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Abuse of power

The Mabilog administration will go down in history as the most abusive and corrupt set of officials to set foot on the Iloilo City Hall.

There is no better illustration of this abuse and corruption than the use of government resources to advance the personal interests of those holding powerful positions.

Take the case of the government’s housing program to provide opportunities for the poor to build their own homes. Like most cities in the country, Iloilo City has a huge backlog for cheap and affordable housing for the poor. The city government has procured land to be developed as relocation sites for them. The available land is not enough to accommodate qualified beneficiaries.

But the Mabilog administration has taken liberty in stealing the limited slots for relocation site housing lots and using them to pamper its few favored people. Jepoy Celiz is one such pampered employee.

Despite the fact that he is gainfully employed as “political liaison officer” of Jed Patrick Mabilog, Celiz was awarded three — THREE — choice lots in Project 3 of the Sooc Relocation Site in the Arevalo-Mandurriao. The Project 3 relocation site was developed with funding from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to resettle poor families who were uprooted from their shanties along riverbanks and clear the waterways for the flood control project.

Celiz never lived along the riverbanks. He is not poor, at least by the standards of the thousands of poor who have to scratch the ground for survival. He basks in the power and glory of the City Mayor’s Office. But why was he awarded three lots? Isn’t that a deprivation of opportunities intended for the poor? In plain and simple language, isn’t that stealing from the poor?

Mabilog’s political propaganda officer Jepoy Celiz relaxing in front of his house in Project 3, Sooc Relocation Site. Celiz was awarded three lots in a project intended for the poor and homeless.

 

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Unexplained wealth

At the center of the ongoing impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona is the issue of “unexplained wealth” which is considered a cardinal sin among public officials and employees. Public office is a public trust, and that principle is the foundation for the strict prohibition on those holding public office in using their clout to amass wealth. It’s not that public office is a vow of poverty; but it should not be exploited to enrich oneself.

That’s the reason our lawmakers have enacted numerous laws to punish public officials and employees who amass wealth far beyond, or manifestly out of proportion to, their salaries and legal income. Foremost of these laws are Republic Act No. 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, and Republic Act No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. There is also Republic Act No. 1379 which lays down the elements for the crime of unexplained wealth.

The chief instrument for making sure this prohibition is strictly enforced is a two-page document called the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth, or SALN for short. For about a month now, the SALN has become a familiar term in everyday conversation in the country, what with the alleged failure of Corona to disclose the true magnitude of his wealth, and negligence in filling out the blank spaces properly in accordance with law. It’s only now that public officials and employees have appreciated the gravity of the failure to disclose their assets, liabilities and net worth.

This document isn’t just about accounting for one’s wealth. It’s also about being honest and faithful to one’s oath of office. The responsible official or employee takes an oath before a competent administering officer, usually the head of office or a notary public, that everything that he/she disclosed in the document are true and correct. Hence, telling a lie is not taken lightly. It is classified as an act of dishonesty and perjury, which by themselves are punishable by dismissal or removal from office.

Last week, I filed a second complaint for unexplained wealth, dishonesty and perjury against City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog for the rapid increase in his declared wealth in a matter of three years. In that short period, between 2007 and 2010, Mabilog reported that his net worth grew by P26.6 million. From P44.5 million in 2004, Mabilog’s net worth rose to P71.1 million by the end of December 31, 2010. That wealth includes a fleet of expensive cars/SUVs, residential properties and investments.

The law states that the amassed wealth must be “manifestly out of proportion to his salary and legal income.” Mabilog reported a salary of P564,743 for the year 2010. But he declared that he has other income and that of his wife, Ma. Victoria Griengo-Mabilog. In the space “Annual Gross Family Income”, Mabilog wrote P8,400,000. That means this is the total income he and his wife derived from salaries, bonuses, interest income, and business income before taxes. My undergraduate degree is accounting, so I know that this amount is subject to taxes. It is also the source for daily living expenses.

This is the basis for laying down the premise for “manifestly out of proportion” to his salaries and other legal income. The BIR will take away about 40% of this amount as the couple’s income taxes for the year. That’s about P3.4 million, and leaves him P5 million. Like any family man, he has to pay the bills, buy groceries, pay tuition at school, travel abroad and entertain. A conservative estimate of his living expenses would be P200,000 a month, or P2.4 million a year. Hence, the net amount left for investments is P2.6 million.

Let’s assume he plowed back every centavo of that P2.6 million into investments. In three years, that’s only P7.8 million. There’s a wide chasm between P26.6 million and P7.8 million. Under the law, Mabilog will have to explain the sources of his wealth. The existence of his declared wealth which is manifestly out of proportion to his legal income is deemed prima facie evidence of unexplained wealth. Mabilog has the burden of proof that he acquired his wealth from legitimate endeavors.

The “unexplained wealth” portion is only part of Mabilog’s problem. His SALN betrays instances of dishonesty and perjury. For instance, he reported in his 2007 SALN that he purchase a second residential property in Canada for P30 million. There could be no mistaking about it. He wrote that amount for the columns “acquisition cost” and “current market value.” In his 2010 SALN, Mabilog deflated the figure for acquisition cost for this same property and put the amount of P14.5 million. That’s more than one-half of what he originally disclosed. The purpose is obvious: he wanted to disguise the true magnitude of his amassed wealth.

Mabilog also bought a Lexus luxury vehicle sometime in 2009. But he did not reflect the year it was acquired in his 2010 SALN. He also lied about its acquisition cost; he claimed to have bought it only for P1.5 million. Any car enthusiast will tell you that the price range for the Lexus line of cars and SUVs is between P2 million to P5 million. Even if it was at the lowest level, Mabilog still committed dishonesty and perjury.

Mabilog bought a Dodge Durango SUV at about the same time. He didn’t disclose the date of its acquisition. He also lied about its acquisition cost by reporting only P600,000 in that column. A Dodge Durango costs no less than P2 million. The car-lover in Mabilog shaved off P1.4 million from the value of his Dodge Durango, again for the purpose of hiding his true net worth.

This is a case where the evidence is the very document that Mabilog filed to disclose his assets, liabilities and net worth. He can’t possibly question the authenticity of the SALNs because these came from the Office of the Ombudsman. His only recourse is endeavor to explain how such wealth came into being from legitimate sources, and not illicit activities.

Mabilog has tried to downplay this complaint. But this complaint is no joking matter. The Ombudsman is mandated by RA 3019 to place him under preventive suspension indefinitely once the investigation is commenced. It is not discretionary on the part of the Ombudsman.

 

The rise and fall of Jepoy Celiz (Part II)

The vehemence with which Jeffrey Celiz reacted to my Facebook page post about his being stripped of the role as official spokesman of City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog reveals how sensitive he feels about the issue. I was told that Celiz used more than half an hour during his block-time program to deny the report and insisted he remains the mouth piece of Mabilog. It’s his way of telling the people how much Mabilog trusts him.
Celiz claims Lucy Montealto-Sinay, a former reporter who is now with the Public Information Office of City Hall, was indeed designated as spokesperson. But Celiz quickly added that Ms. Sinay is merely his deputy. He boasted to the whole world that his function hasn’t been diminished. Reliable sources in City Hall the story being peddled by Celiz isn’t accurate. (Indeed, since when was Celiz known for telling the truth?) Mabilog had told Ms. Sinay that henceforth she would be performing that critical job.
One thing is clear, though. Celiz is now being talked about in the past tense. Mabilog amended his directive and recognized Celiz as “still” a spokesman, but indicated that it will be Ms. Sinay who will talk in his behalf “most of the time”. It’s not really surprising because Mabilog has no backbone. He changes decisions as often as three times a day. He can’t afford to antagonize the likes of Celiz, who doesn’t hesitate to employ blackmail to preserve his hold on power. Mabilog can’t risk getting @adoboilonggo to turn its guns against him.
As I stated previously, the rapid downfall of Celiz was not surprising. At the outset, he had misled Mabilog into believing that his partnership with @adoboilonggo will tear down the rising tide of negative reporting about his incompetent leadership. He also fooled Mabilog into believing he can use his experience as a street protestor to sway public opinion to the side of the city mayor. Mabilog was a perfect victim for Celiz’s false claims. The city mayor gave too much weight to the “red” label that was attached to Celiz. He must have found it exciting.
What Mabilog didn’t know was that Celiz was a rotten apple in the first place. His credibility was fully eroded; no less than his own former comrades have disowned him. He was disciplined for “f.o.”, or financial opportunism, when he allegedly misappropriated funds of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) for his personal use. According to retired Air Force colonel Oscar Lasangue, former chief of the AFP Civil Relations Service for Visayas, “money is Celiz’s biggest weakness.” The guy simply couldn’t resist dipping his fingers into the cookie jar each time the opportunity arose.
As we have seen, Celiz is all fury and no substance. Time and again, Celiz demonstrated his inability to deflect issues with sound reasoning and reiteration of the facts. Celiz knew only one method to deal with issues: attack the messenger and forget about the message. He proceeded from the standpoint that he can stir up and murk and confuse the public. But that isn’t the role of a spokesman. His main responsibility was to drive home the message of his principal, Mabilog.
Instead of helping steer the public discussion to show the side of Mabilog, Celiz threw muck at the mayor’s critics. He forgot to deal squarely with the issues and let them hang in the air. It was a mistake for Celiz to believe that the public is gullible to his non-sense arguments. As time went on, Mabilog’s image started to sag, a fact that quickly became apparent to the city mayor’s advisers and friends. Mabilog was soon swamped with complaints from his own supporters about the negative effect of Celiz’s activities to his popularity.
Celiz is fortunate that Mabilog is afraid of his loose tongue. Mabilog is living in a world of secrets, and the last thing he needs is having Celiz join the chorus of his detractors. He has to placate Celiz for the meantime while giving him less power. According to sources, Ms. Sinay is now authorized to issue statements in behalf of the city mayor. She is not a deputy of Celiz as the latter would like to portray. She reports directly to Mabilog.
I will not be surprised if poison text messages will again emerge in the media circles to discredit Ms. Sinay. This is the standard weapon of Celiz with the help of Ms. Sinadya sa Suba who goes by the cover of @adoboilonggo, and the plagiarist at the capitol as back-up. Celiz is afraid to fall from his perch. But it’s too late for that. Mabilog has made up his mind about Celiz. His usefulness for the city mayor is over. He failed to deliver on his promises. Worse, he only succeeded into pulling Mabilog deeper into the mire.
It would be interesting to see what the future holds for Celiz. He lost his passport to riches. He is afraid and he is angry. In retrospect, he has no one else to blame but himself. He allowed his head to swell and became arrogant and abusive. He made enemies within Mabilog’s inner circle and turned the city mayor into a sitting duck for the media. Now he has nowhere to go.

The rise and fall of Jepoy Celiz (Part I)

It ended almost as abruptly as it began. Jeffrey Celiz, former “post boy of the left” as a female journalist described him, swiftly rose to prominence when City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog designated him as official spokesman about half a year ago. Last Friday, Celiz plummeted to the ground, facing a future in obscurity, after Mabilog replaced him with Lucy Montealto-Sinay.

The move represents a dramatic turn in Mabilog’s communications strategy. Celiz was combative; Ms. Sinay is calm and unassuming. Insults and foul language constituted the armory of Celiz; Ms. Sinay will stick to facts and figures. Celiz behaved like he was the assistant city mayor, overshadowing a host of senior officials in City Hall. Ms. Sinay knows her place in the organization. Celiz was used to intimidation, and liked to give people the dagger look, often using his past association with the NPA to frighten enemies. Ms. Sinay will use charm and persuasion.

Celiz fell with a loud thud. Within minutes of Celiz’s being stripped of the job, word spread like wildfire through text messages in the local media community that the loud-mouth had been plastered. Celiz was no longer spokesman. Mabilog has had enough of his foul language. The city mayor realized that instead of helping clarify issues, his erstwhile spokesman only served to deepen the controversies. Rather than fend off charges and serve as lightning rod, Celiz succeeded in antagonizing more people and turned believers into non-believers.

Now that we can talk of the imbecile in the past tense, let’s examine what happened in clinical fashion and understand why Celiz fell as quickly as he rose. His case is instructive to those who might join this business of communications.

No leader can shrug off communications as an important component of his or her leadership strategy. It is the leaders link to his or her followers. A leader must keep in mind that success depends largely on the support from the masses.

CREDIBILITY. The first flaw we found in Celiz was the lack of credibility. From day one, he was a monster — a Frankenstein — who spewed tons and tons of words without delivering an iota of truth. Who could possibly believe him? Only a few years ago, Celiz screamed in condemnation against corruption. All of a sudden, he was trying to defend corruption. His role as spokesman and defender of the throne was a big anomaly. He was ill-suited for the job. And his style underwent no change; it was tailor-fit for the “protest and condemn” mode.

Even the language used by Celiz was not appropriate for the role as spokesman. He forgot that he was an alter ego of his principal, Mabilog. By firing off expletives, curses, insults and the like, he was painting an ugly picture of Mabilog. His language became the language of Mabilog.

As a result, businessmen and citizens who had supported Mabilog were shocked and terrified. How could they support a leader who was cloaked in scandal and used profane language? Celiz didn’t realize he was no longer in the streets. When he joined City Hall, he should have undergone a personality change. His manners and language should have turned from coarse to refined.

ARROGANCE. It was Lord Acton who said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. The phrase aptly describes what happened to Celiz when he was given that brief opportunity to walk in the corridors of power. If there is one word that best applies to Celiz, “arrogance” would be it.

In the one-half year that he performed the role as official spokesman of the city mayor, Celiz oozed with arrogance. His actions smacked of abuse of power. He harassed people. He assaulted the mayor’s enemies verbally and through the “adobo ilonggo” blogs that he maintained with the “lin-ay sang sinadya sa suba”. He usurped authority and stepped on the toes of his own co-workers in the Iloilo City Hall. He loved power and he wasn’t shy about it.

In a way, Celiz became a victim of his own making. Celiz spent a great deal of time concocting schemes to undermine his rivals for Mabilog’s attention. One antic he liked to do was to create issues about his co-workers in City Hall and feed these to media. When radio commentators bring up such issues on their programs and start hitting Mabilog, Celiz would quickly call them up and deflect the issues against his boss. This way, his co-workers looked bad to Mabilog and he would be the “hero”.

Among those he stabbed in the back were City Administrator Norlito Bautista, Senior Special Assistant Victor Facultad and erstwhile media liaison officer Richard “Boboy” Sombero. He also liked to spread falsehood about radio and newspaper personalities who dared make negative comments about Mabilog. He often posted unsavory blog comments about certain media personalities being on the payroll of Rommel S. Ynion. He was a master of black propaganda.

What he didn’t figure was the ability of his rivals in City Hall to hit back at him. Stupidity is a trademark of Celiz, and his enemies in the Mabilog inner circle were quick to point them out to the city mayor. They found allies in the business sector, especially the Filipino-Chinese, who found Celiz’s tactics to be self-defeating. It reached a point that Mabilog could no longer stomach the blunders and misdeeds of Celiz. On Friday, he was told he was no longer official spokesman.

Unmasking Jepoy Celiz

Over the last several months, Jeffrey Celiz, who was known for his vitriolic tirades against corruption and abuses in government, had spent most of his waking hours spewing fire and mud and scum at almost anybody who dared criticize his boss, City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog. I am number one in the hit list of Celiz, who projects himself as the “poster boy of the leftist movement”, and he has also organized a group on social media to wage a black propaganda campaign against Mabilog’s critics.

I have refrained from answering back at Celiz in like manner. In a public debate, there is no hitting below the belt. I adhere to the rule that only issues must be tackled, even though the Mabilog-Celiz vilification campaign has felt at liberty to drag innocent people into the fray. Their operational objective is “hurt as many people, even by-standers, to discourage critics from pursuing inquisitive endeavors”. Even small children are not spared. Families and friends of their targets are attacked as well. In a big way, they operate like the Al Qaeda. They are the worst online terrorists.

Recently, I have been approached by long-time friends who felt the truth about Jepoy Celiz should now be exposed. A lot of people in the community are aghast at the way he spews bile and filth on the airlanes, with total disregard for the broadcast code of ethics. His language is often inappropriate, and his penchant for evading the real issue has irritated even businessmen who were sympathetic to Mabilog. For many people, he is the biggest threat to decency in communications. These friends have fed me with information about Celiz.

I have confirmed that Celiz is a fake communist. He is only trying to project himself, and sound like one, to be a passionate communist who wants to fight the ills of society. It is a cover that he picked from his past to shield Mabilog from the scandals that have erupted all around him in the city government of Iloilo. With this label, he hoped to mislead the public into believing Mabilog could not possibly be guilty of crimes which are anathema to the communist ideal. Corruption is a mortal sin in the eyes of CPP/NDF/NPA.

No less than a high-ranking leader of the CPP/NDF/NPA in Panay island conveyed this message to me through emissaries. “Wala na ina siya koneksyon sa hublag (He is no longer connected to the movement),” I was told. In fact, I was told that during a reunion of former NPA rebels and activists in Ibajay, Aklan, where the body of former NPA leader Warren Calizo was laid in state, Celiz became the butt of jokes. “From extreme left to extreme right,” was how one former leftist activist put it. Celiz has sold his principles, which isn’t really unexpected considering his own misdemeanors that led to his expulsion from the Party.

Celiz didn’t leave the left on his own volition, my sources said. Sometime in 2006, Celiz was caught pilfering funds of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) which he headed then. This is an offense known as “F.O.”, or financial opportunism. As punishment, Celiz was stripped of his position as Bayan-Panay secretary general and sent to the mountains of central Panay for “re-orientation”. After a while, he was dispatched to Samar to prove himself worthy of his Party membership. The hard life in the boondocks of Samar made him realize he wasn’t cut to be a revolutionary. He was “all fury, but no substance”.

Celiz fled. He didn’t resign, as there is no such thing in the underground movement. He hid, begging then Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez to protect him. When the leadership of the CPP/NDF/NPA learned about his cowardly act, he was expelled. There was no glory or honor in what he did. He was a disgrace to the movement.

Ultimately, Celiz was provided with employment by then City Mayor Jerry P. Trenas. It was part of the refuge provided to him by Gonzalez. As fate would put it, Mabilog defeated Gonzalez for the mayorship, and Celiz was handed over to the new mayor. A glib talker, Celiz got the mayor to make him right-hand man. He sweet-talked Mabilog into making him spokesman.

As part of his compensation package, Celiz was awarded a lot at the Sooc, Mandurriao relocation site, which is supposed to be earmarked only for dislocated families as a result of the flood control project and other government infrastructure in the city. Lots in relocation sites are hard to get, even for indigent families who have been uprooted from their old homes. But for Celiz, it was a matter of privilege. Never mind that more deserving families were deprived of relocation lots; what was important to him was reward for his blind loyalty to Mabilog.

Celiz is indeed privileged. Mabilog didn’t give him just one lot. He got two. The other lot was awarded to his mother-in-law.

Definitely, Celiz could not possibly be qualified for a relocation lot. He is gainfully employed. He wasn’t affected by the flood control project. He and his family live in Tanza Timawa, Molo. In fact, his wife, who is also a job-hire worker in the city government, is a barangay kagawad. The award of this lot in Sooc, Mandurriao is an anomaly that the Jepoy Celiz of the old Bayan days would have denounced.

In this light, it is easy to understand the ferociousness with which Celiz carries out his job as Doberman attack dog for Mabilog. He is well-fed with bones through crooked and irregular means by his master. He has no choice but to defend his master even though he knows about the massive corruption in City Hall. He is compelled to tell packs of lies, knowing he could never justify the wrongdoings. Otherwise, the bones could be taken back from him.