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What? Only one Iloilo City barangay captain in PDEA/DILG narcolist?

The disclosure made by the DILG and PDEA of the 207 barangay officials involved in illegal drugs left many Ilonggos shaking their heads in disbelief. That’s because the three most prominent barangay captains linked to the illegal drugs trade are not on the list. Only one — Barangay Captain Gemma Calzado of Kasing-kasing, Molo — was included in the list. All in all, the DILG and PDEA listed only 90 barangay captains from all over the country as being involved in illegal drugs, either as protectors or in the illicit trade itself.

What happened to Remia Prevendido-Gregori of Bakhaw, Dabing Espinosa of Monica-Blumentritt and Noemi Hablo of Desamparados? To this date, Barangay Bakhaw continues to be the hotbed of the illegal drugs trade in Iloilo City. Gregori is the sister of the slain drug group leader Richard Prevendido. Her son, Bonifacio, is in jail for being a drug dealer.

Dabing Espinosa is the wife of Jing Jing Espinosa, reputed to be the right-hand man of Melvin “Boyet” Odicta who was gunned down with his wife, Miriam, at the Caticlan port in Malay, Aklan on August 29, 2016. His house was raided by the police in October 2016; drugs and firearms were found in his house. Surprisingly, no charges were filed against Dabing despite the fact that the house is conjugal, and she was the incumbent barangay captain. Jing Jing surrendered to the court the next month to start serving an 8-year prison sentence for a crime he had committed several years ago.

Noemi Hablo had even admitted having undergone drug rehabilitation. Her late husband, Rusty, was a known illegal drugs dealer in Iloilo City.

Has the narcolist been sanitized? The DILG and PDEA could lose their credibility with this white-washed narcolist. It will put the drug war of President Rodrigo Duterte under a cloud of doubt. It raises the possibility that the President is being sabotaged by his own people.

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Family feud Part 3

There are as yet no signs that the strained relationship between brothers-in-law (their wives are sisters) Iloilo City Mayor Joe Espinosa III and Congressman Jerry P. Treñas over their political plans for 2019.

While both politicians seem to have turn down the volume on the dispute, each side is trying to consolidate their forces by going down to the barangay level and talk with the leaders.

Two days ago, Espinosa met with barangay captains in the Jaro district over coffee. A few days before, Espinosa had also scheduled a meeting with barangay captains from Mandurriao. However, the meeting had to scrapped at the last minute when the city mayor got wind of their plans to snub his invitation. This morning, it was the turn of barangay captains from Lapaz to sit down with Joe III for coffee.

Based on information I have gathered, these meetings put a lot of pressure on the barangay captains. Many didn’t want to appear disloyal to Trenas by joining the city mayor for coffee. My contacts told me the meetings didn’t dwell on politics. Joe III deliberately steered the discussion away from politics.

Trenas also went on his own sorties down to the barangay level, meeting with officials, senior citizens and other leaders. The congressman is now serving a 90-day preventive suspension handed down by the Sandiganbayan in connection with alleged violation of COA rules and regulations in the disbursement of funds to the Iloilo Press Club more than 10 years ago. He’s got plenty of time to go around.

From the looks of it, Trenas enjoys the upperhand if barangay captains and kagawads are concerned. Those who did attend the coffee chats with Joe III wanted to tell the city mayor that they want to see the brothers-in-law patching up their differences and run together as they have in the past — Jerry as city mayor, and Joe III as congressman. However, not a single one of them was able to do that, according to my sources. Joe III did not allow them to talk about the possible showdown in 2019.

What is intriguing about this deteriorating relationship between Jerry and Joe III is the possible cause of it all: sibling rivalry. Their wives are sisters. I think it was Novie Guazo of RMN 774 who insinuated that this is becoming a battle of first ladies. It’s obvious much will depend on how the sisters — Rosalie (wife of Jerry) and Gina (wife of Joe III) — navigate this turbulent sea of local politics.