By PET MELLIZA/ The Beekeeper
We can only speculate but I am not alone in this view that the political landscape in Iloilo City might be kinder to Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog had he taken initiatives, not merely react to his challenger, Rommel Ynion.
Ynion, so far, is succeeding in pulling Mabilog by the nose just as Broadcaster John Paul Tia concludes that the latter is merely entrapping himself.
The recent fracas of the “libre sakay” (free ride) initiated by Ynion is one flashpoint. The project involves 30 public jeepneys in all routes of the city commissioned daily to transport senior citizens, students and the disabled for free.
Ynion contracted jeepney associations in the city loop which in turn agreed to rotate among members the charter. That means, one group today is hired while another group takes over tomorrow, which thus, makes “ebribadi hapi” as the saying goes.
Mabilog sees that a threat that at the very dawn the project kicks off, January 8, six drivers fall to the hands of city hall’s traffic enforcers for a violation that is more hilarious than legal. Joe Tengco, head of the Traffic Management and Transport Regulatory Office (TMTRO) declares them guilty for “unfair labor practice”.
Had Mabilog graciously allowed libre-sakay to proceed, he could have avoided the trap he is in now that he invited public ire.
“Unfair labor practice”, which could be a criminal offense committed by either an employer or a trade unionist, does not apply to jeepney drivers giving free rides.
Mabilog tried to cure the embarrassment by fielding Jeffrey Celiz who strip-danced on air explaining that Mabilog was only trying to avert bloodshed.
Celiz stretched his imagination too far by concluding that the free rides offered by Ynion might prod drivers to violence against colleagues who cornered the contract.
Columnist Manuel “Boy” Mejorada rebutted him on air that same night but Celiz, known for his knack to spew jargons and slogans instead of logical arguments, merely lashed back at him with his standard brew.
So far, no driver came out to denounce libre sakay. It’s only Mabilog’s camp shedding tears for drivers deprived of the contract.
Two persons from militant groups rebuked Mabilog, namely Edgar Salarda, spokesperson of Pinag-isang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (PISTON) – Panay chapter, and Reylan Vergara of Bayan Panay – Karapatan.
Salarda and Vergara paid dearly for their stand though. Celiz tagged them “bayaran” (paid hacks) of Ynion. Be that as it may, Salarda reminded him that the free ride did not hurt the drivers who even benefitted because they too, had family members who were students, senior citizens and disabled.
Salarda lashed back at Mabilog’s camp for its “indifference” to the plight of drivers. “For years,” he recalled, “we have screamed against the Oil Deregulation Law and the arbitrary increases in fuel prices as root cause of our woes but the Mabilog administration ignored us and remained indifferent to our plight.”
The libre sakay, insists Vergara, is advantageous to drivers and the poor who comprise the majority of Ilonggos. He laments that Mabilog “acts like a dictator” and “prevents poor Ilonggos from enjoying that privilege for his narrow political interest.”
This space no longer wants to add to Mabilog’s black-eye, which he could have avoided by being gracious. He could have so spared himself by consigning his incendiary mouthpiece to the backburner to do some soul searching instead of colliding with his former colleagues in the cause-oriented movement.
Mabilog could have earned public goodwill by simply allowing the libre sakay but blew that chance not only by resorting to ludicrous legal tricks but also by fielding his “special ops” on nightly sorties to tear down the posters of Ynion and company.
That piece above applies too, to Rep. Ferj Biron (4th district) who is gunning for governor of Iloilo. He was a rising star but blew that by letting his group block the declaration of Iloilo Province under a state of calamity.
Bagyo Quintang, December 26-27, killed 11 Ilonggos and sent 22 towns and Passi City under water. 0ver 100,000 persons evacuated.
The disaster was real but Biron gambled away his political stock by letting his faction at the provincial board oppose the declaration of a state of calamity.
Biron, in effect, sought to prevent relief to victims and is now paying dearly for that. Had he set politics aside and rushed relief good to victims of Quinta, he could have earned points.