A heap of lies and deceit (Part 2)


Coffeebreak

When Jed Patrick Mabilog assumed office as City Mayor on June 30, 2010, he was filled with excitement and enthusiasm at being the first local chief executive to preside over the affairs of the LGU from his perch on the 7th floor — the top floor — of the new Iloilo City Hall building.

The project had broken ground in February 2010, or shortly before the May 10, 2010 elections, and he looked forward to moving into the new building by August 25 this year when the city commemorates its charter day anniversary. Hence, Mabilog was surprised to find out that the P368-million contract awarded to FF Cruz and Co./Freyssinet Filipinas Joint Venture only covered the “shell structure” of the building.

Apparently, Mabilog kept his puzzlement to himself. He was afraid to confront his predecessor, former City Mayor, and now Congressman, Jerry P. Trenas. And instead of trying to expose the glaring irregularity, he set into motion his own scheme to fleece the project by padding the cost estimates for the completion of the building.

First, it was just a cover-up. It didn’t take long before a nefarious plan was hatched to defraud the taxpayers of Iloilo City by as much as P300 million from this single project and deliver an exorbitantly-priced P710-million City Hall.

But the timely objections raised by the Iloilo media, notably Iloilo Press Club president Rommel S. Ynion, appears to have stopped the second phase of the unending robbery in broad daylight. With the Commission on Audit making known its disapproval of the plan to award the second contract to FFCCI/FF JV through negotiated procurement, the Mabilog is now sounding the retreat bugle to avoid being mired in a messy corruption case.

Will Mabilog’s withdrawal from his grand scheme extricate him from corruption charges? My answer is “no”. The gravity of his offenses might be mitigated, but he will find it hard to get out of the quicksand. The conspiracy theory is plastered all over the place, like “post-it” notes on every square inch of a wall. As the Revised Penal Code puts it, “the act of one is the act of all.” The cover-up is what will drag Mabilog down in this mess, even though the “consummated crimes” happened in the previous administration.

Mabilog can’t feign ignorance or disavow any participation. The mere fact that he didn’t squeal the moment he discovered that it wasn’t a finished City Hall that’s being built ties him to the anomaly. The anti-graft and corrupt practices act punishes both “sins of commission” and “sins of omission”.

It’s the city’s great misfortune to see its major infrastructure projects mired in anomalies and scandals. The Pavia housing project mess has resulted in over P150 million in losses — vanished into thin air — for the city. Nobody has yet been prosecuted for this scam. There’s hardly a big transaction involving the city government that’s not tainted with scandal. The purchases of relocation sites are notorious for overpricing and not-so-hidden commissions. And now the City Hall project is caught in a big storm of controversy.

What’s more surprising is that deafening silence from local leaders regarding this scandal. It’s as if nothing is happening. People are treating this like an ordinary traffic accident. Only the media is taking up the cudgels. What’s worse, the officials involved are keeping quiet, and have even launched a black propaganda campaign against journalists pursuing the story.

I can sense that the general public is watching the issue closely. They are not inclined to march in the streets just yet. They want to hear the side of Mabilog and Trenas. Well, the media, too, wants to get the side of media. But as things are going, that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. It’s obvious they are hunkering down deep in their trenches, praying the storm would soon leave, and the situation will return to normal.

The COA and the Ombudsman should be taking notes as the controversy rages. What I have been reporting on are based on statements from knowledgeable experts based on their understanding of the law, and the available facts. The media is providing them the leads; all they need to do is pursue those leads using the vast powers of their agencies.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

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