Besieged

It must be an excruciating period for Jed Patrick E. Mabilog to be bombarded from all sides by radio commentators and plain citizens over his clear inability to govern and keep anomalous transactions under wraps.

Mabilog has always believed that he can hide his shortcomings with a barrage of praise releases, a flood of billboards showing his photograph and attacking those who dare expose his corruption. He came to the mayorship making use of his marketing skills, and he never realized his packaging skills are not enough to carry out his job.

Being a local chief executive requires more than savvy marketing. It requires leadership and management skills. Political astuteness is an asset, but by itself is inadequate. Integrity is a big plus. Transparency, too. And, of course, scandals will only help weigh down an administration.

After a little over than two thirds in his first term, Mabilog finds himself on the hot seat. He is short on every item on the checklist. And his list of scandals have reached boiling point. His effort to deluge the city’s landscape with his heavily made-up face can’t stop the barrage of criticism.

Ordinances are routinely being unenforced. Laws are flagrantly violated without fear. Crimes are on the rise. Bodies of murder victims are littering the city’s streets. The loud cracks of cal. 45 pistols are becoming a familiar refrain. Worse, hundreds of millions of pesos in public funds are being stolen in broad daylight. Government transactions are fixed. Corruption has reached untold heights.

And where is Mabilog? Hiding. He is quivering in a corner, not knowing what to do. His pants are wet.  He is angry because the truth can’t be hidden. He is angry because people can see clearly he is incompetent and corrupt. Only his mouthpiece, Jeffrey Celiz, is trying to pepper the public with lies. The effect, naturally, is to worsen his plight.

Mabilog wants to believe this is an orchestrated effort by Rommel S. Ynion to dislodge him on May 13, 2013. That’s the problem with an individual who believes his own propaganda. He can’t even start to understand that he is the problem. These problems were his own doing. Nobody pushed him to be incompetent. Nobody pushed him to be corrupt.

As more and more Ilonggos begin to comprehend the real problem in City Hall, Mabilog can expect to barrage of criticism to step up. His woes are only being aggravated by the Commission on Audit which unmasked the anomalies in the City Hall project. The Ombudsman is also probing deep into his unexplained wealth.

Mabilog is a besieged man. Truth is working against him. His biggest enemy is himself. And nobody can help him fend the issues.

Questions for COA (Part 2)

More than two years have now gone by since the anomalous bidding was conducted by the Iloilo City government for the City Hall building project with an approved budget for the contract (ABC) of P455 million. Apparently, the contractor, F. F. Cruz and Co./Freyssinet Filipinas joint venture, had already been paid its price tag of P368 million. The Commission on Audit (COA) did not find anything wrong with the bidding process and the project implementation.

With that irregularity having been allowed to go unmolested, COA, supposedly the official watchdog against corruption and fraud in government transactions, allowed the theft of more than a hundred million pesos. It validates the perception that COA has lost its sting, a toothless tiger that can hardly murmur its protest when powerful politicians snarl at its officials. It shows that its auditors play the role of the three monkeys — hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil — to the detriment of the public interest.

But the negligence, incompetence and plain ignorance of COA auditors did not end there. In the middle of last year, City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog announced the supplementary works for the completion of the monumental anomaly would be awarded to the same contractor through negotiated procurement. In other words, the second contract wouldn’t undergo the competitive bidding process that is enshrined in Republic Act No. 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Ostensibly, Mabilog wanted no delays in the project. At that time, he had wanted the building ready for inauguration when the city government celebrated its 74th charter day anniversary. It was apparent, however, he wanted to push the contract on a silver platter so that his bloated P260 million price tag won’t be reduced in a public bidding. That supplementary contract, as confessed by the city’s own project consultant, Conrado Goco, could be finished with just P45 million. Naturally, other bidders can offer to do it for P50 million and still reap big profits.

Efficiency and cost-cutting were apparently not in Mabilog’s agenda when he pushed for the award of the supplementary contract to the same contractor. He wasn’t inclined to make sure Ilonggo taxpayers are not burdened by extravagant, unnecessary expenses by its government. The obvious motivation is maximizing the “cut”, or the “kickback”. That purpose could not be achieved if the contract is undertaken through public bidding.

It was the media that raised the issue about a negotiated contract being inapplicable, hence, illegal, for the supplementary works. This forced Mabilog to seek the counsel of the COA if indeed he could not avail of a provision in RA 9184, particularly its Implementing Rules and Regulations, that defines the circumstances under which negotiated procurement is allowable. The phrase “adjacent and contiguous” is the general standard here, but it covers only similar scopes of work.

As Atty. Quintin Magsico, an expert on the government procurement law, put it, “you have to be able to compare apple with apple in computing the unit costs” for the new contract. In this case, that was not possible, because the scopes of work were entirely different from the original contract. The first contract involved civil works, or the structure itself, and involved concrete and steel bars. The second contract involved the electrical, plumbing, firefighting, data cabling, partitions and other components for the operation of an office building. There is no basis for price comparison.

I spoke with Ms. Ofelia T. Demegillo, the audit team leader of COA, and she disclosed the agency had advised Mabilog that the supplementary works would have to undergo public bidding. Basically, she validated our observation that the supplementary works didn’t meet the standards set by RA 9184 for negotiated procurement. After that meeting with COA, Mabilog also conceded defeat. He announced a “transparent and competitive public bidding” for Phase Two of the project.

The promised public bidding, however, never happened. Mabilog deceived his own constituents. He lulled the public into believing he would follow the law. The weeks went by, and nothing was heard from him. All of a sudden, sometime in October, workers of the project contractor were back at the site and resume their construction activities. The media noticed it, and asked Mabilog. Sheepishly, he admitted the contract had been awarded to the F. F. Cruz and Co./Freyssinet Filipinas joint venture.

What happened to the COA statement that the supplementary works did not fall under the “adjacent and contiguous” category? When probed by reporters, Mabilog and his chief legal officer Atty. Jose Junio Jacela said “COA advised us it was okay to do so.” Was there a change of heart on the part of COA?

COA owes the public an explanation. It can’t keep quiet on this issue. The first contract was a huge anomaly. The second contract is not yet fully paid, hence, there’s still an opportunity for COA to stop the hemorrhage of public funds. All in all, the city has earmarked P710 million for the project. About half of that amount represents the overprice. Will the COA give its stamp of approval?

If that happens, then we might as well seek the amendment of the constitution and disband COA. The City Hall project will be a monument to its ineptness in stopping corruption.

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.

Jed Mabilog hates concept of ‘transparency’ in government transactions

Transparency in government transactions is one thing that Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog hates these days. He doesn’t want to give the public free and unhindered access to documents. Here’s a link to a short article on that:

https://www.facebook.com/notes/manuel-boy-mejorada/mabilog-shouts-no-to-transparency-in-government/205777399500489

‘University City’

City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog never gets tired of conjuring new schemes to show constituents how tirelessly he is trying to promote Iloilo City  to investors and tourists as a premiere destination. On Tuesday, I heard Aksyon Radyo Iloilo reporter May Ortega talk about Mabilog’s initiative to package the city as “university city” in the hope of attracting more foreign students to pursue their university education here. As usual, Mabilog’s latest scheme is purely air, with no substance.

Perhaps Mabilog is unaware that the city is already host to thousands of foreign students, South Koreans among them, attending school in prestigious universities here for several decades now. There is no need for him to push that image; Iloilo City’s reputation as a center for excellence in education has been existence since he was still wearing short pants. It will do little to repackage the city with that label he has in mind.

It’s time Mabilog realizes that governing Iloilo City isn’t about slogans and labels. The product can speak for itself. What the city desperately needs is honest and accountable leadership, where decisiveness and transparency are major hallmarks, and constituents are able to repose their complete trust and confidence in their leaders. Sadly, after almost one year and a half in office, Mabilog has veered off course from an ethical and moral compass in leadership, and is now navigating in the turbulent seas of scandal and corruption.

It’s also time for Mabilog to realize that as a university city, he is dealing with constituents who can easily through his not-so-brilliant schemes and crude attempts to hide his dishonesty, incompetence and lack of sincerity. Ilonggos are an intelligent people. Mabilog may have succeeded to disguising his true character in the last elections, or persuaded voters that he was the “lesser evil”, but at the rate his popularity and trust ratings are falling, even his supporters are now crying “abandon ship” to avoid being sucked deep into the ocean of corruption.

It’s time Mabilog stops treating Ilonggos as stupid and gullible who will just believe everything he peddles. So far, what we’ve seen with Mabilog are scams and frauds that speak volumes about his character flaws. Perhaps he thinks he has become a master of disguise and a Houdini escape artist who can extricate himself from tight situations. But he’s wrong. His true character is now being unmasked and exposed. At a young age, he is mired in corruption and deception, and I can’t see how he can advance another step in politics.

The deceptive and dishonest character of Mabilog is capsulized in the corporate fraud that he masterminded to abscond the P2 million financial grant of United Parcel Service (UPS) for the improvement of the English language teaching competency of public school teachers in Iloilo City.  Here is a man who deliberately deceived a generous donor to pursue a noble project and rake in P2 million! In any language, he betrayed his true identity as a scam artist masquerading as a public official. That’s the reason he is keeping quiet and steers clear of the issue. He knows there’s no way he can justify his actions.

In other cultures, such behavior would have led to his resignation as city mayor. But then, Mabilog has developed a thick hide. He has lost the sense of decency and honor. He has become insensitive to public criticism, just as he is now ignoring the cacophony of negative commentaries about how he turned the Jaro public plaza into a giant pissing ground, open-air karaoke bar and flea market for the next four months. He feels compelled to keep barangay captains in Jaro who stand to reap millions of pesos from rental income from the Jaro plaza to keep them loyal.

It doesn’t help Mabilog that he has a spokesman with a loud and foul mouth. He forgets that the behavior and language of his spokesman is a reflection of him. The public has constantly found Jeffrey Celiz to be offensive in the way he talks on radio. I won’t be surprised that many Ilonggos have changed their view from positive to negative about Mabilog just on this basis. I guess Mabilog and Celiz simply deserve each other.

The bottom line is that no amount of media hype to promote Iloilo City as “university city” will not change reality. The corruption stinks, and worse, the stench is emanating from the city mayor’s office. That is certain to become the biggest turn-off  for investors and visitors who might be interested in coming here. Propaganda, especially bad propaganda, can’t deodorize that stink.

Body of evidence (Part II)

The avalanche of documentary evidence that established the financial interests of City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog in the corporations that misappropriated, and absconded, the P2 million financial grant given by the United Parcel Services (UPS) for the improvement of English language teaching skills of public school mentors in Iloilo City apparently put him in a corner.

And the best effort his spokesman and alter ego, Jeffrey Celiz, could do was try to pull a Houdini act and show that it involved private organizations, and that no injury to the public had been caused by the swindle. This was what happened last Wednesday night when Celiz, along with HALIGI Foundation executive director Norman Tabud, engaged me in a face-off over Bombo Radyo Iloilo over this scandal.

Basically, the defenses put up by Celiz and Tabud can be summarized as follows:

  • No public funds were involved, and the transaction was between private corporations;
  • Mabilog could not be held accountable for any unethical transaction or behavior under the concept of corporations have separate and distinct juridical personalities from their individual stockholders;
  • The training program did take place; and
  • That the TESDA training school was authorized to conduct the training despite the fact its license was only for technical and vocational courses, specifically call center agent training.

Maybe Celiz fancies himself as a topnotch legal eagle in the mold of a Raymund Fortun or Estelito Mendoza or Jose Flaminiano in trying to extricate his boss from the quagmire of financial scandal. But what he has done was sink Mabilog deeper in this mess because he merely strengthened public perception that he was only trying to punch holes in an airtight case.

Let me address the defenses raised by Celiz and Tabud one by one.

First, while public funds were not involved, and the transaction was by and between private corporations, there is still the primordial public interest that’s at stake. The transactions of private corporations are not beyond the scrutiny of media and regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). And contrary to what Celiz wanted to purvey, the officers of corporations can be held accountable for any misfeasance or malfeasance.

What happened in the swindle of the UPS funds is a classic case of corporate fraud. And Mabilog, as the chief financial officer of the HALIGI Foundation, is right at the center of it. It is clear he was the mastermind of this fraud. As such, it is a legitimate public issue to be tackled in an investigative report.

Second, HALIGI’s Tabud presented volumes of documentation to prove that the training did take place, to include photographs of the participants undergoing vocational/technical training in speech labs designed for call center agents. Unfortunately, I’ve seen equally voluminous documents submitted to justify expenditure of public funds for ghost projects. Just recently, 2nd district Rep. Augusto “Boboy” Syjuco furnished me signed delivery receipts for the P3.25 million fertilizer fund scam in Alimodian as part of his counter-affidavit to my complaint before the Ombudsman.

Indeed, there might have been a training course. But it wasn’t the type that could justify the exhaustion of the P2 million UPS fund. In the first place, Panpacific Career and Management Institution wasn’t the right school for the purpose. It was basically a speech lab center where English speaking skills of those aspiring to be call center agents can be sharpened over a certain course duration. The training that was required necessitated a series of lectures in a classroom setting.

The only purpose why Mabilog made it look like there was a training course with Panpacific Career and Management Institution was to siphon the money. He needed to submit a liquidation report to UPS that was believable. And this is the reason he changed the name of Panpacific which was originally known as Panpacific Call Center and Training School. Mabilog knew it would have raised suspicions of the donor UPS. So he resorted to a disguise, a camouflage.

Lastly, Panpacific Career and Management Institution lacked the appropriate license to offer training courses other than call center agent training. Its TESDA accreditation, it must be emphasized, was only for call center agent training.

Here, Celiz propounded a wildly twisted argument. He said the Department of Education was a higher authority than TESDA for the purpose of authorizing the training. DepEd, he said, was a party to the memorandum of agreement (MOA) along with HALIGI, Victory Educational Services Inc (owner/operator of Panpacific). There’s no more need for any other authority, he said.

Does Celiz really think Ilonggos are stupid enough to believe him? I’d venture to say even the DepEd officials who were involved in this program would have cringed in shame at this kind of argument. Of course, it’s not true. All schools are subject to regulation and monitoring. And the agencies who oversee education at all levels are DepEd (for elementary and secondary), TESDA for vocational/technical, and the Commission on Higher Education (for baccalaureate and graduate programs).

Mabilog is trapped by the very arguments used by Celiz and Tabud. This transaction exposes the dishonesty nature and scheming character of this young man who happens to be the City Mayor of Iloilo City. He masterminded a big swindle that deprived our teachers of an honest-to-goodness training program that would benefit our school children. It is a most shameful display of greed and opportunism on the part of Mabilog.

UPS saw an opportunity to help; Mabilog saw an opportunity to steal.

Body of evidence, Part I

There’s no more doubt that City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog swindled the United Parcel Service of its P2 million donation to the improvement of English language teaching proficiency among public school teachers in Iloilo City. Over the last week, I’ve managed to gather incontrovertible documentary evidence to prove that Mabilog shortchanged both the donor and the supposed beneficiaries of the program —- the teachers and the school children.

This is a big scandal. It is shameful. It is tantamount to corporate fraud. And what’s worse is that it was done in the name of a noble objective of helping improve the public education system in Iloilo City. It was carried out under a disguise of promoting honest and accountable living for a graft-free Iloilo City. It betrays the true character of the man behind all these: Mabilog.

How did this happen?

Sometime in 2007, United Parcel Service, a world-wide logistics company based in Atlanta, Georgia, donated P2 million to the Honest and Accountable Living for a Graft-free Iloilo City (HALIGI) Foundation to undertake the special training of public school teachers and help them become better mentors on the English language. Apparently, English language competency improvement is a major program of UPS in its corporate social responsibility (CSR) portfolio.

Mabilog was vice mayor of the city at the time. He was also the chief financial officer (and continues to hold the position) of the HALIGI Foundation which he and his brother, Jeffrey Christian E. Mabilog, control. Jeffrey is the chairman of the board.

The financial assistance was booked in the foundation’s accounting records under the Journey Towards English Development for Mentors (JED-M). The financial reports of the foundation which were submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) show that at the end of December 31, 2007, the fund stood at P2,000,000. It must be emphasized that the financial reports submitted to SEC are audited. The income and expenses reflected therein have been certified as “true and correct”.

By the end of December 31, 2008, the JED-M fund’s balance went down to P1,452,477.64. The audited financial reports showed no specific expenditures that can explain where more than half a million pesos from the JED-M fund were utilized. The only plausible expense item that could have properly been incurred was P60,880 for stipends and allowances. I had wanted the certified public accountant who audited the financial report to clarify this point. But several calls and text messages to Mrs. Irma D. Lim went unanswered.

In 2009, the foundation went on a spending spree. It reported a deficit of P1.2 million on a year that saw P404,000 of its money going to birthday cakes for senior citizens. At the end of the year, the money for the JED-M program was gone. It disappeared from its balance sheet. Again, nothing in the items of expenditures gave any indication where the balance of P1,452,47764 at the start of the year had gone.

When I filed a report about this glaring case of a trust fund being absconded by the foundation’s officers, I asked the editors of The News Today to solicit a clarification from Norman Tabud, the foundation’s executive director. Tabud is also an executive assistant in the city mayor’s office. Tabud belied the report. He said the money was spent for the JED-M program, with Panpacific Career and Management Institution as the training center that undertook it.

Tabud said HALIGI Foundation transferred the money to the Department of Education (DepEd) Iloilo City and it was the government agency that transacted with Panpacific Career and Management Institution for the conduct of the training. I checked with DepEd; no such amount was ever transferred to the agency. I checked with Panpacific Career and Management Institution. This is where I uncovered an even bigger anomaly: a blatantly dishonest and well-disguised scheme to defraud and swindle UPS.

Perhaps it could be said the discovery of Mabilog’s financial interests in Panpacific was a product of his own panic. When he learned that I went to the office of Panpacific on the 2nd floor of Angeles Arcade, he instructed the office secretary to report to the police that I had “harassed” them. That is totally false because I went there to inquire about their training facilities. The staff, after making me wait for 30 minutes, declined my request to just peek into the training rooms.

This gesture aroused my suspicions, especially because as I was waiting at the Panpacific office, I saw all the business registration papers displayed on the wall. There wasn’t a single registration document for a training school. Everything that I saw belonged to the Panpacific Food Services Inc. and Panpacific Pizza Inc. The office secretary who went to the police station also validated that she’s an employee of the Panpacific Food Services Inc., although she misrepresented herself to me when she tried to convince me the training school was authorized to conduct training for public school teachers.

The next day, I went to the SEC and dug out the articles of incorporation for Panpacific Food Services Inc. and Panpacific Pizza Inc. In less than 10 minutes, the papers were in my hands. Both companies were owned and controlled by Jed Patrick Mabilog. That, by itself, was prima facie evidence of a major wrongdoing, a corporate theft pulled off by an individual who advocated, or rather professed to advocate, honesty and accountability to achieve a graft-free society.

Indeed, there can be mistaking the link between Mabilog and the training school that supposedly conducted the training. The mere location of the “school” in Mabilog’s business office is damning proof of that. How can he explain his sharing the same space with his other private businesses? It can’t be that the training school is a “squatter” there.

As usual, the knee-jerk response of Mabilog’s ubiquitous alter-ego, Jeffrey Celiz, is that I manufactured the story to embarrass and humiliate him. Grudgingly, Celiz admitted that the Panpacific Food Services Inc. and Panpacific Pizza Inc. were indeed owned by Mabilog. (To be continued)

Choking the Ilonggos with higher taxes

The move of the Mabilog administration to fully implement the 2006 schedule of real property tax values to absorb expected financial shortfalls for the city government is a sledgehammer blow to its residents and business community. It will definitely raise property tax payments by 2012 and put a heavy burden on everybody who owns a house and lot, building or even vacant lots. It’s a punishment on the people just so City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog can continue to splurge on his wild spending sprees.

This move will bring the property values from its present 60% level to 100%. Hence, without necessarily undertaking a general revision of the schedule of property values, the city government will be able to raise its property tax base. Our city leaders justify this move as an alternative to a general revision which is required by Republic Act No. 7160, or the Local Government Code, to be conducted every three years to constantly keep the tax base current, and factor changes in property values.

It’s not that the city government under Mabilog will face sanctions for not sticking to the schedule for the general revision. No LGU has really been reprimanded for not revising property values every three years. That provision is really a grant of broad taxing powers to LGUs. It is a mechanism to give LGUs enough elbow room to improve their revenue-generation capabilities.

Moreover, a general revision doesn’t have to mean an upward movement in real property values. We have to keep in mind that the law contemplates values of properties depending on the economic situation. In boom times, property values go up. In bad times, the market could dampen, and property values could go down.

With this in mind, it’s easy to see the timing for the move is bad — very bad. The world is reeling from what is feared to be the worst recession in modern history. Businesses are badly shaken up, with hundreds of thousands of jobs lost, or about to be lost. Even governments are facing bankruptcy.

The consequences of this global recession will hit the local economy hard. We depend heavily on dollar remittances from overseas Filipino workers, and we’ve seen as early as a year ago thousands of them coming home, their contracts terminated or not renewed. The ranks of the unemployed has swelled, and will continue to swell in the months ahead.

No doubt the city’s leadership has neglected to factor this reality in making this decision to fully implement the 2006 schedule of values for real properties in Iloilo City. The only consideration that impelled it to take such action is the prospect that its share in the Internal Revenue Allocation (IRA) from the national government will be drastically reduced because of the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the cityhood of 16 municipalities. With its share of the IRA pie smaller, the city wants to squeeze real property owners in the city to make up for the shortfall.

This is unfortunate. This is tragic. Instead of helping businesses and property owners cope with the recession, the Mabilog administration will even take to hanging them from the gallows. In situations like this, LGUs would usually seek to tighten their belts, meaning they will try to bring down their expenses. A good mayor or governor knows that it can make do with less in difficult periods like this. The last thing a good leader will do is place more burden on constituents.

Unfortunately, this is the path that Mabilog has taken. It is tragic because everybody will have to carry the financial burden while he continues to squander public funds, and not lift a finger to recover wasted resources as a result of massive corruption. The city has lost more than P130 million from the Pavia housing scam, but Mabilog is letting the crooks go scot-free. Now he is splurging another P260 million for the City Hall project even though his own project construction consultant admitted it could be finished with P45 million.

It would be interesting to see how this unfolds. Will the business community just swallow the bitter pill and let Mabilog get away with murder? Will ordinary property owners just wince in silence and grudgingly pay the higher taxes next year? Will a city allow itself to be strangled while a city mayor wastes their money?

I definitely will not keep quiet.

Management by stupidity (Part II)

With all the issues about corruption now swirling around City Hall, a lot of people are feeling frustrated that little effort has been made by the city leadership to answer them point by point to erase any doubts in their minds. For six months now, the propaganda machine of City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog has focused its efforts on trying to destroy the names of media personalities who are in the forefront of these exposes. Their strategy is simple as it is stupid: paint Mabilog’s critics as evil, and the issues will vanish from the public consciousness.

This is a classic example of a beleaguered leadership unable to extricate itself from the quagmire of rottenness. Its actions demonstrate its desperation to survive the endless onslaught of exposes. Cornered, its propagandists can only put up a smokescreen in the hope it can buy time to elude the issues. Unfortunately, the issues won’t go away, and more people are waking up to the ugly picture of a corrupt city government.

Mabilog hasn’t helped his own cause. In fact, he has only succeeded in sinking himself deeper in the quicksand. First, he betrayed his lack of knowledge and understanding of his work as local chief executive. Second, he complicated the situation by refusing to remedy the situation by avoiding being trapped by the scandals. Rather than flee from the scandals, he waded deeper into the muck, thinking he can out-duel his critics in a word war.

Basically, it’s Mabilog’s acts of stupidity that is causing him to self-destruct.

As it is, there’s an increasing clamor for performance, and Mabilog has nothing to show after more than a year in office. He has a long list of impressive-sounding plans, but scores “zero” on implementation. When he assumed office on June 30, 2010, he boasted about the completion, and inauguration, of the City Hall by the time the city government marks its 74th Charter Day anniversary. That didn’t happen. So many of the things he promised didn’t happen.

Why has this been so? Because Mabilog’s style is management by stupidity.

He thinks he can always spin stories around people to create a positive image. He’s forgotten that credibility is a major commodity for leadership. Each time he makes a promises he doesn’t keep, a chip falls from his bank of credibility. This is such an elementary act of stupidity for a leader. As a result, it hasn’t taken long before his own image was destroyed.

Mabilog has singled me out as one of his detractors. He doesn’t know it, but he is his own worse enemy. If I have an arsenal of issues about him, it’s because he’s made so many stupid mistakes. He is breaking apart by his own wishy-washy decision-making and double-talking. I am only a messenger of the truth.

It’s obvious Mabilog feels the impact of these issues, because he is expending so much energy and resources just to hit back at me. Again, this is an act of stupidity. He should really spend more time telling the people the truth rather than send a band of goons to rough me up. As the saying goes, don’t shoot the messenger.

How far can this kind of management by stupidity go?

Halfway into his first term, Mabilog has become a lame-duck. With a heavily-bruised face after the series of scandals that hit him, he is becoming more afraid to do anything. His latest actions show a badly-shaken individual who has lost his confidence in trying to mislead people. He knows his old techniques are now worn-out. He hasn’t achieved momentum. He has fallen short, far too short, on delivery. He needs a new bag of techniques to survive.

Will Mabilog be able to recover? Only he can answer that. But it will require a major overhaul of his management style. He will have to invest in rebuilding his tattered credibility. He will have to regain the confidence of the people. And he will have to achieve that ability to get good advice from well-meaning people, not only from those who lick his ass.

In short, he should stop being stupid.

Management by stupidity (Part I)

In case you haven’t noticed yet, Iloilo City has been drifting aimlessly for quite some time now, unable to gain momentum in the march toward rapid progress despite loud battlecries of “My City, My Pride”. Despite its huge potential, Iloilo City has been relegated to eating the dust of other major cities in the country. Its growth is barely above stagnant.

Cebu is so far away it would seem we are living in the jungle. Bacolod, hampered as it is by a one-crop economy, is steadily pulling away. There are indications small towns like Kalibo might even overtake us. Even the component city of Passi is quietly taking giant strides and surpass Iloilo City in terms of government infrastructure.

What ails the city of Iloilo? Why, in spite of its many great sons and daughters (we just have to mention Senators Franklin Drilon and Miriam Defensor Santiago to drive home the point), isn’t it pulsing with the steady beat of a dynamic city and race to take its place as one of the key economic centers of the country? Why is rapid growth so elusive?

It’s not that we lack resources. Senator Drilon has been pouring huge sums of his pork barrel to implement major projects in the city: bridges, port terminal, slaughter house, and just recently, a system of roads and river parks to decongest our worsening traffic. We’ve seen huge investments by Mega World and Mang Inasal founder Edgar “Injap” Sia. Ayala Land Corp. has completed its techno-hub in Mandurriao.

Something is obviously missing.

Right, something big is missing. It’s called leadership.

For the last ten years now, Iloilo City was hobbled down by a failure of leadership. And rampant graft and corruption that has persisted in City Hall has nailed it to an almost inert mode like a heavy and rusty anchor in a calm sea. Our leaders have consistently been high on promises but terribly short on delivery. Worse, we are now seeing what I would describe as “management by stupidity”.

That the city government has been mired in massive corruption is bad enough. But I am more worried about the lack of direction, and bad leadership, that is being displayed by City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog. The guy is a nightmare. He doesn’t know a thing about management and leadership. In decision-making, I rate him a “failure”. All he has really done is put up billboards all over the city with his picture pasted on them, and the slogan “My City, my pride” written on top of it.

Mabilog has also demonstrated no political will. He reneges on his promises. And as if these weren’t enough, Mabilog likes to keep official transactions in deep secrecy. Against this backdrop, he declares that he wants an “open, transparent” City Hall where citizens know exactly what is happening in the local government.

Leadership is a relationship based on trust between the leader and the led. Trust is founded on a leader keeping his word. A leader who breaks a promise so often is certain to lose that trust. He ceases to be leader once that happens. And it is a stupid leader who deliberately allows that to happen. The stupidity is aggravated when that stupid leader refuses to admit he breaks promises routinely. More stupid is the act of that leader to say things that are illogical and untruthful.

This is what we are seeing at the City Hall under Mabilog.

We’ve seen an individual obsessed with power, who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. The construction of the Iloilo City Hall project is a classic example. When he assumed office, Mabilog was surprised to learn that the P368 million contract awarded to F.F. Cruz and Co./Freyssinet Filipinas Inc. joint venture wasn’t going to finish the project. Everybody believed we were going to get a brand-new City Hall with that amount. That was the intention in the first place. And that was what was advertised in the “Invitation to Bid” made by the city government under his predecessor, Jerry P. Trenas.

Instead of complaining that Iloilo City was being short-changed in the deal, Mabilog saw an opportunity to grab a spade and scoop out huge chunks of public funds, too. He pretended not to have noticed the irregularity in the first contract and proceeded to design his own scheme to bury the city in debt, and corruption. This was the “upgraded” designs he ordered for the completion of the project, bringing the cost from the original P455 million estimate to a whooping P710 million.

With just the word “upgraded”, Mabilog thought he had the perfect formula for a money-making enterprise.

Stupid.

It’s stupid because the people could readily see through the corrupt scheme. It’s stupid because Mabilog believed he could fool the people. It’s stupid because he believed he was too brilliant to be exposed. (To be continued)