Jejomar Binay, who was also in Iloilo City attending to other activities.
It was a rare occasion where the country’s top three leaders were present in one city to inaugurate and attend to different activities. Their presence in Iloilo City immediately caught political fire and brimstone in the national level.
It is said that in politics, when Western Visayas growls, the whole nation listens.   


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Pacquiao’s other love aside from boxing

“Making money is a hobby that will complement any other hobbies you have, beautifully.” Scott Alexander

By Alex P. Vidal

Former Iloilo vice governor Roberto “Obet” Armada believes basketball, or working as coach of KIA Motors in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), will only distract Rep. Manny Pacquiao if he really intends to square off versus Floyd Mayweather Jr. (46-0, 26 KOs) next year.
Armada, 50, a cockfighting enthusiast like the 35-year-old congressman from Saranggani Province, suggested that Pacquiao should focus in his fistic career if he does not intend to retire as a prizefighter.
“He is already into politics aside from being a world boxing champion,” sighed Armada, a former vice mayor of Janiuay, Iloilo. “As a PBA coach, he would be wearing multiple hats at the same time.”
Like other boxing fans, Armada is also excited to watch Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38 KOs) test the mettle of the hard-hitting black American superstar even if it would be the Filipino fighter’s farewell fight.
“That would be the richest boxing duel in history,” Armada surmised.
But Pacquiao as head coach of the debuting KIA Motors is already a sealed deal. For sure, an assistant coach would take over the job once Pacquiao prepares for his next fight either against Ruslan Provodnikov conqueror Chris Algieri (20-0, 8 KOs) or Juan Manuel Marquez (56-7-1, 40 KOs) in September 2014.


As if the PBA distraction is not enough, Pacquiao will also throw his hat in the senate race under the ticket of Vice President Jejomar Binay in 2016. According to grapevine, Top Rank CEO Bob Arum and Golden Boy Promotion boss Oscar De La Hoya plan to stage the mega Pacquiao-Mayweather 12-round tussle in 2016, the same year the Philippines will hold the presidential and congressional elections. 
Politics is already eating up some of Pacquiao’s quality time. He gets invited left and right to appear in stamina-sapping promotional and social events, as well as activities related to his being a member of the House of Representatives. Plus the PBA job.
Even before thinking of securing a PBA franchise, Pacquiao was already a true-blue basketball enthusiast. He distributed free ringside seat tickets to the entire playing members of the Boston Celtics when he poleaxed in two rounds Ricky Hatton for IBO light welterweight tiara on May 2, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Aside from basketball, Manny Pacquiao’s other favorite past times are dart, billiards and chess.


The first thing Pacquiao did when he arrived inside his suite at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas after a four-hour drive from Los Angeles was to play chess against members of his staff on April 28, 2009 at around past 9 o’clock in the evening.
He does not play like super GMs Wesley So and Vassily Ivanchuk, of course, but he knows the game’s fundamentals. No pawn pusher would be happy to checkmate a world champion in a friendly match, thus we don’t expect Pacquiao to yield a single chess game against a good player.


World pool champions Bata Reyes and Django Bustamante even allowed Pacquaio to pull the rug from under in their series of “friendly” matches where bets were reportedly so heavy every pool player wanted to sacrifice a stint in rich tournaments abroad just to have a golden chance to play with Pacquiao and throw a match to satisfy the boxer’s ego. The more they lose a billiard game against Pacquiao, the more they are guaranteed to laugh on their way to the bank. Pacquiao is such a generous opponent. Let him win a match and he will let your pocket overflow with cash.
The ring heartthrob, the only boxer in the planet to win eight world titles in eight divisions, maintains a dart area in his Los Angeles apartment where he plays when he wakes up in the morning.
The dart area inside the Los Angeles apartment was where I used to sleep while preparing to cover the Antonio Margarito vs Miguel Angel Cotto clash in Las Vegas in July 2008.
One morning while I was still sleeping, courteous Pacquiao was careful not to make unnecessary noise while playing dart when he noticed someone was still sleeping on the floor.

Presidential guards and Iloilo reporters

“I do not care how brave a president is; I do not care how many medals he may wear. I do not care how well trained his guards may be. If he violates the will of the people, he shall be eliminated.” Ferdinand Marcos

By Alex P. Vidal

We can’t forget that scene in the tarmac of the old Iloilo airport in Mandurriao district before the EDSA Revolution when a member of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) escorting then First Lady Imelda Marcos grabbed the cassette tape recorder of then DYRP Radyo Tagring reporter and now city councilor Armand Parcon and threw it away.
Parcon, DYFM Bombo Radyo reporter Francis Hinayhinay and other broadcast field reporters, were in mad scramble to “ambush” (interview while walking) Mrs. Marcos to no avail. In the judgment of the PSG man, Parcon’s tape recorder was too imposing and was distracting his eyesight. Parcon was unfazed though. His professionalism prevailed over his emotion.
Tape recorders at that time were attached to an AM/FM radio, big or three times the size of the tape recorders beat reporters used in the 90s before mini gadgets and cellular phones came.   
The first lady was heavily guarded. It was still Martial Law and the presidential guards were ruthless if not acting like members of Hitler’s Gestapo. Only the crew from state-controlled RPN-8 (Bacolod) and IBC-12 (Iloilo) were given leeway to televise the arrival of the majestic and bejeweled VIP from Malacanang.


More morbid stories of fracases involving PSG men and photographers were recorded during every out-of-town presidential visit earlier and even during the time of the late President Cory Aquino, President FVR, President Erap and President Gloria.
We understand that the PSG is trained to consider those within the parameters of the VIPs (the president and members of his immediate family) they were guarding as suspected attackers or enemies. Their motto is, "it is better to be safe than sorry."
When they perform their job, nobody should be treated as holy cows. They should keep a sharp eye and pay attention even to high ranking public officials accompanying the VIPs they are guarding in the entourage. It’s part of their job. The VIPs’ safety is their paramount concern. They have to sacrifice their life, if necessary, to protect and secure the VIPs.
Reporters or anybody in the field don’t take it personally if they are sideswiped and elbowed unintentionally when PSG men perform their duties and responsibilities, as long as their actuation is neither brutish nor physically and verbally abusive.


We agree that reporters shouldn’t be given a special treatment, but they should not also be treated shabbily and harassed as they are also doing their tasks to the public. 
Members of Malacanang press and the PSG, meanwhile, have forged a special friendship and tie-up that extend during out-of-town and state visits. Because they are familiar with each other, we seldom hear reports of quarrels and misunderstandings among them in relation to the performance of their respective jobs.
To avoid any trouble and hassles, the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) has organized a proper mechanism for coverage of out-of-town presidential visits by issuing accreditation to bonafide reporters. In the past, the PIA issued color-coded identification cards and limited the movements of media coverage teams to certain assigned areas to avoid confusion and ensure a smooth coverage.
Each media outlet is allowed at least two accredited reporters to provide them wide latitude in their coverage. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Jaywalkers can’t be forced to pay a fine after arrest

“A society without jaywalkers might indicate a society without artists.” Paul Theroux

By Alex P. Vidal

Sometime in the early 90's, Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Capiz manager Jaime “James” Cabag and I were “arrested” by a traffic enforcer while crossing the busy Colon St., touted as the oldest street in the Philippines, in Cebu City.
We already reached the other side of the street when we heard a loud whistle blown by a traffic enforcer, who reprimanded us: “Jaywalking kamo dong (guys you committed a jaywalking).” He was right. The light for pedestrians was still red when we crossed.
James was pissed off not because we would be delayed in our seminar that morning. He was irked by the tone of the traffic enforcer’s voice. A native of San Miguel, Iloilo, James angrily retorted in Tagalog, “Enembarrass mo naman kami sa lakas ng boses mo (you embarrassed us with your loud voice)” while giving the traffic enforcer a dagger look.
He ignored James and escorted us to a corner where several other violators were waiting. Two things came into my mind. Either we would be penalized and asked to pay a corresponding fine right away, or be brought to the police station to be booked and detained. Jaywalking is a serious traffic infraction. In split seconds, more violators were taken to where we were standing. Sensing he could not attend to all of us, the traffic enforcer allowed us to go. It was around nearly 10 o’clock in the morning.


In Iloilo City, a “humiliated” male lawyer nearly ran berserk when accosted for jaywalking by city hall traffic ordinance enforcers. A retired male public school teacher nearly came to blows with the same enforcers because of similar infraction. A female GSIS employee engaged the same enforcers in an irritating and ugly verbal tiff that nearly ended in a physical scuffle. And so on and so forth.
These were some of the regular scenarios we witnessed at the intersections of Valeria and Delgado streets (near SM Delgado and Mary Mart Mall) and Delgado-Gen. Luna streets (near Atrium Mall) in Iloilo City.
That was before city hall traffic ordinance enforcers stopped imposing a fine as penalty for jaywalkers right away.
Although they issued official receipts from the city treasurer’s office, the male lawyer questioned the legality of imposing fine as penalty for violators without any court order.  
The lawyer insisted that it’s the court that should determine whether he pays the fine or he goes to jail.
According to Iloilo City Councilor Plaridel Nava, who is a lawyer, it is against the law to immediately collect fine upon apprehension or as a precedent for the release of a person caught violating a city ordinance.


It’s unlawful for any law or ordinance enforcer to immediately collect a fine, according to Nava. The violator must first be detained and proper charges be filed against him for violation of law or ordinance. Then the judge will rule regarding the fine.
Nava and his fellow city councilors have expedited a city ordinance amending the procedure in arresting violators of city ordinances as prescribed under City Ordinance No. 2001-017. It already passed the first reading.
Once the ordinance has been approved and signed by Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, the unpalatable scenarios we regularly witness in the aforementioned areas and other busy streets and intersections in downtown, City Proper, would hopefully become a thing of the past. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Why jailbirds were more popular than Miriam, Drilon in Iloilo

“What's right isn't always popular. What's popular isn't always right.” Howard Cosell

By Alex P. Vidal

Because of their showbiz background, jailed senators Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada were once upon a time more popular than Senate President Frank Drilon and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago--even in Western Visayas, the bailiwick of the two Ilonggo legislators.
In 2004, during the campaign period in Iloilo, Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Negros, and Guimaras, shrieking fans mobbed both actors, kissed and embraced them, danced with them on stage like rock stars and cult leaders.
“Mga pare tulungan ninyo si Bong. Kailangan natin siya sa senado (Friends let’s help Bong. We need him in the senate),” outgoing senator Ramon Revilla, Sr., Bong’s father, appealed to us while he was inside a car during a political rally at the Plazoleta Gay in downtown, Iloilo City.
Even without Nardong Putik’s appeal, the Kapitan would have still won by an overwhelming margin. The bakya crowd was unstoppable and they believed only their big screen idol Bong Revilla could snatch them away from dire straits.
Most of the 253,934 voters in this city’s 180 barangays and the province’s 941,380 voters from 1,721 barangays lived in slums and far flung rural areas where screen actors and actresses are adored and idolized like kings and queens.


These are the places where voters normally don’t care about the educational background and competence of candidates for national and local offices, thus they cast their votes based on name recall and popularity.
Since many of them are hooked on telenovela, soap opera and showbiz scandals and entertainment--plus the fact that only a handful of them read the newspapers and monitor political events on TV and radio--Bong Revilla, 47, and Jinggoy Estrada, 51, who starred in hundreds of action and drama flicks, are instant hits in these areas.
If the jailbirds will run for higher offices in 2016 (granting that they will be exonerated in the plunder charges they are facing for allegedly pocketing hundreds of millions of people’s money in pork barrel scam), their lesser-known rivals could end up eating the dust, given the electorate’s myopic mentality.
In fact, Revilla (19,513,521 votes garnered) and Estrada 18,925,925 votes) topped the 2010 senatorial elections where Santiago (17,344,742 votes) and Drilon (15,871,117 votes), both prides of Iloilo City, wound up third and fourth, respectively. Juan Ponce Enrile (15,665,618 votes), the third senator expected to join Revilla and Estrada soon at Camp Crame custodial center, was fifth.


Former interior and local government undersecretary Narciso Santiago, husband of the 69-year-old feisty Iloilo senator, lamented to us at the Sarabia Manor Hotel and Convention Center that even Hollywood stars can never beat the Marcoses in Ilocos. “Ilocanos are solidly behind the Marcoses especially during the national elections,” fumed Santiago, the senator’s former classmate in the College of Law before they became husband and wife. “But here in Iloilo, they are not united. Miriam even lost (in her reelection bid for senator in 2001) because Iloilo failed to deliver the needed votes for her.”
This was when Senator Santiago was smarting from her “lowest” popularity for being a staunch defender of then scandalized and eventually ousted President and now Manila Mayor Erap Estrada.
Let’s hope sweetheart Narciso did not forget to thank the Ilonggos when they gave his beloved wife a resounding victory when she staged a comeback in 2004 and in 2010 (her term as senator expires in 2016).
Lest sweetheart Narciso forgets, the Ilonggos nearly installed honey Miriam into presidency in 1992. What most of us still remember is that the sudden power blackout during the canvassing of votes dashed all our dreams to pieces.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Jimmy de la Torre’s murder still a mystery after 24 years

“Probably the toughest time in anyone’s life is when you have to murder a loved one because they’re the devil.”  EMO PHILIPS

By Alex P. Vidal

Ilonggos were still talking about the 4-1 win of Detroit Pistons against Portland Trailblazers in the 1990 NBA finals when interrupted by news of the murder of Jimmy de la Torre, then the country’s marathon king, inside a movie house in Iloilo City on June 27, 1990.
The Pistons versus Trailblazers best-of-seven series, by the way, was the first NBA finals since 1979 not to involve either the perennial finalists, Los Angeles Lakers or the Boston Celtics.
Jimmy’s murder in the balcony of Crown Cinerama (now Philippine National Bank) on corner Ledesma-Quezon Streets, occurred at around past one o’clock in the afternoon, a rainy Tuesday.
I witnessed it.
I was seated five seats away from Jimmy, 27, and his wife Celia, 26. Some 20 minutes earlier, I bumped into Jimmy, the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games marathon record holder, and Celia in the ground floor while on their way to the theater’s second floor.


We greeted each other briefly. It was our first meeting since I covered the Bombo Marathon in Pavia, Iloilo several months earlier. I was standing at the finish line when Jimmy breasted the tape, beating arch rival and fellow Ilonggo champion, Herman Suizo, by the skin of the teeth.
Jimmy was from Pototan, Iloilo while Suizo hailed from Sta. Barbara, Iloilo. They dominated marathon in the country the way Attila the Hun ruled the Hunnic Empire and the Balkans.
“Jimmy, you broke the record (in the 20-K event),” I told him after the race. “Ha, na break ko? (oh yeah?),” he replied happily. “Ay salamat (thank you).”
Jimmy was the first back-to-back Filipino champion (1981-1982) of the lung-busting 42.195-K National Milo Marathon. He also held the record of 2 hours, 25 minutes, and 16 seconds (Cresenciano Sabal currently holds the record at 2:21:33 he registered in the 29th edition in 2005), the fastest in the country and in the SEAG at that time.
Future SEA Games gold medalist Suizo avenged the defeat at the Yakult Marathon, where I was one of the participants. I finished by the wayside–good for a certificate!


Inside the theater that fateful afternoon, I went up ahead of Jimmy and Celia. Only a handful of patrons were inside when I entered the balcony. We were watching a cartoon film. I occupied a seat in the middle row and noticed several vacancies on my left and right. I was seated a spit away from where the main lights that transmitted the film to the big screen were coming from.
Minutes later, I saw the couple occupy their seats on my left. They didn’t notice me. I reclined and closed my eyes. I checked the surroundings from time to time.
Some five to 10 minutes later, I saw Celia leave her seat and go outside. Jimmy stayed.
Celia returned after about five minutes. Some 10 minutes later, a lone gunshot exploded followed by a loud scream by a woman.
When I checked, I saw a fat guy throw a hard object on the floor and hurriedly walk to my right, passing at the back where I was seated, before going downstairs, mixing with fleeing moviegoers and exiting through the main door.
As pandemonium broke loose, the lights switched on suddenly. I quickly grabbed my manual pocket camera and approached a man on the chair twitching in pain and shaking, blood oozing from his temple.


I positioned myself in front of the victim and saw his eyes roll as if begging to save him. By the time I fired the first of my series of shots, I already realized the victim was Jimmy de la Torre.
I couldn’t do anything to save a dying man as I was shocked and on the verge of tears myself. Jimmy was a pitiful sight. I couldn’t bear watching a sports hero, whose exploits I had covered as sportswriter on several occasions, gunned down in a treacherous manner, a senseless murder.
My instinct as a cub reporter persuaded me not to leave the place until the smoke has been cleared, thus I observed the wife’s demeanor.
Budyong TV Patrol broadcasters Ibrahim Calanao and Ranie Jangayo arrived and interviewed me “live”. They then interviewed Celia, who was crying but didn’t do something–or at least embrace her husband–or plead to about four people present to bring Jimmy to the hospital.
When Metropolitan Police District Command (Metrodiscom) chief, Col. Achilles Plagata, a future city councilor, and his team of investigators arrived, Celia became more hysterical. They recovered a .38 “paltik” revolver on the floor used in the killing.


I gave an exclusive photo of Jimmy, taken while he was gasping for his last breath, to then Visayan Tribune editor-in-chief, Herbert Vego, and it made a headline story.
It was my second eye-witness-account exclusive crime photo. Five months earlier during the 1990 Dinagyang Festival in downtown, City Proper, I was “lucky” to be “at the right place at the right time” when an off-duty cop from Arevalo district was peppered with bullets while drinking in a sidewalk in the corner of Ledesma and Valeria Streets.
Murder charges had been filed against the suspect in Jimmy’s murder, but were dismissed by then city prosecutor Efrain Baldago for “lack of evidence”.
Some people closed to Jimmy, as well as some family members, believed the marathon king, who made waves in the Boston Marathon and made many Filipinos proud of him, was a victim of a love triangle.
This theory has not been proven and his unsolved murder remains a mystery after 24 years.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Mabilog as finalist in World Mayor 2014

“When the burdens of the presidency seem unusually heavy, I always remind myself it could be worse. I could be a mayor.” Lyndon B. Johnson

By Alex P. Vidal

As Ilonggos and residents of Iloilo City, we are proud that Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog is among the 25 finalists for World Mayor 2014, a biennial award organized by the City Mayors Foundation since 2004.
Mabilog is one of the only six finalists from Asia. No other mayor from the Philippines has made it to the finals, except him. The mayor of Surabaya, Indonesia is the only other finalist from Southeast Asia.
Europe has the most number of finalists at 8. North America and Latin America have four finalists apiece. Africa has two and Australia has one.
No other Iloilo City mayor has reached this far in as far as international recognition and achievement for a local chief executive is concerned.
Iloilo City has been blessed with a lot of outstanding and world class mayors in the past in the persons of Jose Gay, Matias Ybiernas, Rosauro Jocson, Quirino Abeto, Euologio Garganera, Serapion Torre, Vicente Ybiernas, Mariano Benedicto, Fernando Lopez, Rafael Jalandoni, Juan Borja, Dominador Jover, Reinerio Ticao, Francisco Garganera, Rodolfo T. Ganzon, Zafiro Ledesma, Antonio Hechanova, Mansueto Malabor, and Rep. Jerry Trenas.  
None of them, however, has made it to the same global stage, where the opportunity to be known worldwide, to hammer out a chance to attract investors and showcase the city's potentials, are within reach.


We are not saying that Mabilog is better than his predecessors. Most of the illustrious names we just mentioned, in fact, were some of the greatest leaders in the country if not in the entire Asia during their time.
Their difference is Mabilog happens to belong to the new spectrum of young and dynamic leaders in the new age where cultural, educational, tourism, political, scientific, economic and technological activities in the world are interconnected and interrelated.
He reigns and manages this metropolis in the era where all cities, boundaries, provinces, prefectures, states and territories in the world are bunched in a global village through the power and influence of modern technology and progressive diplomatic relations.
Mabilog deserves the support of the entire Ilonggo populace in this race. We don’t send to the finals of World Mayor our city mayor every day. Regardless of political affiliations and internal issues, Ilonggos should solidly rally behind Mabilog in his quest to outwit the 24 other finalists. His pride is also our pride. His success is also our success. His failure is also our failure.


When we visit other cities here and abroad in the future, we would be proud to admit that we belong in the “City of Love”, and our mayor was once upon a time among the 25 finalists in the World Mayor. By his being a finalist is already, in fact, a victory for the Ilonggos, as it would place the city on the map and spur our economic life once investors start to Google our city and connect with our business leaders.
Support for a local leader vying for an international recognition is not a new undertaking. It happened in other cities in the past, it is happening, and it will happen in the future.
When we were in Surrey, British Columbia in 2010, we saw how constituents of Mayor Dianne Watts supported her all the way when she was picked as one of the finalists in the contest that year.


Watts’ political enemies and critics in media set aside their animosity and agreed to hold a ceasefire to support the lady mayor. It was a gallant display of camaraderie and solidarity among the people of Surrey for the common good of the “City of Parks.”   
According to the world mayor website, the City Mayors board of fellows will choose the winner and two runner-ups based on the number of email votes received and the strength and passion of supporting testimonials.
“The organizers believe that the persuasiveness of argument is as important as the number of votes. This ensures that a ‘good’ mayor from a smaller city can compete on equal terms with a mayor from a large metropolis. All 25 shortlisted mayors will be asked to agree to the City Mayors' Code of Ethics,” explained the website.
We know what to do now.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Days are numbered for Delgado, Estanzuela ‘prosti’ houses?

“Prostitution is criminal, and bad things happen because it's run illegally by dirt-bags who are criminals. If it's legal, then the girls could have health checks, unions, benefits, anything any other worker gets, and it would be far better.”  JESSE VENTURA

By Alex P. Vidal

Flesh trade in Iloilo City is expected to suffer a big blow now that the city council has moved to expedite the passage of the moral recovery and decency ordinance.
The ordinance’s main targets are those engaged in commercial sex trade or prostitution. The ordinance is also expected to protect minors exploited by abusive pimps.
Three of the most notorious prostitution dens in Iloilo City, in fact, are located in Delgado Street, Brgy. Rizal Estanzuela, and Brgy. San Jose, Molo. There is another one reportedly located in Brgy. Democracia, Jaro but we heard it voluntarily “closed shop” recently after one of its commercial sex workers was diagnosed with HIV, a virus that leads to AIDS.
There are other clandestine whorehouses in Calumpang, Calaparan, and Baluarte, all in Molo district, that are considered potential producers of sexually transmitted disease (STD) like herpes, syphilis and HIV virus.
We say "notorious" because these prostitution houses, especially the ones in Brgy. Estanzuela and Delgado St. (adjacent the Philippine Tuberculosis Society building), are like “tiangge” or sari-sari store. Open to the public.


So blatant and rampant is prostitution in these areas that their pimps have no qualms in displaying their pink ladies on sidewalks as if they were like fruits and vegetables. 
These human sexual commodities distract pedestrians and send a wrong signal to children and tourists. Some parents have expressed concern about the negative impact of allowing these sexual commodities to be paraded and displayed in these areas. They are alarmed that these immoral acts are tolerated by barangay officials and police authorities. 
By seven o’clock in the evening, these prostitution houses are gleaming like Christmas trees and surrounded by Christmas lights.
Some of the regular clients of the prostitution house in Brgy. San Jose, meanwhile, are government officials and municipal mayors, our sources revealed. This prostitution den makes a killing, our sources added, each time the League of Municipalities-Iloilo Chapter hold a conference in the city. The sources did not elaborate.
Now that the “Ordinance on Moral Recovery and Decency of 2014” penned by Councilor Plaridel Nava has been approved in the first reading, it is only a matter of time before it will be implemented as a city ordinance.
Once it becomes an ordinance, it would be unlawful for any person to solicit money from another in exchange for sexual favors.  
The ordinance prohibits any person from transacting, engaging, performing, portraying or displaying any lascivious conduct before the public.
Nava proposed the ordinance after he noted an “alarming” increase of the number of commercial sex workers in the city.


The penalties are not really tough but aside from the corresponding fines, violators will go to jail: For first-time violators, a fine of P1,000 or 30 days imprisonment, or suffer both upon the court’s discretion. For a second violation, offenders will be fined P2,000 or 31 days to six months imprisonment, or suffer both. For third and succeeding violations, offenders will be fined P3,000 or six months and one day to one year imprisonment, or suffer both.
We hail the city council for this ordinance. We need a moral recovery program not only for public officials, but also for all of us.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Yes to water, no to MIWD

“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.”  
W. H. Auden

By Alex P. Vidal

Water and the Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) are supposed to be like Siamese twins: inseparable.
Without MIWD there is no water. Without water there is no MIWD. At least that’s how most Ilonggo concessionaires think in as far as the water system in Iloilo is concerned for almost 50 years now.
MIWD produces potable water in the households, offices and farms. Consumers pay for the water supply. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. They maintain this type of symbiotic relationship.
Just like Panay Electric Company (PECO) and electricity, services are smooth and uninterrupted if consumers don’t renege on the payment of their monthly bills. There is no public uproar and restlessness if there are no frequent power outages and atrocious hidden fees. Simple logic.       
But public perception for MIWD has changed critically. Irate consumers have grown tired of its inefficiency and lackadaisical services that MIWD is not anymore indispensable in their eyes.


Consumers have realized that there would still be life, after all, even without MIWD. They are not anymore afraid to kick MIWD in the butt and tell MIWD straight in the face to get lost!
When the faucets stopped producing water last June 14 and 15 because MIWD failed to settle the partial payment of its debt worth P2.7 million to its bulk water supplier, Flo Water Resources Iloilo, Inc., the patience of consumers reached the tipping point. Enough is enough.
Picking up the cudgels for the distraught consumers, Iloilo City Rep. Jerry Trenas and Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, who are water consumers themselves, uncorked the heaviest verbal barrage never uttered before by high-ranking local leaders in recent memory.
Trenas, a many-time referee of MIWD internal squabbles, has called for the privatization of the water utility firm. He feared the worst for the consumers if MIWD’s management was not privatized. He has no more love lost for MIWD owing probably to his love for his constituents and, perhaps, to his love for Dr. Rogelio Florete, Jr., his business associate and owner of Flo Water Resources Iloilo, Inc.


Trenas wanted MIWD to adapt to the paradigm shift of water management in the modern world. There is no room for inefficiency, sloppiness and ineptitude in a privatized MIWD, Trenas thought.
Mabilog, on the other hand, wanted to dissolve the MIWD. He wants water consumers in the city to look for their own water distribution system and not to anymore rely on the decrepit MIWD.
He has given up on MIWD’s series of demagoguery. Both city leaders fear MIWD’s lousy services will delay Iloilo City’s march to progress and development. Investors would never risk a long-term investment in a city that can’t quench the thirst of its residents even during rainy season.
The hostile reactions of both Trenas and Mabilog were enough proof that Iloilo City is willing to let go of MIWD after years of mutual co-existence and relationship. Somebody has to pack up and leave. A divorce is inevitable.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Don’t limit wet market probe

“There is always room at the top-after the investigation.” Oliver Herford

By Alex P. Vidal

If the proposed redevelopment of the Iloilo central market was not tackled early this year, the alleged anomalies in the management of the city’s premier wet market would not be uncovered.
It was during the tension-filled opposition of some stall owners led by the Association of Stall Owners and Transient Vendors of Iloilo City Public Markets (Astraven Icpmi) that the issue about thieves and racketeers siphoning funds intended for the city government was unraveled.
It was during the ruckus about the proposed privatization of the public market where Councilor Rodel Agado and other officials in the mayor’s office discovered that the market income generated from rentals and other services declined rapidly.


Agado blamed corrupt market collectors who allegedly connived with their bosses and pocketed some collections to the prejudice of the city government. Although he refused to name names allegedly for fear of reprisal, the grapevine points to several high-ranking officials in the executive branch which Agado promised to name “in the proper forum.”
It turned out the problem was not happening only in one public market.
This month, the City Council’s committee on markets and slaughterhouse will convene to tackle the proposed public inquiry on the Iloilo Terminal Market (ITM), which will be conducted by the local legislative branch as a committee of the whole.
Agado is expected to name the hooligans that include four market fee collectors, 14 stall awardees and three regular market employees allegedly involved in anomalous transactions. The councilor’s revelation came in the heels of reports that a market collector was caught selling application forms for the award of stalls at P100 each.


Now that city officials have started to stir the hornet’s nest, they might as well cover other public markets in their on-going investigations. After the central market and ITM, they should swoop down on La Paz public market, Jaro public market, Mandurriao public market, and other wet markets in the different districts.
If there appears to be signs of mismanagement in the major public markets, it’s not far-fetched for other smaller public markets in other districts to also experience a sloppy management.
Anomalous awarding of stalls to unqualified owners, alleged tong collections, and power pilferage are three of the most common problems identified by authorities in the metropolis’ premier public markets most recently.
If public markets are poorly managed, profits will decline and the income of city hall will suffer a major dent.
Slaughterhouses, public markets and other income-generating facilities in the barangay level owned by the local government are major sources of funds for the city government. If officials assigned in these establishments are corrupt and inefficient, the money intended for public coffer will go to the pockets of a few privileged characters.


There were market executives who considered certain public markets as their fiefdoms. They ruled like chieftains. They used their power to assign and award stalls to favored friends if not relatives. A female “friend” of a former city mayor, for instance, reportedly owned five stalls (four of them awarded through dummies) in Mandurriao.
Not only that. She also owned additional stalls in other markets outside that district. Her “friendship” with the former city mayor became the object of whispers because of the special favors she got from the man every ordinary voter called as “pare.”
In fairness to the woman, she never bragged about her “friendship” with the man everyone loved to call “pare.”
“It’s not her fault if she is so dear to pare (first name deleted),” city hall employee and radio blocktimer Nards Grande said.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Rafael Nadal's roots in Iloilo

"Some people are your relatives but others are your ancestors, and you choose the ones you want to have as ancestors. You create yourself out of those values.” RALPH ELISON

By Alex P. Vidal

In La Paz public market in Iloilo City where we regularly buy our meals, NBA fans wait on tenterhooks if Erik Spoelstra’s genius can prevent Gregg Popovich from becoming an Albert Einstein in court.
La Paz district is a football hotbed, home of the finest booters in the region next to the municipalities of Barotac Nuevo and Sta. Barbara when it comes to quality of players.
La Paznons so love soccer that they demolished an age-old outdoor boxing arena to further enlarge their football field in the plaza (You should have opposed this unpopular move, former First Lady Ming Ramos; but we heard it was because of your “beautification” project why the iconic boxing ring was obliterated).
But when it is NBA finals time, football or FIFA World Cup takes a backseat. NBA championship is a down-the-wire headline-grabbing event. Never mind if super grandmaster Wesley So will soon push the pawns for the Americans in the FIDE chess.
Never mind if Manny Pacquiao will coach KIA in the PBA (we saw the world’s best boxer pound-for-pound and PBA Commissioner Chito Salud shake hands in a sports page recently. In September 2001 when we covered Gerry Penalosa’s WBC super flyweight fight against Masamori Tokuyama in Yokohama, Japan, Salud was impressed more with Penalosa than with Pacquiao, then fresh from winning the IBF super bantamweight crown against Africa’s Lehlo Ledwaba on a 6th round TKO in Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s understandable because his father, the late former WBC secretary general Rudy, was Penalosa’s manager at that time).


We are aware that several days after the NBA finals, Ilonggos will continue to make a post mortem analysis whether it is the Spurs or the Heat that will end up bringing home the 2014 NBA title.
It would be a crime against sports, meanwhile, if we ignore Rafael “Rafa” Nadal’s most recent record-breaking conquest in the French Open just because the more glamorous NBA finals and 2014 FIFA World Cup are lording over the sports pages and in the social media nowadays.
The NBA finals series between Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs was tied at 1-1 when world no. 1 Nadal collected his unprecedented ninth French Open title by whipping world no. 2 Novak Djokovic of Serbia last June 8, or five days after his 28th birthday.
Nadal holds a special place in the hearts of the Ilonggos. Many local tennis fans can identify themselves with the talented Spaniard, who has won 14 Grand Slam singles titles, the 2008 Olympic gold medal in singles, a record 27 ATP World Tour Masters and a record 15 ATP World Tour 500 tournaments.


There are Nadals in Jaro district. Their siblings are mestizos and mestizas and it’s not hard to conclude that they have Spanish blood running in their veins. We heard the Nadals in San Enrique, Negros Occidental also traced their roots in Castellon de la Plana, Torrelavega, Valladolid and Pamplona, Spain. The tennis heartthrob was born in Manacor, Balearic Islands, Spain. We were colonized by Spain for more than 400 years, after all.
It is possible some of Rafa’s foreparents had roots in some Filipino families somewhere in the Philippines, if not in Jaro and San Enrique. Some of the friars, according to Jose Rizal’s novels, sired illegitimate children with Filipino women. We remember Maria Clara, among other victims of sexual abuses by these Spanish ruffians, in Noli Me Tangere.


Nadal can, in fact, be mistaken for a Filipino if he plays in the SEA Games or Asian Games. There’s a lot of handsome tennis, fencing and even soccer players who look like Rafa. Richard Gomez plays fencing in the SEA Games and his height and physique are similar to Rafa. His hairstyle, color of skin, and the way he dresses outside the clay court (where he is considered the “king”) are similar to some matinee-idol-looking Filipino athletes. No one will question his nationality on the spot if he will carry the RP flag in the World Olympic Games and other biennial events. Unlike decathlete David Bunevacz and brothers Phil and James Younghusband, who really look like children of white parents (although their late mother was a pure Pinay).
But the sad reality is Nadal is not a Filipino. Because we hanker for a sports icon so much admired for his skills and talent in clay court, we can always claim Rafa to be our own—but only in our dreams.
As we went to press, the 2014 FIFA World Cup blasted off in Brazil, triggering a worldwide sports mania that is felt even in the remotest African countries.