An act of cowardice and stupidity


As a legislative body, the Iloilo City Sangguniang has earned the notoriety of being an expensive rubber stamp. Because of the nature of its work, the city council is supposed to be a deliberative body. Its members debate and vote on measures that will redound to the good of the people. Its members are voted into office to contribute their knowledge and experience in crafting good laws. It has consistently defaulted on that role.

Since 2010, when the incumbent city mayor, Jed Patrick E. Mabilog, assumed office, the city council has turned from a body of independent minds and collective wisdom into nothing more than a bunch of yes-men and -women. That’s because Mabilog has mastered the art of bribing the councilors with a few exceptions. Always, he had the majority under his complete control.

And this ugly image of the city council reared its head again earlier this week when eight members of the city council abstained when three resolutions were put before them in the wake of the failed break-in at the Aksyon Radyo Iloilo premises.

The first resolution condemned the failed attempt to forcibly enter the premises of the radio station. The other two called for congressional investigation into the incident while a third asked for an investigation into the alleged involvement of Jesus “Jing Jing” Espinosa Jr., a barangay councilman of Barangay Monica, City Proper.

The resolutions were pushed by councilors Joshua Alim and Plaridel Nava.

The first resolution condemning the assault passed. But the majority councilors beholden to Mabilog balked at approving the other two.

These councilors could not downright vote “no” to reject the resolution. They still had a little shame left in them to reject the measure. But they knew that for the resolutions to pass, it needed the approval of the majority of the members present.

In a display of demented creativity, the councilors voted to abstain. As a result, the measures failed to pass.

For me the action of these eight councilors are a display of cowardice and stupidity.

They could not even summon the courage to frontally reject the resolutions. They wanted to make it appear they were non-committal to either affirmative or negative vote, which is what a vote to abstain implies. Indecisive they were not; they only tried to avoid outright public scorn and anger by avoiding a “no” vote.

A legislator who doesn’t take a position on any issue is unworthy to be called one. He or she loses the right to be called “Honorable”. If he or she is afraid to vote one way or another, then he or she is wasting the people’s money. These eight councilors are a shame to society.

A little over a year ago, these councilors voted almost unanimously to pass a resolution declaring me “persona non grata” for supposedly causing shame and humiliation to the City of Iloilo after I exposed the anomalies in the Iloilo Convention Center project.

Only Councilor R Leone Gerochi abstained.

It was clear the councilors voted on a straight path on whatever is told them by the city mayor.

Now they refused to adopt a resolution calling on Congress to conduct a full-blown investigation into the existence of illegal drug syndicates in Iloilo City.

Their reason? They didn’t want the issue to become a major conflagration that might devour Iloilo City in shame and public outrage.

Just how stupid can these councilors get?

Did they expect that by withholding their approval, they could hide the ugly fact that drug lords wield tremendous power over Iloilo City? What happened was quite the contrary. The issue blew up not only on the national stage, but even drew international attention. It unmasked Iloilo City as a haven for drug lords, where the city mayor, congressman and councilors are friendly to them. It put the PNP and PDEA under a heavy cloud of doubt for failure to put these drug lords in their proper places — behind bars.

I have long been disappointed with the city council for its role in sanctioning the misdeeds of Mabilog. It’s not really as if I expected a miracle and see its members display independence of mind (although Alim and Nava have since taken a different tack) and courage to confront the executive on anomalous transactions. But what these eight councilors did last Tuesday really made me angry.

I just hope the ugly truth about the lousy brand of governance of these councilors become apparent to everybody. Iloilo City deserves top-quality leadership. For five years now, we have been forced to swallow the mediocrity and lack of principles of our legislators. If corruption has become so massive in Iloilo City, they are to be blamed. If drug lords bully the media, they also share in the blame.

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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