THE BEEKEEPER | By Pet Melliza |
The Jaro Plaza is now a bazaar, a recreation center, an “ukay-ukay” market, a garden show, and hub of hawkers selling trinkets, toys, food — everything including shabu – under the guise of a “trade fair”.
That always happens, sicut erat et principio et in saecula saeculorum amen, as the Jaro district chapter of the Liga ng Barangay prepares for the Candelaria Fiesta come February 12. Supposedly, the fete is “religious”.
Taxpayers shoulder the brunt of beautifying the public place, maintaining its cleanliness, planting ornamental plants and tree saplings the rest of the year. They will repeat the same ritual after the last merchant tears down its stall and packs-up because the place is once more in shambles and in need of a facelift.
In 1996, a councilor named Jerry Trenas stood up at the podium at the session hall of the old (but real) Iloilo City Hall to castigate the administration of Mayor Mansueto Malabor for allowing the Jaro Plaza to be turned into a public market.
He riled against the “illegal act” of organizers of fencing off the entire plaza and charging entrance fees from those who wanted to enter to eat, gamble, shop, enjoy the rides, view or buy exotic flowers and ornamental plants, and what-not.
Jerry Trenas asked the Malabor administration to tear down the walls and let people enter the plaza for free because the income from the entrance were unaccounted, after all.
Pro-Malabor councilors like the late German Gonzales and the living Atty. Junio Jacela engaged Trenas in verbal swordplay. At one point Trenas, now congressman, got irked: he slammed on the table the book of the Civil Code of the Philippines “which provides that public plazas are beyond the commerce of man”.
It was a heated issue. Trenas and company sued Malabor, et al before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) praying to declare the plaza “beyond commerce of men” and ordering the respondents to tear down the walls around the park and let people enter it for free.
Another lawyer, the late JT Barrera, joined the fracas by filing his own suit against the city government.
RTC Judge Quirico Defensor ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. He declared the Jaro Plaza “beyond commerce of man” and ordered the walls dismantled. It was never executed anyway because Trenas et al preferred to bask in the limelight of their legal victory without need of executing the court order to the full as it might risk his political career from irate barangay officials and tanods who earned their keeps maintaining cleanliness and public safety in the park.
Malabor stepped down from his third and last term in 2001. Trenas succeeded him who, for the next nine years, did the same thing of defiling the historical and cultural symbol of Iloilo – the Jaro Plaza being periodically turned into a flea market. Under Trenas’s watch, entrance fees and rents jacked up.
Trenas the councilor who shed crocodile tears for Jaro Plaza has transformed into fullfledged trapo today who turns his head to the other direction as a historic place morphs into an ukay-ukay center.
His successor and current occupant of “City Mall”, Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, announced he would wrest away control of the management of the fair. He noted that the Jaro Liga ng Barangay that managed it failed to account for the earnings.
Somehow, Mabilog succeeded. The Jaro chapter of the Liga is still the official administrator of the Jaro trade fair only that Mabilog ensured control of it by naming his loyal lackeys to the helm of the management.
The Jaro trade fair is a political issue that might cost one a reelection should the bazaar be kicked out of the Jaro Plaza.
The option preferred by past administrations is to let it stay only that they stack the management committee with their own lapdogs to ensure control, so as the saying goes: “di na bale basta ebribadi hapi!”*