BY PET MELLIZA/ THE BEEKEEPER
Last April 2010, in the homestretch of the local and national elections, somebody erected a billboard at the Western Visayas Regional Medical Center (WVMC) announcing the construction of a wing of the facility to be called “Iloilo City Hospital”
The budget came from the discretionary fund of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago but neither the good senator’s name and face appeared on the tarpaulin billboard but somebody else’s face, the one with the toothy grin that we see in similar signs throughout the city.
Nothing is heard of the city hospital which must have been completed by now and functioning as annex or wing of the main building and completely run and maintained by the Department of Health, not by Iloilo City.
The tarpaulin billboard announcing the birth of the city hospital is now gone and with it, the toothy grin of the man who continues to litter Iloilo City with streamers screaming slogans like “Uswag Iloilo”, “Iloilo the Next Big Thing” and whatever.
A city hospital completely run by city hall and catering to its constituency would have gone a long while in relieving public hospitals in the city of burden. The two government hospitals in Iloilo – the West Visayas State University Medical Center and the WVMC – just have their hands full catering to patients from different provinces of Panay Island including Iloilo City.
Former justice secretary Raul Gonzalez included the construction of a city hospital on his platform when he ran for mayor against Jed Patrick Mabilog. That dream slipped away. His conqueror, Mabilog, sees the public hospital a none-priority.
Mabilog has other priorities which businessman Larry Jamora sums up as “puro pagwapa lang” (all face lifting), all beautification, tourism promotion like the Iloilo River Esplanade that puts essential services like public health care, medical insurance for indigents, and even the no-nonsense clean-up of the river itself, to the back burner.
Kgd. Joshua Alim has a little misgiving on what yours truly wrote about the Iloilo City Anti-Smoking Taskforce (I-CAST) that he heads. It wrote in past columns about one of his operatives who planted a lighted cigarette against a driver of an Iloilo City-Lapuz jeepney, after which, he accosted him and using physical force in the process as if the person arrested committed a heinous crime.
We mentioned about transport leader Andrea Golez who said she had witnessed the incident where she saw the I-CAST man and his cohorts roughing up the driver who insisted on his innocence.
Anyway, to cut the story short, Golez, who also worked as Mabilog’s consultant, came to the rescue of the jeepney driver and reprimanded the I-CAST people.
Alim denied Golez personally saw the incident. He was incensed because she complained to Jeffrey Celiz, Mabilog’s political liaison officer and head of the people’s complaint desk.
“Ang malain lang sadto kay, si Jeffrey waay pa gani nag-usisa ginbuyayaw nya kami dayon sa radyo. Gin-igo kami kag pagkatapos mangayo lang pasensya. Tapos na ang damage nga natuga ‘ya. (She reported to Jeffrey. Jeffrey Celiz did not bother to verify. He went on air and castigated us. He apologized later but the damage was already done.)”
Alim slapped Golez two criminal charges, one for grave oral defamation and the other for obstruction of justice under Presidential Decree (PD) 1829. On the second charge, Alim complained that Golez maliciously blocked the I-CAST people from enforcing the anti-smoking ordinance, to be more specific, for badmouthing them while they were accosting the jeepney driver.
Golez hit back at Alim for disinforming the public. “I was there, my presence was captured by camera,” she insisted.
Obstruction of justice carries a penalty of fine and imprisonment, the anti-smoking ordinance of Iloilo City, the bone that triggered fight, only fine.
Ms. Golez was thus, at a risk for being imprisoned for allegedly blocking the enforcement of an ordinance that doesn’t mete out imprisonment.
Be that as it may, the story has a happy ending. Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog at first has gone for the I-CAST people ordering Celiz to take back his words on air that the latter grudgingly obliged to.
Alim, on the other hand, drops his criminal charges versus Golez, also grudgingly, on orders of the mayor.
But it’s yet too early to conclude they’d live happily ever after.