By: Francis Allan L. Angelo
POLITICAL breakups seem to be the rage nowadays.
While the media and pundits feast on the looming showdown between Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr. and 4th District Rep. Ferjenel Biron in the 2013 Iloilo gubernatorial race, Iloilo City politics is facing its own version of “political Splitsville.”
Iloilo City Vice Mayor Jose Espinosa III, who rarely speaks his mind on matters of policy and politics, stoked the fire when he revealed that Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog is willing to give way to Iloilo City Rep. Jerry P. Treñas if the latter decides to retake the City Mayor’s Office.
Espinosa said the scenario surfaced during their conversation a week before Mabilog went to Canada for a study tour on watershed conservation and climate change.
“Mayor Mabilog said he will just rest if Cong. Jerry returns to City Hall,” Espinosa said in Hiligaynon.
Mabilog and Treñas were allies in the 2010 elections although they belonged to different parties. The mayor was with Liberal Party while the congressman joined Nacionalista Party. Treñas later jettisoned NP after the elections although City Hall sources said the jump happened even before the final ballot was counted.
Treñas’s vice mayoralty bet Espinosa won the second highest office in the city via an upset victory over the more popular former Councilor Julienne “Jam-Jam” Baronda.
Jeffrey Celiz, Mabilog’s political liaison officer and spokesman, quickly doused the Mabilog-Treñas tiff.
Celiz said the Treñas-Mabilog-Espinosa alliance remains strong after the launching of Team USA last March.
USA stands for the three politicians’ developmental slogans – Uswag for Treñas, Sulong for Mabilog and Arangka for Espinosa.
“During the launching of Team USA, Cong. Treñas endorsed before more than 1,000 barangay captains and kagawads in five separate gatherings the candidacy of Mabilog for mayor and Espinosa for vice mayor still. The two also endorsed Treñas as their congressman in the 2013 elections. That is very clear,” Celiz said in a phone interview.
Celiz said if Mabilog did say that he is willing to give way for Treñas, it does not mean that his political career will end or he will go up against the congressman.
“Mayor Mabilog still has the option to run for congressman if Cong. Treñas wants to be mayor again. The mayor will decide not for his personal ambitions but for the greater good plus the fact that he wants the alliance to remain intact,” Celiz said.
City Hall sources, however, said the friction may not come from Mabilog and Treñas but from their supporters.
Highly placed sources who agreed to talk provided they remain anonymous said former executive assistants of Treñas when he was still mayor want the congressman to return to city hall.
“If Treñas returns, they will also regain their old posts. As they say, ‘happy days are here again’,” one source said.
The growing supporters of Mabilog, particularly those who were identified with the group of former justice secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr., is also seen as a source of insecurity for some Treñas supporters who want their old positions back.
Some department heads who were “shocked” with Mabilog’s management style are also stoking the fire as they want the more laidback Treñas to return to the City Mayor’s Office.
“Treñas gives department heads more independence to the point that they sometimes become too complacent and lackadaisical. Mabilog wants faster results from them,” city hall sources said.