Mabilog is unrepentant about drug lord liaisons

The inclusion of Jed Patrick E. Mabilog among the local chief executives revealed by no less than President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte as a drug lord protector didn’t come to most Ilonggos as a surprise. It was public knowledge for the last six years. The local media has been vocal about it. One of the known drug lords, Jing Jing Espinosa, even liked to post pictures of him and Mabilog on his social media account.

Still, the announcement when it came was cataclysmic. It shook the entire Iloilo City! For those who have known about it for a long time, it was a moment of liberation, and celebration. For critics of Mabilog, it was vindication. But there are still legions of loyal political supporters of Mabilog who insisted that Mabilog is clean.

The day after President Duterte revealed the names in a midnight speech, barangay captains in Iloilo City — supposedly acting upon the instructions of Mabilog — organized a small rally to manifest their support for him. In the Iloilo City Council, Mabilog’s political allies passed a resolution expressing their unwavering support for his leadership and integrity.

In the days following the announcement, a blog post on his magnificent “White House” mansion on the banks of the Iloilo River went viral and triggered a frenzy of criticism and debate on the source of his new-found wealth. Quite a number of professionals working in the United States and Canada questioned the capability of Mrs. Ma. Victoria T. Mabilog to earn the kind of money to be able to build the mansion. The house is believed to be worth not less than P50 million.

While he was visibly stressed from the scandal that engulfed him, Mabilog reported for work on Wednesday, August 10. And the first thing he did was hold a press conference in which he talked about, among others, his friendship with Melvin Odicta and Jing Jing Espinosa, both identified by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) as drug group leaders in Iloilo City.

Mabilog press conference

Photo credit: Nestor Burgos, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Mabilog insisted there was nothing wrong with his association with Odicta and Espinosa.

He said he visited the house of Odicta during a barangay fiesta. Odicta’s brother is the barangay captain, and Mabilog said it was part of his constituency work to honor an invitation to the drug lord’s house for a fiesta. When Odicta’s mother died, Mabilog also visited the fortress-like compound to pay his respects. He consoles with constituents during their time of grief, he said, and Odicta, also known as “Dragon”, is no exception.

Far from being repentant about his closeness with Jing Jing Espinosa, Mabilog told both Iloilo and Manila media it was also part of his constituency work. Espinosa happens to be a barangay kagawad of Barangay Monica and his wife, Keith, is the barangay captain. He claims he gets invited to the barangay fiesta of Monica and other events, and he doesn’t see anything wrong going there and be photographed with Jing Jing. In a number of photographs, Mabilog is seen with Jing Jing while surrounded by heavily armed bodyguards.

But one thing that Mabilog was careful to avoid was mention he had knowledge both Odicta and Espinosa were known drug lords. The way he talked, he behaved as if the two were ordinary constituents with no known record in the illegal drugs trade. He also didn’t dwell into why he seemed to enjoy more time with them, especially in the house of Jing Jing, who is also his “kumpadre”.

Apparently, Mabilog didn’t care about the consequences of his public liaisons with known drug lords. In the past, Mabilog would often respond arrogantly to questons about his liaisons with Espinosa. There was an instance when he retorted to media, “Nonsense”, when it was suggested that his behavior was improper. Jing Jing, he said, didn’t need to submit an NBI clearance to him to become his friend.

Now that he is caught in this whirlpool of scandal, Mabilog will have nobody else to blame but himself. His problems have only been aggravated by disclosures that 21 policemen were assigned to him as bodyguards. For a city with an undermanned Police Department, the detachment of 21 policemen to secure the safety of Mabilog has drawn vicious criticism from media and the public.

It also doesn’t help Mabilog that he has lived lavishly and extravagantly. His “White House” mansion is now considered a monument of corruption. His fleet of expensive vehicles will also be taken into account as a lifestyle check is being done on him.

For many, his sudden rise to wealth couldn’t have come from legitimate income. There’s strong suspicion that the “White House” came from kickbacks and protection money from the drug lords.

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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