Today, we remember the departed—but still very much alive. In particular, I want to talk about the gallivanting Senator Antonio Trillanes and the missing (and now former) mayor of Iloilo City, Jed Patrick Mabilog.
Trillanes is once again big social media news after a Filipino Facebook user in South Korea took and posted a video of the senator at a busy street corner, apparently talking to a bunch of his compatriots like one of those curbside preachers warning that “the end is near.” And just like many of those itinerant preachers, according to the FB poster (who is apparently no fan of the peripatetic senator), Trillanes was mostly ignored by the Filipinos on the busy Korean street.
The video went viral, nearing 30,000 views when I last checked. And now the poster claims he has been getting threats to his life from people who apparently didn’t like what he did.
Closer to home, a tabloid columnist reported a supposed remark made by US President Donald Trump when the POTUS was asked by a reporter what he thought about about Trillanes’ meeting with Trump’s former rival for the Repulican Party’s presidential nomination, Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
Trillanes was earlier reported to have urged Rubio, the chairman of the powerful US Senate committee on foreign relations and human rights, to convince Trump not to meet with his Filipino counterpart, President Rodrigo Duterte, during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Manila scheduled for later this month.
According to the columnist, Trump told the reporter during a chat aboard Air Force One that, indeed, “the little narco met with Senator Marco.” Then Trump continued, according to the column writer:
“Senator who [in apparent reference to Trillanes]? Like I said, senator who? How’d he get a visa? Isn’t he wanted, doesn’t he have an arrest warrant or something? I’m going to Manila to meet the main guy. A leaders’ leader, man’s man, Rody, we talk from time to time, he’s the head of Asean right now, and when you do deal, you deal with the boss.”
Trillanes has since denied urging Rubio, who is known to be a critic of Duterte, to ask Trump not to visit Manila. But Trillanes confirmed that he met the Cuban-American senator from Florida, but only after Rubio’s office tweeted that the meeting had indeed taken place.
But that’s not the end of the story. The column in the tabloid, which is published by the same company that puts out a major broadsheet, was inexplicably deleted from its Web site—but not early enough to remove a cached copy of it that had been saved by Google.
Now I really wonder: Did Trump really talk dismissively about Trillanes and his supposed mission, or was that just a scary bit of fake news?
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Meanwhile, Mabilog is now the ex-mayor of Iloilo City. This after the controversial mayor was served his dismissal order by the regional office of the Department of Interior and Local Government in absentia this week.
I spoke to the man whose complaint against Mabilog got the mayor dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman, Iloilo journalist and former provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada. Mabilog, Mejorada said, apparently decided that protecting himself from the threats to his life was more important than keeping his position, which was why he didn’t even return from his current location in parts unknown to contest his dismissal.
Mejorada could not really say who has been threatening Mabilog with assassination. All the mayor’s longtime nemesis would say was that Mabilog had been feeling seriously threatened ever since the plan to assign Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido, formerly of Albuera, Leyte and Ozamiz City, was made public.
Of course, only Mabilog himself can say who’s gunning for him and why he would risk losing everything, including his posh waterfront mansion on the Iloilo City Esplanade, in order to avoid getting killed. After all, Espenido was never assigned to Iloilo City because, as a police officer with the rank of major, he was not high up enough to justify his being named chief of police of such a major city.
It’s possible that Mabilog fled because he was going to get “whacked” for his widely reported connections to local illegal drugs syndicates, either by the authorities or by the narcos. It’s even possible that Mabilog wanted to be far away if ever the police and the courts decide to seriously consider the allegations made by arrested drug ring bagman Ricky Serenio, who recently signed an affidavit linking Mabilog—as well as Senator Franklin Drilon and defeated presidential candidate Mar Roxas—to the slain alleged drug kingpin of Iloilo, Melvin Odicta.
But whatever Mabilog’s reasons were for taking what is now believed to be the longest leave of absence taken by an elected official because of diabetes, I don’t think he deserves to be given a second chance to prove his innocence. By fleeing the country (there is no other way of describing what he did, really), Mabilog has only presented strong evidence of his guilt and has abandoned the voters who made him mayor.
Iloilo City deserves better than a mayor like Mabilog, who can’t even face the charges leveled against him and who will run at the first sign of trouble for himself. Now that’s really scary.