By Alex P. Vidal
NEW YORK CITY — An Ilonggo community leader in New Jersey has disclosed to this writer recently that Iloilo City Mayor Jose “Joe III” Espinosa III and his wife, Gina Sarabia-Espinosa, are among the VIPs scheduled to grace the 120th Philippine Independence Day parade in Madison Avenue on June 3, 2018.
The couple will accompany Dinagyang 2018 champion, Tribu Panyanon, and Guimaras’ Manggahan Festival tribe, which were officially invited by the Philippine Independence Day Council Inc. (PIDCI) through past president Joji Juele-Jalandoni, according to the community leader who requested anonymity “because I haven’t yet asked permission from authorized parade officials to reveal the official list of people coming for the event pending their application for visa (in the US Embassy in Manila).”
Another source said former Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog was also expected to arrive for the parade and to meet with some Iloilo City officials he hasn’t seen since he went on a sick leave that expired on September 30, 2017 and since his dismissal as city mayor the following month.
The former Iloilo City mayor is believed to be currently staying in Canada “for security reasons.”
The Ombudsman ordered Mabilog’s dismissal on October 6, 2017.
He has been out of the Philippines since last year and was believed to have proceeded to Canada together with his family after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to kill him.
Nobody from Mabilog’s camp or family has confirmed that he was planning to fly to New York for the parade or to have a private meeting with any Iloilo City official.
It was Mabilog who first brought the then 2013 Dinagyang champion, Tribu Panayanon, during the 115th Philippine Independence Day parade in New York City.
During the 2015 RP Independence Day parade, Philippine Consulate officials in New York City invited Mabilog as among the few VIPs together with then senator and now foreign affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano to join the flag-raising ceremonies in the RP Consulate on Fifth Avenue but he didn’t arrive.
No Dinagyang tribe participated in the 119th Parade in 2017.
Before his dismissal, Mabilog, who was on his third and last term, was reportedly being endorsed by his supporters to seek a congressional seat in the lone district of Iloilo City currently held by Rep. Jerry Treñas.
Sources said Mabilog “might use the occasion to meet with Mayor Joe III Espinosa and Mabilog’s other former allies in city hall who will be part of the parade entourage.”
Among those coming are Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation chair Ramon Cua Locsin and Iloilo City tourism officer Junel Ann Divinagracia.
Espinosa III served as vice mayor during Mabilog’s term as city mayor.
Espinosa III, Treñas, and majority of the members of the Iloilo City Council are now with the PDP-Laban, the political party of Mabilog’s tormentor, President Duterte.
It was not immediately known whether Mabilog, who still has plenty of followers in Iloilo City, would endorse Treñas’ bid for city mayor in 2019 and Espinosa, who is rumored to be running for congressman but hasn’t revealed anything in public other than confirming that he is “definitely running in 2019.”
Mabilog, Treñas, and Espinosa III composed the so-called “dreaded political triumvirate” that ruled Iloilo City politics in the early 2000 since the departure from politics of the late former Senator Rodolfo Ganzon and the late justice Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez Sr.
They have been tagged as “unbeatable and unbreakable” until Duterte won as president in 2016 and booted Mabilog out from Iloilo city hall in 2017.
They were all backed by Liberal Party (LP) bigwig, Senator Frank Drilon, Mabilog’s second cousin and No. 1 endorser of defeated presidential aspirant Mar Roxas.