ILOILO CITY Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog found an unlikely ally in a feisty critic who called for due process and rule of law in addressing the illegal drug problem in the city.
Councilor Plaridel Nava’s privilege speech also prompted his colleague to speak out on the penchant of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to tag Mabilog to the drug trade and in labelling Iloilo as the hub of the illegal drug problem in the country.
During the Sangguniang Panlungsod regular session on Sept 12, 2017, the feisty and outspoken Nava urged Duterte to uphold the rule of law in prosecuting Mabilog if the latter is indeed a “drug protector.”
Although belated, Nava in particular called the President’s attention to his initial plan to reassign to Iloilo the controversial Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido.
Espenido is the current chief of police of Ozamiz City where the Parojinog clans, who were also linked to the drug trade, were killed in a police operation in August 2017.
Espenido was also the chief of police in Albuera, Leyte when its, the late Rolando Espinosa Sr. was killed in a police operation inside his cell in 2016.
Espenido’s assignment to Iloilo was announced by Duterte on Aug. 28, 2017, but was recalled Sept 2.
“It is time that we stand and tell the President that we want rule of law followed in the City of Iloilo. We don’t need the kind of (Chief Insp. Jovie) Espenido, Ilonggos cannot accept that… We abhor violence, we cannot accept violence in our city Mr. President,” Nava said.
But while Nava defended the right of Mabilog to due process, he reiterated his previous pronouncements that Mabilog’s accountability in the illegal drug problem of the city is his act of omission, not because he mayor allegedly protected drug lords.
“Perhaps aside from my testimony that he (allegedly) received campaign contribution, perhaps we can only venture that the very reason that drugs prosper in Iloilo City is because Mayor Jed did nothing,” Nava said.
Without exactly pinpointing or naming who is directly responsible for the proliferation of illegal drugs in the city, Nava claimed that “When Mayor Mabilog became mayor in 2010 (Melvin) Boyet Odicta Sr. was already a ‘dragon’; it was not Mayor Mabilog who made Dragon a dragon… Dragon was already a dragon when we assumed office in 2010; in the same manner that (Richard) Prevendido was already a ‘Buang” and in the same manner that Jingjing Espinosa was already a ‘Bondying’,” he stressed.
Odicta, Prevendido and Espinosa are listed in the high value target (HVT) list of PNP and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
Odicta was shot dead in Aklan in August 2016, a month after the war on drugs commenced; while Prevendido was killed a year after in an anti-illegal drugs operations of Police Regional Office 6, Iloilo Police Provincial Office and Iloilo City Police Office on Sept 1, 2017.
Breaking their silence, Councilor R Leone Gerochi said he finds the attacks to Iloilo City by no less than President Duterte himself as “overwhelming”, and has somehow stalled the development momentum experienced by the metro in the past five years.
“Ang nagabira sa aton, national level na mu. So it’s totally different and it is such an overwhelming power to reckon with because no less than the President is insisting that we are a ‘shabulized city’,” Gerochi said.
He recalled how, despite the city’s efforts to belie the President’s perception, the evidence fell on deaf ears.
But Gerochi is optimistic that the city can survive the “challenge” it faces, and believes the truth will take care of itself.
“Again, I have no doubt that we can survive this as long as we try not to be too ambitious and think of the welfare of the city more than our personal ambitions,” he added.
Other city councilors have earlier expressed their reactions as regard the “illegal drug tags” to the city in various media interviews and their social media accounts.
But instead of passing a resolution, the council agreed to send a copy of Nava’s privilege speech to Malacañang.