ILOILO CITY Mayor Jose Espinosa III gives opposition Councilor Joshua Alim a tight welcome hug before the flag-raising ceremony at the City Hall, March 12, 2018. Talks of a tactical alliance between Espinosa and the opposition have been brewing after lone district Rep. Jerry Treñas announced that he might run for mayor in 2019. (Ricky Alejo)

ILOILO City Mayor Jose Espinosa III denied that he fired some of his executive assistants (EA) loyal to his brother-in-law, Congressman Jerry Treñas.

“Wala ako sang may gin-fire…I haven’t fired anyone,” Espinosa said, clarifying that he neither asked anyone to resign nor did he receive resignations as of yesterday morning.

Espinosa’s clarification was sought following reports that at least eight of his EAs have resigned or are planning to resign after they were made to choose between the mayor and Treñas by Espinosa’s senior executive assistant, Rommel “Jojo” Castro.

“As a matter of fact, wala kami nag-istoryahanay, sa ina nga aspeto, indi pa na sa akon level. Ang akon executive assistant kag sila lang. Siling ko istoryahanay kamu ‘bi, kag kamu ang mag-decide among yourselves…Siling ko binag-binaga n’yo, kamu istoryahanay,” Espinosa said.

When asked whether he will accept the resignations, he said: “I will cross the bridge when I get there.” But he hastened to add, “If it is irrevocable then we can do nothing about it. But if it is just resignation, we will talk to them.”

Reports said the eight city hall executives summoned by Castro were Roy Firmeza – Iloilo City Urban Poor Affairs Office chief, Mitch Antiqueña – legislative staff, Benito Jimena – executive assistant for special events, Katherine Tingson – financial consultant, Fernando Jose Rico – executive assistant for barangay affairs, Melchor Tan – executive assistant for infrastructure, Irene Ong – consultant for barangay affairs, and Abel Alejano – legislative staff.

As of yesterday afternoon, those who reportedly tendered their resignations were Rico, Antiqueña, Alejano, Ong, and Tan.

Tan was Treñas’ administrator when the latter was was city mayor in 2004 to 2010. He later became an executive assistant to former mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog. Antiqueña headed the traffic management office also under the Treñas and Mabilog administrations. He is now a legislative staff of Treñas.

Firmeza headed the Iloilo City Urban Affairs Office under the Treñas administration. He reassumed his old post after being appointed by Espinosa early this year.

The disruption in the perceived smooth relationship between the mayor and the solon happened after Treñas declared his possible running for mayor in 2019, which in effect delegated Espinosa to the congressional post he will vacate as he ends his last term next year.

Without directly admitting that there is a divide between his camp and the camp of Treñas, the mayor confirmed that a meeting between Castro and the concerned EAs transpired recently to clarify issues and reports, which the mayor refused to elaborate.

The mayor denied he is conducting “loyalty check” among city hall employees, following reports that after Treñas’ announcement, he met with job hires and barangay captains in the metro.

Meanwhile, Espinosa maintains that his relationship with the solon is “cordial as it can be.”

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