Monday, October 30, 2017

How I met Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog

"A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves."
--Lao Tzu

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY -- I first met Dr. Jed Patrick Mabilog in the early part of  2003 when he was introduced to me by Councilor Armand Parcon, my kumpare and former media colleague, in the ground floor coffeeshop of Robinson's Mall in Iloilo City.
I was standing when Parcon approached me and quipped, "Pre, I would like to introduce my friend, Jed Patrick Mabilog. He is from Molo (district). He can be a good material for city councilor. Let's help him."
Behind Parcon was a neatly dressed and pompadoured man with a soft voice. "Hi, kumusta? Ako gali si Jed (Hi, how are you? My name is Jed)," he enthused. We shook hands and talked briefly.
I was then active with the World Boxing Foundation (WBF) thus I wasn't able to fulfill Councilor Parcon's request for his friend other than asking my family to vote for Mabilog for city councilor.


It became moot and academic though as Mabilog, big boss of HALIGI Foundation, ran and won for city councilor in the general elections the following year, May 10, 2004.
From 2004 until 2007 when Mabilog completed his term in the city council, we never met again.
Our second meeting was in the candidates forum sponsored by Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo during the campaign period for the May 14, 2007 general elections.
I was one of the moderators in a "live" debate between vice mayoral candidates Jed Patrick Mabilog and Winston Porras, former chief of staff of Vice Mayor Victor Facultad.
Brilliant and quick-witted, Mabilog routed Porras, who happened to be my friend way back in the 90's when Porras was legislative staff of then Councilor Victor Facultad and I was writing speeches for the late Councilor Eduardo Laczi and then Councilor Jose "Joe III" Espinosa III (now the new Iloilo City mayor).
From 2007 until 2010 when Mabilog finished his term as vice mayor, I never met him again since that "live" radio debate.
Months before the May 10, 2010 elections, Mabilog, who became my Facebook friend, asked my opinion in a private message about his plan to run for city mayor against then Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez.


I received Mabilog's message while I was in Vancouver. I was totally unaware of what was going on in Philippine politics; I monitored only the news on the Internet.
The late Secretary Gonzalez and I never had a spat even if he sued our former colleague in Sun.Star, Nelson Robles, for "unjust vexation" over a series of blind items in 1996 when Gonzalez was congressman in the city's lone district.
I answered Mabilog in the affirmative even if I doubted his chances against Iloilo City's hitherto political Goliath, famous for tormenting his adversaries with the nerve-tingling "I will make life difficult for you" remark.
I missed the Mabilog-Gonzalez rivalry as a media practitioner; I missed the biggest election upset in the history of Iloilo City: underdog Mabilog clobbered the most powerful cabinet official of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo by a big margin.
Mabilog closed the Facebook account he was using before being elected as Iloilo City mayor (he opened another FB accounts thereafter), thus I couldn't send a message to congratulate David.


During the years that Mabilog was mayor for three consecutive terms until his "dismissal" recently, I was most of the time outside the Philippines.
I am probably the only Iloilo journalist who has never set foot in the new Iloilo City Hall until today (I was president of the Iloilo City Hall Press Corps for two terms--1998-1999 during the time of Mayor Mansueto Malabor).
I finally met Mabilog again and sat beside him in the cable TV show hosted by Vicente "Danny Baby" Foz at Buto't Balat Restaurant in Iloilo City three days before the May 13, 2013 elections when I was in the Philippines.
It was the height of Mabilog's quarrel with former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada, the man who filed the case against the city mayor in the Ombudsman that resulted in his ouster.
It was only our third physical meeting since the day Councilor Parcon introduced me to the man who would become the most abused and most harassed city mayor in the world.
I will probably meet Mabilog, an innocent man and great Ilonggo leader, again when he become congressman in 2019.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Joe III's 'benefit' from Mabilog's ouster

"Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed."
--Mao Zedong

By Alex P. Vidal

-- Political enemies of "dismissed" Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog have been warned that the latter's "early" exit from the city hall may not be favorable if they aspire to run for Mabilog's position in 2019.
If Mabilog is ousted this early, his political enemies can no longer take potshots at Mabilog's faults--real or imagined.
There will be no more "Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog" who will absorb their brickbats and admonishment.
As challengers, they need someone in power to blame for every mess in government. Someone in power must look bad so that the challengers will look good. Politics 101.
One sure way to score pogi points to the electorate.
In order to gain momentum and stay afloat in the scramble for publicity, politicians must squabble. Every animosity becomes news. Every news is publicity.
Publicity quickly helps the ascension of any aspiring politician to power.


To stay in the possible winning column, politicians or aspiring candidates, for that matter, must make a noise--a lot of noise; in fact, if the elections are decided through name-recall like the Philippines' decrepit system.
In Mabilog's absence, they will have no choice but aim their guns at the accidental villain, acting Mayor Jose "Joe III" Espinosa III.
Challengers need to stir the hornet's nest and act like do-gooders from time to time to get public attention.
But what if Joe III will reign like Marcus Aurelius and herald Iloilo City to its own version of Pax Romana?
What if Joe III will help catapult Iloilo City in the totem pole of greatness in the remaining 19 months (granting that Mabilog can't secure a Temporary Restraining Order from the Court of Appeals against the Ombudsman's decision to dismiss him) as acting city mayor?


At this early, Joe III has been showing exhilarating signs of infallibility.
He now talks less and his best press releases have become his own performances and increasing public visibility.
Joe III, a shoo-in candidate in 2019, has refused to say a word about Mabilog's predicament like his chief political Maharishi, Rep. Jerry P. Trenas.
Like a stoic, Joe III is on a roll and manages the affairs of the city from the board room to the villages' inner purlieus.
If they bash fizzy Joe III merely to attract media attention, the electorate will easily get the message right: the bashers are going gung-ho at all costs to malign a performer.
Everything will boomerang.
Instead of sending a fresh face to the city mayor's office in 2019, they will have to agonize watching Joe III being given a fresh and unadulterated mandate as newly elected city mayor.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Mabilog can still win the political 'championship'

"To err is human. To blame someone else is politics."
--Hubert H. Humphrey

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY -- I will bet my last centavo.
Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog will wrap up the political "championship" after the smoke has been cleared.
The latest Ombudsman verdict dismissing him "for failing to explain an increase in his wealth of nearly P9 million within a year" could not be considered yet as a KO defeat.
Since it can still be appealed (and there are strong chances it will be reversed if not nipped in the bud by the higher courts), it could be treated only as a knockdown.
In boxing, Mabilog had been knocked down; but he was not knocked out!
If he can survive the mandatory eight count, blooded and bruised Mabilog can still pummel his foe like Joe Louis, who reversed the KO lost to Max Schmeling in a brutal world heavyweight championship revenge in 1938.


The Russians have written off Bobby Fischer when the American genius forfeited his first two games in favor of defending world chess champion Borris Spassky in Reykjavik in 1972.
An edge of two points in a chess title clash was considered then as "quivalent to wrapping up the title."
Alas, when the smoke was cleared, Fischer toppled Spassky, 12.5-8.5, and ended the era of Russian dominance in chess.
In throwing the books on Mabilog, graft investigator Rachel Cariaga-Farila stressed, to wit: “Simply, his (Mabilog) failure to properly account or explain his sources of income establishes the presence of malicious intent to conceal the truth, causing grave prejudice to the government in the amount of P8,981,082.52,” read part of the Ombudsman decision.
“Hence, respondent is found guilty of serious dishonesty and meted the supreme penalty of dismissal from the service, pursuant to Rule 10, Section 46 (A) of the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service."
Take note that Mabilog's fault was his "failure" to account for the increase of his wealth.
It's a technical matter that should be tackled by his legal team led by spokesman, Atty. Mark Piad, during the appeal.


His "guilt" was not based on overwhelming evidence of actual "stealing" of taxpayers money like in the case of certain fraudulent government projects were taxpayers' money was deliberately stolen by corrupt public officials through rigged biddings, substandard deliveries, ghost projects, and under-the-table deals.
In other words, there's no solid proof showing that Mabilog enriched himself in office by stealing the people's money.
There's wisdom in the judicial process though, and it's too premature to write off Mabilog politically.
He could still survive this legal setback if he goes to the Court of Appeals and, if necessary, in the Supreme Court.
Mabilog can still bounce back from a series of misfortunes that recently turned his world upside down, and spring back to political life with a fire and brimstone like Achilles, who killed Trojan hero Hector outside the gates of Troy, before being shot in the heel by Paris.
Sympathetic Ilonggos who have seen him and his family agonize over trumped up charges and false allegations these past months will have the final say during election time.
Never underestimate a wounded tiger.


We don't fault the Ombudsman. We don't fault former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada for filing the complaint against Mabilog in the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman was only doing its job. Mejorada, like any Filipino citizen, has the right to file a complaint against any public official.
Every public servant, including Mabilog, should be open to formal complaints in relation to his job as a public official; and undergo the legal process like the one undertaken by Ombudsman on Mabilog or any elected and appointed public official in the Philippines for that matter.
We have the court to decide on the matter.
This is how democracy works.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

911 call makes Fil-Am poll looks like carnival of thugs

"In war, truth is the first casualty."

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY -- Was the 911 call necessary?
When feuding officials of the Philippine Independence Day Parade, Inc. (PIDCI) could not agree on who should be hustled off and who should remain in the polling place, there was no need to call the cops and interrupt the proceedings.
Those involved in the election of PIDCI's new set of officers on October 7 were adults and professionals, not kindergarten pupils, thieves, thugs, pagans or nincompoops.
In the first place, why proceed with the election if there was a fundamental flaw in the system: the unmatched and squalid membership list?
And was the 911 call not an insult on the authority of Philippine Consul-General and PIDCI honorary chair Tess Dizon-De Vega, the highest Philippine official in th event?


Dizon-De Vega was in full command and authority over anyone else present; and the police had no business to gatecrash an affair participated by consulate personnel unless their services or help were solicited like what a losing candidate for the board did when he dialed 911 after the Comelec had ordered a membership watchman ejected from the polling venue.
The cops could only interfere if somebody had been mugged or manhandled; if someone had collapsed as a result of an act of violence, ailment, or natural calamity.
We dial 911 if there are near-death crises--flood, fire, hostage-taking incident, vehicular mishap, collapsed building, among other violent scenarios.
Not because one party in an election did not agree with its rivals in assignment of personnel; not because an alleged election fraud was taking place.


When we dial 911, so many people are caught flat-footed, piqued in suspended terror, and are inconvenienced.
Drivers and commuters are delayed in a traffic jam; ambulance, patrol car, and a firetruck wheeze off frighteningly in busy intersections like a whirlwind, risking the life and limbs of everyone in the vicinity.
Only to find out when they arrived that a punk had been ousted from the election venue after emotions skyrocketed.

No blood. No injury. No fatality. Only forlorn faces of hot heads and disgruntled lackeys.
That 911 call was uncalled for and unnecessary.
It made the PIDCI election look like an assembly of hooligans or a carnival of thugs.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

NY Pinoy 'leaders' fight like kids in election

"You have to knock doors, make calls, and build a relationship with voters long before Election Day."
--Keith Ellison

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY -- I have seen these abnormal behaviors of our community leaders in the past not only in New York and California, but also in Canada.
Where can you find an election of supposed Filipino community leaders in a foreign land where police had to be requested to interfere and help defuse a tension?
Only among Filipinos, of course.
So much noise. So much hullabaloo. So much controversy.
"They acted like kids," remarked Arnulfo San Rafael, an election observer who didn't like the way some members of the Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. (PIDCI) behaved when they elected their new set of officers in a controversy-marred poll October 7.
San Rafael noted that "it seemed nobody was willing to lose; everyone wanted to win at all cost."
The election of Antero "Ner" Martinez as the new president became one of the most controversial and, perhaps, the most raucous in the group's 27 years of existence.


Tension erupted after membership chair Ronie Mataquel was ordered removed from the polling venue on orders of Comelec chair Raul Estrellado.
Mataquel had been handpicked by outgoing president Prospero Lim to check the authenticity of the voters' signatures.
At this juncture, a losing candidate for board member reportedly called 911 but the cops could not install Mataquel back to the polling place.
Martinez beat Olivia David, 49-26. His team also nearly swept the remaining positions.
David's group, however, contested the results and accused her rival of election fraud claiming PIDCI's membership had been rigged to favor certain candidates.
Consul General Tess Dizon-De Vega, PIDCI honorary chair, nevertheless, proclaimed the winners.
She advised David and other losing parties to file their official protest after the proclamation. The con-gen also requested Martinez to resolve and prioritize the issue during his incumbency.


Elected new members of the board were Sofia Abad, Chris de Guzman, Rely Manacay, Joycelyn Aligarbes, Carmela Paredes, Mateo Reyes and Thomas Ludena. Abad was the lone survivor from David's slate.
The alleged PIDCI missing funds that reportedly reached $300,000 became the central issue during the campaign.
I earlier wrote a story about the issue and outgoing president Lim had vowed to settle the controversy after it became known to many PIDCI members.
The article, which came out before the Independence Day Parade this year, had been shrugged off by PIDCI leadership after Violeta Manarang-McGough had resigned as treasurer "for health reasons."
Lim had confirmed to this writer in an exclusive interview that the auditing of PIDCI funds, which included donations from the Department of Tourism and other business groups, "was not yet finished."
PIDCI organizes the annual Philippine Independence Day Parade on Madison Avenue.

US chess instructor eyes Mansion World Cup title

"Among a great many other things that chess teaches you is to control the initial excitement you feel when you see something that looks good. It trains you to think before grabbing and to think just as objectively when you're in trouble."
--Stanley Kubrick

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY -- Elmhurst Chess Club mainstay Gilbert Buenaflor Gonzales has warned that the entry of United States Chess Federation (USCF) National Master Tyrell Harriott, among other foreign chess masters in the final edition of the 2017 Mansion World Chess Cup Rapid Championship, might derail the chances of Pinoy players aiming for a grand slam. 
USCF Master Tyrell Harriott
"Tyrell will wipe out all our previous edition winners because he is fast and an active blitz player anywhere in New York," feared Gonzales, winner of the Cup's 13th edition.
Gonzales' concern came after tournament arbiter Rainier Labay hinted that they might invite Harriott, a Chess-in-the-Schools full-time classroom instructor, in the Cup's final leg.
"We have the best line-up among the Filipino players and I am confident that we can give the foreign players a run for their money as what they did in the past," quipped Labay, the fastest blitz player in the community.
Meanwhile, Ejhay Labuac, second placer in the 10th edition and former University of Manila champion, disagreed with Gonzales.
"I will retire (from playing chess) if Tyrell will beat us," enthused Labuac, who has played with Harriott in Steinway on several occasions.


According to the Manhattan-based Marshall Chess Club, Harriott is an active tournament player who has traveled to many countries to play chess.
"His competitive milestones include: 2nd place U2000 at The World Open in 2012, 1st place U2000 at The Continental Open in 2012, and 1st place U2100 at The Manhattan Open in 2012. Tyrell is passionate about technology and incorporates chess learning software, SMARTBoards, and online assessments into his pedagogy," the chess club reports in its website.
"I want to play in the next one," Harriott, who tots a World Chess Federation rating of 2175 (rapid) and 2197 (blitz), told Labay in a social media message.
"We will invite you next," replied Labay, who, along with FIDE Master Rico Salimbagat, is one of the highest rated Pinoy chessers now campaigning in the US.
The previous winners were: Benchly Buccat (2nd, 6th, 7th, 9th editions); Alex P. Vidal (3rd, 5th, 11th, 12th editions); Normando "Lolo Andy" Punzalan (1st and 4th editions); Gonzales (8th, 13th editions); Albert "Etik Etik" Riviera (10th edition); Thomas Hagakore (14th edition).
The Mansion World Chess Club Rapid tournament was organized in honor of Wesley So, a Cavite-born 24-year-old super-grand master now ranked No. 2 in the world, after he reached the 2017 World Chess Cup semi-finals in Tbilisi, Georgia recently.
He lost to China's GM Ding Liren, who lost to Armenia's GM Levon Aronian in the championship.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Guessing game continues for Iloilo City's 'Judas'

"A traitor is everyone who does not agree with me."
--George III of the United Kingdom

By Alex P. Vidal

Who is the Judas Escariot of Iloilo City in the Philippines?
This question has been buzzing ever since the erratic President Rodrigo R. Duterte placed both Iloilo City and Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog figuratively in the shooting range for being "the most shabulized city" and "narco-politician" respectively.
With no evidence to show to sustain his serious allegations, President Duterte had caused so much panic and confusion over his repeated attacks on the reticent city mayor that boggled the minds of the Ilonggos.
Ilonggos have been asking: Who has been feeding the president with wrongful information about Iloilo City and Mayor Mabilog? Who is the Judas Iscariot who sold Iloilo City and Mayor Mabilog for several pieces of silver to the angry and unpredictable President Duterte?


Judas Iscariot was one of the 12 original disciples of Jesus Christ and son of Simon Iscariot, according to the New Testament.
Judas was known for the kiss and betrayal of Jesus to the Sanhedrin for 30 silver coins.
In her recent Facebook account, Marivic Mabilog, the mayor's wife, posted an undated photo of President Duterte listening to a lady apparently talking across the table. Sitting beside the lady was Iloilo City Councilor Jeffrey Ganzon. Several others were also present.
"Guessing time. What do you think Jeffrey Ganzon is telling Digong about Digong's unfair comments and misconceptions of Iloilo City?" screamed the photo's caption on Mrs. Mabilog's Facebook account.
Ganzon was reported several months back to have been appointed by the President as his "point man" for Iloilo City.


Although Mrs. Mabilog did not accuse anyone of being a "Judas", the caption ostensibly was pregnant with many interpretations.
Because of bizarre events that transpired in the past few weeks that prompted Mabilog to take a leave, we can't blame the Doubting Thomases and political pessimists to make their own independent conclusions.
Based on that photo alone, however, it's premature to conclude that Ganzon is the Real McCoy in the game of political intrigues.
Even before Ganzon was given the "point man" portfolio, Duterte was already hot after Mabilog's heels after the President had falsely accused the city mayor of being the "cousin of (slain drug lord) Melvin Odicta."
Mabilog is the second cousin of opposition senator, Franklin Drilon, not Odicta.


Being one of those privileged individuals who can break bread and engage the President in a tete-a-tete on political issues and otherwise, Ganzon must have told the President about how great Iloilo City is and how efficient and competent are its elected officials.
Ganzon and President Duterte must have talked more about "other matters" and not just purely politics. That "other matters" must be something else and not about accusing someone of being engaged in protection racket and enriching himself while in political power.
As an Ilonggo elected official and son of the late illustrious former senator and three-time city mayor Rodolfo "Roding" Ganzon, Councilor Ganzon certainly can't afford to betray the city that made him and his family famous.
We're giving Councilor Ganzon the benefit of the doubt.