Damage control

(Coffeebreak, December 14, 2015)

The spin machinery of City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog went on overdrive mode last week in the days before the Senate committees on media and public order. It had a single mission: to contain the rapidly growing fireball that the issue on narco-politics had become, and protect Mabilog from being knocked off his feet.

For the first time in his five-year tenure as City Mayor, Mabilog was walloped so hard that he wobbled on his feet. A knock-out punch was ripe for delivery. Mabilog was interviewed by a panel of Bombo Radyo anchors; a half-page ad was published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. His mouthpiece, Jeffrey Celiz, was constantly over the airwaves attacking Councilor Plaridel Nava.

Mabilog was lucky the elections are still a good five months away. Had this inquiry happened two weeks before the elections, Mabilog could have been swept off his office by a tsunami of public opinion against him. He was exposed as a coddler of drug lords, a local chief executive who was too soft on illegal drugs. His lies were too obvious. Not even his claims of outstanding performance as city mayor could varnish the truth.

It was obvious Mabilog was in panic mode. He was afraid he might not survive this scandal.  This was apparent in his facial expression during the public hearing at the Iloilo Capitol session hall last Thursday. He was so gripped by fear that he even apologized to Aksyon Radyo Iloilo station manager John Paul Tia and offered the hand of friendship.

The question now is whether the opposition could exploit the situation to push Mabilog off his seat. The herculean effort at damage control could not be underestimated.

Mabilog has mastered the art of lying. He may have shuddered violently with the public disclosure of his pictures with Jing Jing Espinosa during  the hearing. But it’s not enough. Mabilog could squeeze his way out of the trap.

That’s because the full force of the scandal might dissipate as quickly as it exploded; the opposition needs to work hard to keep the flames ablaze. And from what I have seen, the opposition seems to be letting an upset victory slip through its fingers.

The issue of narco-politics is very much valid against Mabilog. For five years, he let these characters now thrust into the national limelight operate freely in Iloilo City. As early as November 2012, I wrote several blog articles about his closeness with Jing Jing Espinosa, who is widely known as the lieutenant of one drug lord known as “Dragon”. It has since come out publicly that “Dragon” is one and the same person as Melvin “Boyet” Odicta Sr.

During the Senate hearing, Mabilog tried to make it appear he was always visiting Barangay Monica as part of his constituency work, that he wasn’t aware about the notoriety of Espinosa as a lieutenant of Odicta. But why is it that in pictures published on Facebook, he was always seated or walking beside Jing Jing? He is not the barangay captain of the barangay; his wife is. It is clear from these pictures that Jing Jing was his host, and Mabilog was enjoying every moment with him.

Will the people allow themselves to be deceived by Mabilog’s outrageous lies? The city mayor wasn’t even apologetic about being seen with Jing Jing in pictures posted on Facebook. There was a time when he justified it by saying he didn’t ask his friends to present NBI clearances to him, and that Jing Jing wasn’t convicted of drug trafficking. Such arrogance underscores Mabilog’s refusal to look at Jing Jing in a negative light. He values the latter’s friendship.

Now that he is on damage control mode, Mabilog has promised that he will work hard to eliminate the illegal drugs problem. It’s not hard to see through the veneer of insincerity. The city mayor even sounded as if it pained him to have to throw the force of law against his bosom friends.

I just hope the opposition finds the energy to press the issue hard. The people now understand the issue I had been raising against Mabilog’s closeness with known drug personalities is true. Mabilog will use everything in his power to douse the big fireball.

The media is doing its part of informing the public, but we need political leaders, acting with courage and conviction, to drive home the point.

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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