What Jerry did not do
By Pet Melliza
Name a single accomplishment funded exclusively by his administration in nine years that he was mayor.
That was asked by columnist Peter Jimenea. I could point to none. Jerry Treñas, mayor from July 2001 through June 2010, is better known for authoring signs and billboards telling all things except what he actually did. You can find those billboards, tarpaulin streamers, street signs, and what-have-you – confirming him as man of words, one gifted with the knack to sloganeer.
“Uswag Iloilo!” (Progress Iloilo) was his common slogan. When typhoon “Frank” lashed Iloilo in June 2008 he littered the streets with “Bangon Iloilo, Masarangan Naton Ini!” (Rise Up Iloilo, We Can Make It!), replete with his cute, round face grinning from ear-to-ear as if Iloilo just passed through a birthday party, not tragedy.
Equally ubiquitous were traffic signs donated by business establishments ordering all: “No U-turn”, “Observe Traffic Rules”, “No Crossing”, “No Littering”, “No Parking” ad nauseam, all bearing the name “Mayor Jerry Treñas” at the bottom.
Those signs still remain today; more are cropping up, this time bearing the name of a new messenger, Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog. That merely confirms the joke that the copycat is out to overtake his predecessor in the art of sloganeering. When an innocuous international group granted Iloilo City $50,000 for “cleaning up” Iloilo River that made the city one of the “most liveable communities”, the current tenant of a mall quickly erected giant billboards congratulating himself and his predecessor with their smiling faces to boot, for the clean-up that was done, not by them, but by volunteers from the Philippine Navy Reserve led by Nilo Sason.
Mabilog is outclassing his predecessor in that regard. He accepted the donated 12-foot statue of a woman its hands crossed on its chest, one holding a bushel of palay stalks, the other a scythe, and installed it at the top of the unfinished city hall building. He calls it “Lin-ay sang Iloilo” but the mischievous columnist Peter Jimenea tags it “Marya Labu”.
Treñas vowed in 2001 to retake from Cebu the title Queen City of the South, transform Iloilo to “premier city” in 10 years. He left Iloilo in 2010 as bedevilled as before.
Environmentalist Atty. Antonio Oposa heaves: how can we call Iloilo premier city when it has no drainage and waste treatment plant? He points to Iloilo River as “the country’s biggest septic tank next only to Pasig.” Residences, business establishments and government buildings dump their untreated liquid wastes to Iloilo River.
At the end of this nine-year stint, Treñas was blackeyed by a mandamus suit filed by children for his negligence in establishing a sanitary landfill. The 26-hectare facility is an open dumpsite, banned under the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. The kids had a platoon of volunteer counsels.
What other “achievements” can you credit Treñas? There’s the housing project at Pavia, Iloilo. The city borrowed P125 million to erect 415 units of houses for its employee in 2001. Not one house was completed, the city splurged over P95 million in the unfinished project and Treñas was hailed to the Office of the ombudsman for plunder. If there were “achievement” in that regard, it was his closeness to Orlando Casimiro, Overall Deputy Ombudsman who must be sent to grade one, section 10 to learn to distinguish right from wrong. Tell-tale signs of wrongdoing are writ all over Treñas but Casimiro only saw his predecessor Mansueto Malabor with the most probable guilt. Casimiro ordered the regional office to complete investigating Treñas that already dragged for more than six years.
What else? Treñas has one major act Ilonggos know: he demolished a functional city hall in 2007 and transferred office to a mall where the executive still squats today. The demolition is tainted with dirt. The bid and awards committee awarded the contract to a bidder for P800,000. Treñas revoked the public bidding and went for a “negotiated contract” for P1.3 million. Salvaged materials that should have gone to the city coffer worth more than P5 million disappeared.
Treñas left yet another shameful legacy to his successor: a shell of a city hall at the price of P350 million which industry experts say is more than enough to complete a seven storey city hall replete with fixtures.*