By Alex P. Vidal
NEW YORK CITY -- President Rodrigo Duterte linked anew Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog to the illegal drug trade not because an evidence has been found to support the president's first accusation.
If Mabilog has become Mr. Duterte's favorite punching bag each time he lambasted local chief executives involved in illegal drugs, it's because the city mayor is the cousin of Senator Franklin Drilon, an opposition leader and chief supporter of Duterte's rival in the recent presidential race, Mar Roxas.
In absence of any damning evidence, it is becoming apparent that Mabilog is only a collateral damage in the feud between the president and the Liberal Party bigwigs.
Mabilog's critics took advantage of his closeness to Drilon and linked him to illegal drug trade even if there was no corpus delicti to support the slanderous accusation.
President Duterte remembered Mabilog's name in a speech during the turnover of a drug rehabilitation facility in Davao del Norte February 24. He bewailed, "Naay mayor ug mga syudad. Ang usa diha ig-agaw ni Drilon, si Mayor Mabilog sa Iloilo City, ug daghan pa (The list also contains names of city mayors. One of them is Drilon's cousin, Mayor Mabilog of Iloilo City, and many others)."
I personally don't believe that Mabilog is engaged in business or protection racket of illegal drugs.
Mabilog's enemies may have used his "friendship" with suspected drug pusher Jingjing Espinosa, a barangay councilman, as the basis to include his name in the so-called "Duterlist" that contains the names of mayors, governors, policemen, judges, lawyers, and showbiz personalities allegedly involved in narco-politics.
Many times in the past the president erred in mentioning some names and their affiliations. The president once erroneously announced that Mabilog is the "cousin" of slain drug lord Melvin "Boyet" Odicta.
Mr. Duterte was probably referring to Drilon, but mistakenly mentioned Odicta's name.
Espinosa, grandson of former Rep. Pascualing Espinosa Sr., reportedly became Mabilog's political ally when the city mayor upset the late former Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez in the May 2010 mayoral contest.
There were fears that Gonzalez hired the services of priest killer Norberto Manero during the campaign period.
Espinosa, who is now back in Iloilo jail for an old frustrated homicide case, was reportedly seen as an effective antidote to neutralize any threat that may have been posed by Manero a.k.a. Kumander Bukay.
But after Mabilog secured reelection wins over Rommel Ynion in 2013 and Dr. Gold Gonzalez in 2016, Espinosa was still reportedly visible in Mabilog's camp even if Manero was no longer around.