Trenas: Joe III is still welcome to team up

Even as all indications point to an ultimate showdown with his own brother-in-law for the mayorship of Iloilo City in the May 13, 2019 local elections, Cong. Jerry P. Trenas continues to hope that City Mayor Joe Espinosa III will “be guided by the Holy Spirit” and realize that their unity will enable them to sustain the gains of the last eight years.

In an interview Friday night (June 29), Trenas explained that his decision to return to the political arena after announcing his retirement in December 2016 came after the dismissal of then City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog late last year. “The equation suddenly changed, and the triumvirate that enjoyed the series of political victories had a missing leg,” Trenas said.JPT interview Maayong Gab-i Iloilo

Trenas said the circumstances was different at the time he made the announcement.

“I wanted to preserve the unity of our group, and since my third term as congressman was ending in 2019, there was no place for me to go, as the positions that will be vacant are City Mayor and Congressman. Our plan was to field Jed as congressman and Joe III as city mayor,” Trenas said.

The wives of Trenas and Espinosa are sisters.

But the unexpected dismissal of Mabilog as city mayor in October 2017 changed the picture. He felt there was a need for him to return to the political arena as City Mayor while Joe III can make the move to the congressional seat he was vacating.

“There’s now a place for both of us,” he said.

Trenas brushed aside accusations that he had broken his word. If Mabilog was not dismissed, he would have stuck to his commitment as he did not want to destroy the unity of their group, he said.

Right now, Trenas said he is still holding off a decision to pick who will run as congressman under his ticket to give time for Espinosa to change his mind and reconcile.

Two former city councilors, Lex Tupas and Jamjam Baronda, have signified their interest in running for the House with him.

Trenas said he has asked the two to keep going around the city to meet with local leaders and gain their trust and confidence. If Joe III doesn’t change his mind, then he will pick from one of the two, he said.

A family feud

Is the rift between City Mayor Joe III Espinosa and Congressman Jerry Trenas real?
Until now there are still doubts as to how deep this quarrel is, especially after executive assistants identified with Trenas were asked to step down from their posts last week.
Even I wasn’t so sure, knowing how far back the relationship between Joe III and JPT is. Both went into politics together, and nothing has come between them. Well, until recently.
It seems JPT has misjudged Joe III.
All these years, Joe III has played the role of loyal political lieutenant, just contented with whatever role his “bilas” gave him.
In 2010, JPT and Joe III, along with Jed Patrick Mabilog, formed the backbone of the political juggernaut that seemed destined to rule Iloilo City for a considerably long time.
But even as early as 2013, the question was where would Joe III go after JPT and Jed finished their third term in 2019.
A rigodon was expected to take place in 2019 with JPT and Jed switching positions, with Jerry reclaiming the city mayor position and Jed taking over as congressman.
A solution suddenly arose last year when JPT announced he was quitting politics. This removed a potential conflict because Joe III could then run for city mayor and Jed to become congressman.
Everything seemed headed for a smooth transition for the “Uswang, Sulong and Arangka” team.
Then, Jed was dismissed from public office based on two cases I had filed a few years ago.
With JPT no longer in the running as he declared, and Mabilog out for good, the coast was clear for Joe III to take.
He was now City Mayor, and he started planning for his eventual election to the position to which he succeeded. The game plan looked so simple. With JPT backing him up, Joe III seemed to have the position as City Mayor on a silver platter.
What the public didn’t know was that the relationship between the two in-laws was starting to deteriorate. Despite their affinity — their wives are sisters — JPT and Joe III haven’t communicated with each other for quite some time now.
Perhaps JPT regarded Joe III as the political lightweight who depended on him for his continued survival and thought the new mayor would just obey his every command.
Joe III must have felt he deserved some respect. After all, he was now the City Mayor. He was no longer the “sidekick” who just followed what the boss dictated as to his political future.
(To be continued)

Iloilo City politicians BFF of Jing Jing Espinosa

SALAMAT MAYOR MABILOG AND CONGRESSMAN TRENAS from Jacob NO Fear Espinosa on Slide.ly.

Watchdog slams corruption in Dungon Bridge project

It was bad enough that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) demolished the Dungon Bridge even though its structural condition was still good for the overpriced cost of P36 million. What made it worse was that the “matuwid na daan” government of President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III spent an additional P17 million to “widen” it into a four-lane bridge when modern technology could do the job at a cheaper cost.

Rick B. Ramos, executive director of the Citizens Infrastructure  Integrity Watchdog (InfraWatch), said there are several existing bridge projects in the country that utilized the metal plate connector technology to increase the vehicle handling capacity from two- to four-lanes. Among these is the Soro Soro Bridge in Binan, Laguna which was also implemented by the DPWH.

 

The Dungon Bridge was reopened to vehicular traffic two months ago after a public uproar over its delayed completion. When Ilonggos started using it again, they were aghast to discover that the four-lane design that cost them P53 million all in all had not been completed. The roadway on the bridge remained two lanes, with their money already down the drain.

The Dungon Bridge project was pushed by Iloilo City Representative Jerry P. Trenas with help from Senator Franklin Drilon, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. The money for the project came from “savings” of the DPWH, unexpended funds that were scooped from several completed projects to raise a total of P53 million. It was also Drilon who allocated the P65 million to buy the P7 million San Isidro relocation site for the urban poor.

Ramos said the P31.4 million, which later rose to P36 million, for the original contract of the Dungon Bridge project was excessive by itself. He reiterated that the bridge was still in good condition, and it would have been enough for DPWH to reinforce its columns, girders and abutments for more secure structure. But Ramos disclosed that a two-lane bridge project in Negros Occidental completed only last April cost only P21 million. Its length is almost the same as Dungon Bridge.

Ramos had written to DPWH secretary Rogelio Singson, who is always being praised as the paragon of transparency and honesty, about the Dungon Bridge last August 13. But his complaint has been ignored. Philippine Star columnist Boo Chanco wrote about the Dungon Bridge on Sept. 3 based on the Ramos letter. Singson never bothered to respond to him. In a Tweet on Wednesday, @boochanco said Singson has adopted a “deadma”, or indifference, stance towards criticism like this.

Culture of Impunity (Part II)

Much of what is going wrong in this country can be attributed to our failure to punish those who have committed grave crimes against its people. There is no justice when powerful officials can just steal money right under our noses and whistle their way to the bank. And we can’t expect ordinary crimes to be solved when the big, pestering corruption cases remain unresolved.

These are the basic principles that need to be underscored as we tackle the issue of corruption in Iloilo City, particularly those involving its highest elected officials like Rep. Jerry P. Trenas and Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog. We will never get anywhere for as long as these corruption cases taunt our justice system. It will never restore public confidence in our government.

Worse, these public officials are getting bolder and bolder and bolder each time.

This is what we have witnessed with the secret transaction that Mabilog made with F. F. Cruz and Co./Freyssinet Filipinas Inc. Joint Venture for the supplementary works contract worth P260 million to complete the new Iloilo City Hall building. Until now, City Hall hasn’t disclosed much after reporters covering the City Hall asked questions about the work resumption at the scandal-ridden project.

Is this the transparency in governance that Mabilog boasted about? Was the contract a result of “open, competitive public bidding” that Mabilog announced last June? Is the city government trying to scale down its proposed expenditures on the overpriced project so that more funds can be channeled to other vital services and programs in the city?

Of course, the answer can only be “no”.

Mabilog is shrugging off these questions. For him, he can do as he pleases, even contrary to what the Commission on Audit has advised him, about the project. For him, he is the City Mayor, and he can ignore the mandate of Republic Act No. 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act, which clearly set down the rule that all government procurements, with a few exceptions, must be done through public bidding.

It’s not hard to understand why Mabilog feels this way. He feels secure and protected by the culture of impunity that has taken root in our community. He has seen that his predecessor, Trenas, hasn’t been indicted before the Sandiganbayan after all these years. He will only need to apply thick make-up to turn his face into pachyderm. No shame. No guilt. No remorse.

This attitude reflects the contradictions in what Mabilog preaches, and what he does. He put up the HALIGI Foundation at the start of his political career purportedly to espouse an “honest and accountable living for a graft-free Iloilo”. Is this just a camouflage for his true intentions? Or was he just swallowed by the monstrous jaws of corruption? Nothing about his actions during the first 16 months in office suggest he wants to get rid of corruption. On the contrary, he looks to me like a young man in a hurry to steal millions and millions from the public coffers.

I am hoping the COA will stand its ground on the issue of the lack of public bidding. The first contract for the City Hall project is already fraught with irregularities. Right now, the vigilant media seems unable to stop these corrupt-filled activities. Trenas has hunkered down in the trenches, keeping himself hidden from the issues, with not a word to explain his past actions. Mabilog is sticking as close as possible to the model set by Trenas, looking almost like a clone.

Much is expected of COA to redeem its image. In the past, COA was a toothless tiger, utterly helpless in the fight against corruption, because those involved were too powerful to be hailed to the Ombudsman. Now is the time to prove that it has shed its old image and be a strong watchdog against corruption.

When our officials are not afraid of the repercussions of their actions, then our community has a serious problem on our hands. We hope this culture of impunity is banished from Iloilo, for we can never truly become progressive with such festering issues swirling in our community.

Meanwhile, our readers can count on us to remain vigilant against corruption.

Culture of impunity (Part I)

The main focus in the war against corruption has been fixed on national scandals. That’s probably because there have been so many gargantuan transactions that leave the ordinary citizen trying to figure out how much has been stolen. In terms of magnitude, a number of scandals that have erupted in Iloilo City could equal, or even surpass, the corruption on the national level.

Number one on the list is the Pavia housing project anomaly. Here’s a project where more than P130 million have gone to waste, with not a single housing unit being completed and used for the purpose of providing affordable shelter to ordinary City Hall employees. It’s not exactly a ghost project, but the dilapidated structures that still stand on the city-owned property in Pavia stand as silent, mute witnesses to this slaughter of decency and honesty in governance.

So far, after six long years, nobody has been formally charged before the Sandiganbayan. The Ombudsman handed down a resolution a year ago that found probable cause against former City Mayor Mansueto Malabor and several other respondents. But no Information has been filed before the Sandiganbayan which is the next step in the judicial process. Without an Information, there is legally no judicial case. No warrants of arrest can be issued.

Strangely, one of the key players in the Pavia housing anomaly, Iloilo City congressman Jerry P. Trenas, was spared in that resolution. The allegations against him have been pushed back to the Field Investigation Office (FIO) of the Ombudsman for “further review and investigation”. After a year, the reinvestigation does not appear to have moved an inch. In fact, there is grave danger it might altogether vanish into thin air.

Number two on the list is the P63.2-million purchase by the city government under then City Mayor Trenas of a 16.2-hectare agricultural land in Barangay San Isidro, Jaro in January 2006. The transaction was fraught with irregularities, and it was only last July when Trenas was finally charged before the Ombudsman for his indispensable participation in the massive anomaly. This is a classic case of an overpriced purchase in which public officials conspired to make it happen.

As documents show, the property had an assessed value of only P330,480. The fair market value, which is the estimated price it will fetch in the real estate market, was placed at P2.7 million. There was nothing about the property that would have made it attractive. Having dabbled in the real estate business myself, I’d estimate the property could have reasonable been sold at P85 per square meter. The whole deal could have been sealed at P13.8 million with the seller feeling satisfied at having obtained a good price.

But Trenas didn’t play his part as a diligent public official. Because of his position, he was supposed to exercise prudence in how he spent the people’s money. He should have endeavored to strike a good bargain. Aside from big property developers, only government can really afford to buy wide tracts of land.

In the case of private developers, that San Isidro property wouldn’t even have warranted a second look. Its location wasn’t suitable for a housing development. It was far from the nearest road, there was no electricity, and there was no water. That factor alone was enough to depress its price.

Trenas ignored all these considerations. Instead of trying to haggle for a much lower price, he agreed to a buying price of P392 per square meter. This is the selling price for raw land properties in areas close to the main highways like Mandurriao, where existing subdivisions make them more saleable to customers once developed.

What Trenas did was manipulate the paperwork to justify buying the property at that stiff price. That is a betrayal of his oath of office. It was a crime against the people. Based on the circumstances, we can safely assume what the motivation for Trenas was: kickback.

Number three on the list is the City Hall project.

I will discuss the details of this big anomaly in my next column. But let me just say that our city officials, past and present, have become bolder and bolder in their schemes to rip off the public treasury. And the only reason that happened is because nobody got punished even if caught. This is the classic description of a culture of impunity having taken root in a society.

Maybe these anomalies failed to capture the people’s imaginations because they’re not yet in the billions of pesos. The peso amount is not the point. It’s the degree by which huge portions of public funds earmarked for projects are stolen. In Pavia, we don’t even have a single house to justify the expenditure and loss of P130 million. In the San Isidro project, the overprice might just be in the vicinity of P50 million, but that represents 80 percent of the budget.

In the past, kickbacks were measured only in the 10-12 percent level of the project cost. Nowadays, it is commonplace to see half of the project cost going to corruption. That’s indeed unfortunate, and it can only happen because of this culture of impunity. (To be continued)

Iloilo City a ‘headache’ for COA

 

The Iloilo City government has allowed millions of pesos in unliquidated cash advances to remain in the hands of disbursing officers during the Trenas administration, which is considered a failing mark in the area of fiscal administration, the Commission on Audit (COA) reported in its 2010 annual audit report.

At the same time, the Trenas administration ignored Republic Act No. 9184 by procuring goods, infrastructure and consulting services valued at P32.9 million despite the absence of a Project Procurement Management Plan and Annual Procurement Plan, the same report said.

And the city government has registered poor performance in carrying out COA audit recommendations to strengthen fiscal administration, managing to implement only two such recommendations out of 17. Eight were partially implemented while seven were never put into effect, the COA AAR said.

The highlights of this COA report show a city government that was poorly managed and opened the doors for corrupt practices to flourish during the incumbency of Jerry P. Trenas as local chief executive, Iloilo Press Club president Rommel S. Ynion said.

“When a local government routinely ignores COA findings and brazenly violates the law in pursuing its projects and projects, then we have a serious problem in our hands,” Ynion, who is also Publisher of The News Today (TNT), said.

Ynion said the six-page Executive Summary of the COA report devoted 90% of its content to negative findings about the city government operations for the year ending December 31, 2009.

“We can’t allow a situation like this to continue,” he said. He will be filing a complaint before the Ombudsman to put Trenas, as local chief executive during that period, to task and hold him accountable, he added.

The COA report also discovered that the city allowed P24.2 million in trust fund accounts with the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) to remain dormant, which placed the LGU at risk of having to pay bank charges for dormant accounts and could jeopardize the implementation of vital projects and programs.

The COA report painted a discouraging picture of a “rudderless” city government in which “a mutinous crew did whatever they pleased with the captain of the ship not minding at all,” he said.

The failure, or outright refusal, of the city government to implement the COA recommendations for previous years worsened the situation, he added.

“The Trenas administration treated the COA like a rag,” he said.

Ynion said this COA report reinforces his belief that corruption became deeply-rooted in the city government during the Trenas years and “reached its pinnacle with the bidding for the seven-story city hall project.”

“This is very unfortunate,” he said. “The city leadership literally cultivated a culture of corruption that resulted in the biggest scandal in our community,” he added.

Ynion said the COA cannot be allowed to become a “toothless tiger” that is not respected by public officials.

If COA cannot enforce its own findings and recommendations, then he will seek the intervention of the Ombudsman to make sure the public interest is protected, he said.

Ynion has been in the forefront in exposing the alleged anomalies in the bidding and construction of the new City Hall project.

He has accused Trenas and Mabilog of defrauding the people in prosecuting what he described as a “grossly-overpriced contract worth P368 million” just for the structural shell of the building.

At that price, the construction cost of the building is P26,000 per square meter, which is already the upper limit of the industry standards for a complete medium-rise structure, he said.

“It’s like saying we are buying a Kia Pride car for the price of a Mercedes Benz,” he said.

Ynion said that he is also a contractor and he knows the business well.

The City Hall plot thickens

After being absent from the active media community for more than a decade, I felt a little unsure about pursuing the story on the controversial City Hall project as an investigative project for The News Today. But there were telltale signs all over the place that shouted “anomalous”, and the journalist in my blood made it hard to resist this assignment for the sake of uncovering the truth. That after all, is what journalism is all about — digging for the facts to tell the truth.

At first, I had to start slow, knowing that my prolonged absence due to my stint as Provincial Administrator caused some rust to develop. But a network of contacts I had built from way back when I was a radio anchorman of DYOK 720 (now better known as Aksyon Radyo Iloilo) and editor-in-chief of The Daily Times was intact. In journalism, sources are your most valuable assets, and it pays to have reliable sources almost everywhere.

My Capitol experience helped tremendously, because it provided a deep understanding of how things work in a local government, particularly in the Bids and Awards Committee. A good investigator steps off with leads. Without a lead, an investigator can walk in circles and not find anything. In this case, the leads were like red flags; it didn’t take me long to pursue the story with relative ease despite the maze which engulfed the whole project. And it helped to have Google do the searching for me.

By Thursday, I had struck a gold mine. I found the document that is the key to the anomalies that have rocked the entire project. When the City Hall project broke ground in February 2010, everybody basked in optimism and enthusiasm that at long last, a first-class city like Iloilo City will finally build a home that will be its pride and the seat from which it could deliver vital services to constituents.

It was a project that had taken long in coming. There were a number of false starts, and even after the city had obtained a loan from Land Bank of the Philippines, the project still get off the ground. Ultimately, the project cost was pegged at P455 million, and everybody was filled with anticipation when the public bidding was finally held, and the contract awarded to F.F. Cruz and Co. Inc/Freyssinet Filipinas Joint Venture. The price tag for the project had gone down to P368 million, which was the bid submitted by FFCCI/FF JV.

Great — that’s how almost everybody reacted at learning that the bid price was P87 million lower than the approved agency estimate. Even Rep. Jerry P. Trenas, who was still the incumbent City Mayor at the time of the bidding, beamed with pride that the city government enjoyed a “savings” of P87 million! Indeed, nobody could argue with a “bagsak-presyo” in the contract price. That’s almost 20% of the AAE, and represents a more than substantial drop in the budgeted cost of the City Hall.

Unfortunately, that bubble of a boast is about to burst. And Trenas will have to explain why his administration carved out almost all the innards of a functional building (1 of 2 elevators, water pump system, generator set, transformer, electrical wiring and data cabling, air-conditioning equipment, among others) just before the participating bidders dropped their proposals. The scopes of work that were stripped away are what the building lacks to become fully operational and ready for occupancy once finished.

I’m sorry to say this, but Trenas misled his constituents when he exclaimed, “we even have a big savings” on the project. He knew that a substantial portion of the project cost had been removed. And yet he made it appear the winning bidder made a dive on the price to the advantage of Iloilo City. That deceit is now causing more problems for the City Hall project; his successor, Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, is now stuck with even more controversies after he tried to pad the cost estimates.

Sadly, nobody seems able to provide satisfactory answers to questions about the project. I guess this will have to be the job of the Office of the Ombudsman, with assistance from the Commission on Audit. They will have to scrutinize the bid documents for the original contract and determine the costing for the deleted scopes of work. This will then have to be checked with the bill of quantities for the original contract. What is it that is being constructed now? What are the scopes of work? What is the cost for each scope of work? These are nasty questions, but they have to be propounded to shed light on the entire scandal.

It is apparent some quarters wanted to make lots of money from the project from the way it was mutilated. The constituents of Iloilo City were cheated and defrauded. I feel sad because Mabilog and Trenas are friends. More than that, we are political allies. There is glaring evidence of wrongdoing, however, and I will be reneging on my obligation as a journalist if I just closed my eyes.

‘Self-liquidating’

I read and re-read the statement of City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog trying to justify his actions on the proposed P294-million revision and furnishing plan to make the New City Hall ready for occupancy on Aug. 25, 2011. Pardon me, but instead of being enlightened, I only succeeded in getting more confused. That’s because Mabilog fails to explain satisfactorily why he intends to spend lavishly — P294 million is grossly lavish — to finish the New City Hall. The amount shocks the sensibilities of many people.

There is only issue that Mabilog should confront: why is it that he wants to spend nearly four times the estimated budget for the completion of the City Hall? The Trenas administration had approved a bill of estimates to provide all the items necessary to make the City Hall functional and comfortable, and it only reached P56 million. Included in this bill of estimates is the P5.66 million for a cafeteria, for which Mabilog now wants to raise to a mind-boggling P15.6 million! I’m sorry to say, there can be no justification for this kind of spending.

Most of the items that Mabilog listed are already contained in the Trenas bill of estimates. However, he simply added the term “upgraded” to each item and increased the proposed expenditures by no less than 100 percent for each. He wants four elevators instead of two. He wants to spend P9 million for solar panels that will energize his office. And the most shocking of all, he wants to spend P55 million for office furnitures. With six floors of working space (only six because he wants to turn the ground floor into rental space), that would translate to almost P9.16 million for each floor. On top of that, he is asking for P10 million to furnish the executive offices!

I have no quarrel with the Mayor’s contention that the City Hall must be made functional and comfortable. But I have to remind him this is not Makati Shangrila that he is building. I’ve talked to architects and they all tell me a budget of P1 million PER floor for office furniture is more than enough. I am certain it will not make a difference in the performance of officials and employees if they worked on P3,500 office tables or P25,000 office tables. Mabilog makes the mistake of equating grandiose furnishings with work performance.

Finally, Mabilog attempts to deceive his constituents into believing that the City Hall will be “self-liquidating” in the sense that it will derive rental income from its ground floor. He should be reminded that the seat of government will cost a total of P720 million under his proposed spending plan. Does he have an idea how much rental income the city government can expect from the ground floor? P1 million a year? P2 million a year? If it’s the latter, then he will need more than 300 years to fully recover the investment.

That idea of offering the ground floor as rental space is ill-advised. It is not a mall; it is a public service building. Convenience to the general public is a prime consideration, and the ground floor must be reserved for the public services that caters to the most number of people. The City Treasurer’s Office tax collection booths deserve to be there. So, too, is the office for health and senior citizens. Unfortunately, Mabilog kicked them upstairs to make way for banks and other tenants.

Let me just state that this is unsolicited advice. It’s up to him to give my thoughts consideration or simply ignore them. But the biggest mistake he could make is attribute these criticisms to a lack of understanding on the part of the general public, or even insinuate that politics is the motivation. Mabilog can’t afford to forever shroud himself with the idea that he can make no mistakes.

Leadership quagmire

With only four months left before a self-imposed deadline to finish the seven-story Iloilo City Hall is reached, City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog is encountering heavy turbulence over how he plans to borrow an additional P260 million to make the seat of government “comfortable” and “impressive”.

Already, allegations of overpricing and extravagance are shaking his 1st year in office and exposes many weaknesses in the way Mabilog is running the city government. The controversy is even becoming a quagmire for his leadership; his feet is stuck in the mire, and the more he moves and talks, finds himself sinking deeper and deeper.

As a political ally, I’m writing this to provide an objective analysis on where the problems lie, and the potential damage it can do to Mabilog if he fails to act quickly enough to discard bad management practices. It’s unsolicited advice that can also enlighten to the general public what the real issues are.

First, the issue of ovepricing and extravagance are valid. And Mabilog would do best to avoid trying to justify his P294 million shopping list for the completion of the City Hall. It’s is plainly too much, scandalous in fact to the ordinary mind. One doesn’t need to be an architect or engineer to understand this. This amount would bring the total cost of the City Hall to about P720 million. That’s three-quarters of a billion pesos!

Mabilog makes the mistake of using the city’s “net borrowing capacity”, which is a formula adopted by the Department of Finance to determine the limit to how much an LGU can borrow to bankroll its development projects, to justify the plan to get an additional loan from Land Bank for his grandiose plan. Well, it’s not about whether the city government can afford to pay for the loan. It’s about how he plans to spend public funds.

There is a basic rule in government projects: simplicity. The City Hall as a structure might be magnificent and imposing, but its facilities and interiors must adhere to standards of simplicity and functionality. I saw his proposed revisions and I was appalled at the bloated figures for certain items. For instance, his modular furnitures and fixtures for the seven-story structure would cost P55 million! By any standards, that is horrendous! The office furniture doesn’t need to be expensive. Perhaps a general budget of P1 million per floor would be reasonable, or a total of P7 million. But definitely not P55 million!

It is also hard to understand what kind of cafeteria Mabilog wants to build for the officials and employees of the city government. His plan estimates the cafeteria to cost P15.66 million. This is strange because then City Mayor, now Rep. Jerry P. Trenas, had already approved a plan to build a cafeteria for P5.66 million. Where will the additional P10 million go? Does he realize how many classrooms that kind of money can build? And he just wants to waste it on a cafeteria?

The problem with Mabilog is that he shoots from the hip. He acts on impulse, and he can’t seem to hold to a decision longer than eight hours. More often than not, he can turn about face on an issue three or four times in as many number of days. Perhaps Mabilog wants to get out of the “I’ll study it” mold of his predecessor. But his fickle-mindedness is his biggest enemy. His own allies are now aghast at his inability to keep his word.

It doesn’t end there. Mabilog seems to think he can “explain” his way out of any situation. He has a tendency to talk lengthily to justify his stand on issues. Unfortunately, it only aggravates his problems. By talking too much, he exposes his flank and gives his enemies a bigger target. He makes statements that are contradictory to his own position. He coins words and phrases that are irrelevant to the issue, and even downright ridiculous. Last night, for example, he said there is no need for a new bidding for the completion phase of City Hall. “It’s considered a continuing bidding,” he said. Where in hell did he pick that term?

Mabilog’s handling of the City Hall issue has weakened his image. It didn’t help that he created an image of weak leadership in how he behaved during the row over the Barbeque Park of Edward Yee. His actions are starting to make friends and allies frustrated. There’s a general feeling of “failed expectations” especially because he harped on demonstrating strong political will as a trademark for his administration.