By Alex P. Vidal
We were not surprised to learn that the man who hauled Senate President Frank Drilon to the Ombudsman for alleged misuse of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel” allocation in the “improvement/completion of the E. Trenas Boulevard Along Iloilo River” or Iloilo Espalanade was on less than his own former consultant, Manuel “Boy M” Mejorada.
It did not also surprise us that nobody from among his political acolytes in Iloilo came forward to belie the graft charges and defend Drilon to death in public forum (Drilon’s co-respondents in the Department of Public Works and Highways or DPWH denied there was anomaly in the project).
As a former campaign manager of the Liberal Party (LP), some partymates in Western Visayas credited Drilon for their victories in the most recent elections, but they are mum over the issue (except for Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, who was understandably upset that the imbroglio’s epicenter is in the much-ballyhooed Iloilo Esplanade).
As veteran journalist and former Iloilo Press Club president Teddy Sumaray once said, “he who eats alone, fights alone.”
In the criminal and administrative cases filed by Mejorada last September 10, Drilon won’t be fighting alone. Mejorada also filed cases for alleged violation of Republic Act No. 3019 or Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Republic Act No. 9184 or Government Procurement Reform Act, against DPWH-6 Regional Director Edilberto Tayo, Assistant Regional Director Lea Delfanado, Marilou Zamora, Jose Al Fruto, Marilyn Celiz, Luzviminda Narciso, and Danelo Penoy. Their names were included in the DPWH procurement and implementation of the multi million-peso contract.
In terms of pelf and privileges he had garnered as a prominent national figure since becoming cabinet official under Pres. Cory Aquino in 1986, Drilon has been “eating alone” figuratively. Aside from the multimillion-peso infrastructure projects (including the mammoth Hall of Justice buildings in various cities) he has poured in the region, little can be said about the number of Ilonggos he had helped appoint in key national positions.
Far cry from the number of Bacolodnons former Congressman and now Bacolod City Mayor Monico Punetevella had helped for prestigious appointments in the national and regional offices when Puentevella was one of President and now Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s favorite nino bonitos.
When former Iloilo Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr., Drilon’s No. 1 ally in Western Visayas aside from Secretary Mar Roxas, was terrorized in a violent but foiled attempt to oust Tupas from capitol by Pres. Arroyo’s interior and local government Secretary Ronaldo Puno on January 17, 2007, Drilon was nowhere to be found. It was then Senator and now President Noynoy Aquino and Senator Chiz Escudero who were in constant communication with members of the Tupas family before, during, and after the capitol siege (police raided the capitol to unseat Tupas but were stopped by a Temporary Retraining Order from the Court of Appeals) to give them moral support.
Drilon also failed to save the ass of City Chief Prosecutor Efrain Baldago, his most loyal factotum in the region, when Baldago, who had a cold war with then Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr., was sacked during the time of Mrs. Arroyo.
Now that he was back in power together with Pres. Nonoy, the most he could give to reward a local talent was help former City Councilor Benjie Gengos become commissioner of the fading Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCCG). Drilon may be instrumental, in one way or the other, in the appointment of several Ilonggos in the judiciary but the jurists made it as municipal or regional trial court judges based on their own merits and qualifications as assessed by the Judicial Bar Council (JBC), not because Drilon wanted them to be there.
If Drilon did not mention it, many Ilonggos were not privy to the reported failure of the Senate President to help appoint Mejorada, who was Iloilo provincial administrator under Gov. Tupas, as regional director of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
Ilonggos also had no inkling Drilon hired Mejorada to maintain his Twitter account, among other tasks, for a monthly salary of P30,000 from September 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011. That shows that Mejorada was more than just a consultant to Drilon; no one would entrust a personal account in social media to just any Tom, Dick, and Harry. If Mejorada knows the password of Drilon’s Facebook account, that is no longer news.
If Drilon was saying the truth that his relationship with his former Twitter account handler-turned-tormentor Mejorada went sour after the foiled TESDA appointment, either Mejorada filed the Ombudsman complaints as a reversed quid pro quo or “neglectful” Drilon was really a crook; and it took someone “who knows where the bodies are buried” to spill the beans, a sidekick who was left with the crumbs while the rest of the Liberal Party boys are happy and gay in the Republic of Pork Barrel.