BY ALEX P. VIDAL
Because of his inability to connect with some intellectual demigods in the city mayor’s office during the time of Mayor Mansueto Malabor, former city councilor Restituto “Agent Kurantay” Jotes, Jr. was always in the receiving end and reduced into a vegetable sprig.
When Malabor failed to immediately act on his request for release of his share of the internal revenue allotment (IRA) fund in the amount of P500,000, he freaked out and collided with the late lawyer Saturnino Gonzales, chief of the city general services office, who didn’t like the way Jotes structured his letters to Malabor.
On August 15, 1994 in the stairways near the city legal office of the old city hall, the two almost came to blows.
Jotes was on his way down, while Gonzales was going up. I was with Bombo Radyo city hall beat reporter and now Leon councilor Abe Beatingo who just interviewed me regarding my “membership” with a religious cult, “Children of God.”
“Islan mo ang tono sang letter mo kon gusto mo nga aksyonan ato ni meyor (You have to tone down your letter if you want the mayor to act on it),” Gonzales lectured Jotes. “Naga deal ikaw sa pinaka mataas nga opisyal sang ciudad indi kay sa kanto boy (You are dealing with the highest official of the city, not with a street thug).”
Unprepared for the unsolicited sermon, Jotes blared: “Kag ano gid abi ang malain kon mag request ako sang IRA share ko kay amo ina ang naka butang sa layi ta? Abogado ka dapat naintindihan mo ina (And what’s wrong if I request for my IRA share because that’s what the law says? As a lawyer, you should know that).”
“Hinaya lang tingo mo be. Indi ka mag padakudaku tingog di kay indi ini ya paisog isog (Just lower your voice. Don’t speak louder because this is not about who is a toughie and who isn’t),” Gonzales retorted.
“Ay sus, sin o ang nagapaisog isog haw? Permi nio lang ko diri gina habuyan sang malain nga sugilanon. Daw indi pa gid ninyo mabaton nga nag konsehal na ako sang ciudad. Wala kamo pag taha (But who is acting as toughie? You always bombard me here with bad words. Until now, all of you still can’t accept that I am now a city official. You don’t give me any respect),” bewailed Jotes, a former street sweeper who admitted he finished only elementary school.
The timely intervention of cooler heads prevented a melee as Gonzales’ face turned red and Jotes’ blood pressure shot up as shown by his heavy breathing.
At this juncture, Beatingo rushed to the nearest landline and made a “flash” report to their station’s noontime anchorman and now city councilor Rodel Fullon. “Bombo Rodel, diutayan lang nag sumbaganay ang duha ka mga opisyal sang ciudad diri gid ayon sa hagdan sang city hall (Bombo Rodel, two city officials nearly came to blows right in the stairways of the city hall).”
“Umpisa nanaman sila? Boom boom boom boom (sound of drum inside the station announcer’s both) Daw permi lang inaway ang mabatian naton sa city hall. Daw mga wala na gid huya ang mga opisyales naton dira. Boom boom boom boom (They are starting again? What we always hear from the city hall is quarrel among our city officials. They are shameless,” Fullon boomed.
Jotes had earlier threatened to take legal action against Malabor when the mayor allegedly sat on his requests. “This is too much,” he sneered. “How can I fully implement my projects if my IRA share has not been released yet?”
He accused Malabor of ignoring his first letter sent through city budget officer Brenda Jaranilla dated July 25, 1994 where he requested for release of P500,000 allotment for the following projects: construction of a recreation center at the Mandurriao Public Plaza; barangay mini-construction projects; and purchase of radio communication equipment.
After making a follow up letter, Jotes said Malabor’s office only received and stamped it. In his third letter, Jotes castigated the city mayor: “It is true that you, being the chief executive of this city, you (sic) are the person who has the authority to release funds or the person who has final say in every undertaking we have in the city.
“However, let me remind you, that we are talking here about issues for and in behalf of the general public of the city of Iloilo and not by personalities.
“Thus, I’ll be constrained to take legal action in effect if and when you do not release the intended funds I am requesting not later than this month. Hoping for your cooperation and better service without personalizing the issue.”
When reached for his comment, Malabor murmured, “ma meyor sia anay sa ciudad antis sia mag mandar (he should become mayor first before he makes a demand).”