Category Archives: POLITICS

Will Sara Duterte back Joe III vs Jerry?

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” –Groucho Marx


By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — If we stretch our imaginations, the only way for Iloilo City Mayor Jose “Joe III” Espinosa III to face Rep. Jerry Treñas for mayor in the 2019 elections is for Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) founder, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, to endorse his candidacy and for House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s PDP-Laban to officially back acolyte Treñas.
HNP is currently slowly inching its way to forge a tie-up with various satellite political parties first in Mindanao, and now in the Visayas, in a hope to grow and expand in time for the next congressional elections.
PDP-Laban, of course, is not happy about the new kid in town and is, in fact, getting increasingly pissed off and insecure especially that it is being spearheaded by the most powerful and influential daughter in the Philippines today, who is rumored to be the next candidate for president.


HNP and PDP-Laban are still currently “distinct and separate” from one another in as far as legitimacy and recognition by the Comelec are concerned, although they both can sleep in the same presidential bedroom together albeit in two separate beds.
Still on infant stage, HNP is obscured by its regional-level status, while PDP-Laban is a behemoth party with strongholds and incumbent elected officials all over the archipelago.
It’s a common knowledge that Inday Sara and Alvarez are not on speaking terms after the latter had branded Inday Sara’s group as “the new opposition.”
Joe III and Treñas are both PDP-Laban stalwarts and have also allegedly quarreled (of course we didn’t believe this).
The most likely scenario in the event the Joe III-Treñas alleged spat was authentic and they are hellbent to dispute the top city hall post in 2019, is for HNP and PDP-Laban to pick between the two “magbilas” (their wives are sisters).
Inday Sara might go for the “underdog” and fellow incumbent local chief executive, while Alvarez might choose a colleague in congress he thinks will be a “sure winner” for mayor.
This is, of course, a wishful thinking and, as we mentioned earlier, can only be possible if we stretch our curious imaginations.


We still strongly believe that Mayor Joe III and Rep. Treñas will swap positions and are only trying to confuse their rivals who still continue to read between the lines and mutely observe the Joe III-Treñas “civil war” from afar.
By keeping the cards closer to their sleeves, Joe III and Treñas increase the chance for their opponents to face a grim prospect of kicking off their campaign offensive against a windmill like Sancho Panza in Don Quixote.
In fact, Joe III confirmed to city hall reporters recently that he would be running for an elective post in 2019.
The fact that he did not reveal which position he intends to aspire for in 2019 is a clear indication that he (or they) really plans to further draw a jigsaw puzzle in the minds of his (or their) political rivals.

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Posted by on March 27, 2018 in ELECTION, POLITICS


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Social media ‘friends’ don’t help win elections

“The more social media we have, the more we think we’re connecting, yet we are really disconnecting from each other.” –JR
By Alex P. Vidal
NEW YORK CITY — There was a joke that a popular politician in Iloilo in the Philippines lost in the 2016 local elections because he “campaigned” mostly in the social media instead of moving his butts to woo the votes personally in the barangays.
The politician, who maintained several Facebook accounts, miscalculated his “high” popularity rating.
He thought being popular in the social media was tantamount to instant victory in the election.
His Facebook account only had 5,000 “friends list” while the number of voters in his district was 313,112.
The former only massaged his ego, the latter were the ones who cast the actual votes that sealed his fate.
The politician, a smart aleck, ignored his partymates’ admonishment and allowed himself to be mesmerized by his admirers’ fallacy and dazzling Facebook comments foretelling his “landslide” victory for being a “good” and “deserving” candidate.
It was too late when he realized he had been taken for a ride by the false prophets in his “friends list.”
After winding up second to the last in his district, he cursed his political party; he ended up a bitter and sore loser.
The next congressional elections in 2019 still won’t be about the number of “followers” or “friends” in the social media, it’s about the number of village chiefs or punong barangay that will support the candidates.
Local elections in the Philippines will continue to be decided by the degree of influence the candidates wield in the barangays or villages, considered as the smallest political units.
Those who have strong connections with the village chiefs usually wrap up the contest for mayor, congressman, and the the municipal, provincial, and city legislatures.
The village chiefs are the ones who have direct access to the voting populace.
Eighty percent of the candidates whose names are on the sample ballots being distributed in the villages are usually shoo-in in the winning column.

We’ve noticed that some election wanna-bes at this early find it riveting to hammer away with the faults and imperfections of their prospective rivals in the next elections using the social media.
They believe that if they start to dig holes on their prospective rivals’ credibility and shatter their myth of invincibility earlier in the ballgame through the power and influence of the social media, it will be easier for them to deliver the knockout blow during the campaign period.
Those who usually initiate the aggressive offensive blitzkrieg are wanna-bes with low name-recall ratings, or those who belong to inferior or ragtag political parties.
But even if they succeed in portraying their prospective rivals as wicked men and women in the social media, this won’t give them any assurance of sure victory when they tangle during the official electoral contest.

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Posted by on March 26, 2018 in ELECTION, POLITICS


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Treñas’ foes try to link him to illegal drugs  

“Politics have no relation to morals.”

 — Niccolo Machiavelli

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By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY –– Some of the possible rivals of Iloilo City Rep. Jerry Treñas for city mayor have started to sharpen their knives now that the congressman has declared his intention to run again in 2019.

In order to stymie his candidacy, some of Treñas’ prospective opponents have begun “establishing” his supposed links with the slain drug lord, Melvin “Boyet” Odicta Sr.

The disgraced drug kingpin, who was slain together with his wife, Merriam, in Caticlan, Aklan on August 28, 2016, reportedly cemented his narcotics fiefdom when Treñas was city mayor in 2001-2010.

It did not mean, however, that William Hale “Big Bill” Thompson was in cahoots with the mobsters only because he was the mayor of Chicago when Al Capone terrorized the Windy City.

True or not, Treñas can’t remain silent on the issue.

Sooner or later, he will be forced to answer the accusation lock, stock, and barrel, especially when the election campaign officially starts.

He can afford shrug off the issue today and consider it as a mere “mosquito bite” since it is not yet certain whether he is really running for city mayor or just trying to bluff certain characters.


It was the issue on illegal drugs that prematurely put an exclamation point to the city hall stint of dismissed Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, although many of his supporters maintain until today he was innocent and only a victim of political vendetta.

We have been warned always that if we ignore the danger signs, they could spell our ignominy when we least expect it.

Mabilog, confident of his innocence, and his supporters could not believe that a mere “mosquito bite” would turn into a poisonous wound inflicted by a deadly Python when no less than the misinformed Presiden Duterte swallowed the canard hook, line, and sinker.

A lie repeated several times becomes the truth, according to Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels.

But even the truth in politics, more often than not, can’t save any politician from the pit of destruction.

And the rest is history.


Even without a resolution from the Iloilo Provincial Board calling for a speedy investigation of the murder of STL operator Samuel Aguilar, the Iloilo Provincial Police Office (IPPO) must pursue all angles and run after the perpetrators.

It doesn’t matter whether the victim was a VIP or an ordinary person. Murder is murder; a crime has been committed in broad daylight when unidentified gun men ambushed Aguilar’s vehicle in Barangay Buyuan, Tigbauan, Iloilo on March 13, 2018.

If a prominent personality can be killed despite the presence of his bodyguards, there is no guarantee that an ordinary victim who walks alone or rides in any vehicle won’t be waylaid and shot fatally by any criminal.

Aguilar was not the first “big name” in the gambling business killed in Iloilo.

Five years ago, Jimmy Punzalan, a retired Philippine Constabulary sergeant and believed to be also engaged in numbers game, was also murdered in cold blood by unknown assailants while resting in his restaurant in Barangay Bakhaw, Mandurriao, Iloilo City.

Punzalan’s killing was never solved.

Let’s hope the twin murders were not connected.


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Posted by on March 21, 2018 in CRIME, ELECTION, POLITICS


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Treñas, Joe III feuding? Tell it to the marines

“In a false quarrel there is no true valor.”

–William Shakespeare

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — I won’t gamble my fifteen cents to swallow hook, line and sinker the suspicions–or rumors– that Iloilo City Rep. Jerry Treñas and Mayor Jose “Joe III” Espinosa III are at loggerheads and heading to Splitsville.

But I won’t be surprised also if they will take advantage of the flap and use the puzzle to confuse their enemies.

If the basis of suspicions or rumors was the “irrevocable” resignations of the six so-called “Treñas Musketeers” composed of Melchor Tan, Jose Rico, Maria Irene Ong, Hector Alejano, Mitch Antiqueña, and Rudiver Jungco Sr. as Joe III’s advisers, we have more reason not to fret over the present political relationship of the congressman and the city mayor.

Joe III could not have sacked the six, who were reportedly meeting with Treñas outside city hall when Joe III called them for a meeting.

A case of a bad timing or the city mayor decided to abruptly call for a meeting when he learned the six were outside the barracks?

And he only wanted to show them who’s the boss when he tasked executive assistant Jojo Castro to “chide” the six and refrain from “paddling their canoe in two rivers.”

Whether there is a tampuhan between Joe III and the six, the tampuhan does not translate into a full-blown political conflict.

Mature people can easily shrug off any potential time bomb that would divide and eventually bring the house into wobbly legs.


Both Treñas and Joe III could actually benefit from perception that they are having a cold war.

This would send mixed and confusing signals to their political rivals.

Treñas has already signified his intention to run again for mayor in 2019, while Joe III has not yet made up his mind whether to run for congressman, which is the only logical move if he will avoid a collision course with his bilas (their wives are sisters), or quit politics, which isn’t about to happen judging from Joe III’s appetite for public service since capturing city hall in October 2017 when the Ombudsman ousted Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog.

Could it be that Treñas and Joe III, by “acting” as Punch and Judy, were reading the Laws 6, 17, and 37 of the 48 Laws of Power?


LAW 6 (CREATE AN AIR OF MYSTERY) says, “Never make it too clear what you are doing or about to do. Do not show all your cards. Mystery and uncertainty create anticipation – everyone will want to know what comes next. Use mystery to beguile, seduce, even frighten.”

LAW 17 (KEEP OTHERS IN SUSPENSE: CULTIVATE AN AIR OF UNPREDICTABILITY) says, “Humans are creatures of habit with an insatiable need to see familiarity in other people’s actions. Your predictability gives them a sense of control. Turn the tables: be deliberately unpredictable. Behavior that seems to have no consistency or purpose will keep them off balance, and they will wear themselves out trying to explain your moves. Taken to an extreme, this strategy can intimidate and terrorize.”


“Striking imagery and grand symbolic gestures create the aura of power – everyone responds to them. Stage spectacles for those around you, then, full of arresting visuals and radiant symbols that heighten your presence. Dazzled by appearances, no one will notice what you are really doing.”

If these “laws” or the messages they convey happen to reflect some nerve-tingling coincidences and similarities in the scenarios currently unfolding in Iloilo City’s political landscape, you be the final arbiter.

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Posted by on March 14, 2018 in POLITICS


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I hope there will be no regrets

“When we lose one we love, our bitterest tears are called forth by the memory of hours when we loved not enough.”

–Maurice Maeterlinck

By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey — If Iloilo City in the Philippines is a human face, the condemned Iloilo Freedom Grandstand sitting on the area of the 600-square meter Sunburst Park, serves as the face’s mouth.

It has been one of Iloilo City’s most prominent landmarks facing the “eagle” building on J.M. Basa Street for more than 50 years now.

In the name of development, it will soon disappear and relocated to Muelle Loney, adjacent to the waterfront area of Customs House Plaza, Sunburst Park’s old name.

Because of its intrinsic value, many Ilonggos have considered it as part of the metropolis’ tangible past.

Owing to its cultural and practical values and especially that it’s not an eyesore, some Ilonggos are sad that after the face of

“The Most Loyal and Noble City” or “La Muy Leal Y Noble Ciudad de Iloilo” has undergone a major surgery this year, its mouth, a reminder of the metropolis’ culture and complexity, will no longer be found under the nose.

In one of his “farewell” visits in various places in the Philippines, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, accompanied by President Carlos Garcia, set foot at the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand on July 10, 1961 and delivered a nostalgic speech.

This event will forever be etched in the memory of the Ilonggos.


We just hope that there will be no regrets after the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand has been demolished.

It can’t be denied that the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand, renovated by the late Rep. Raul Gonzalez Sr. several years back, has brought character and certain charm to the neighborhood that Ilonggos had lived in ever since the late political maverick former Senator Rodolfo Ganzon gave it a sparkling name nearly 50 years ago.

Once it’s gone, there is no more chance to restore or save one of Iloilo City’s most memorable historic sites.

Once a major bureaucratic decision has been made with finality, no one can be certain what will be valued in the future.

Once a piece of history is destroyed, it is lost forever like a member of the family who passed away.

The memory of the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand has taught us about the history that happened before we were born; it’s imposing image has promoted the respect for those who lived in different times and different political and social climates not only in the city and province of Iloilo but also in the entire region.

It has cultivated pride of our past and heritage making the Ilonggos unique in the world.




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The man Mayor Joe III respects most

“This is the person you think is your antagonist, who ends up being your greatest ally: the person who pushes, criticizes, and challenges you to meet a standard of excellence you might not otherwise achieve.”

— Bonnie Hammer

By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey — If some allies and confidants of Iloilo City Mayor Jose “Joe III” Espinosa III in the Philippines find it hard to make him agree on certain matters that are clearly correct and lawful, they shouldn’t feel bad about it.

They shouldn’t be quick to pillory him; refrain from antagonizing him and get their fingers off the trigger.

Mayor Joe III is now his own man; no one can compel him to follow suggestions and pieces of unsolicited advice even from his contemporaries and advisers.

If he will adopt some of their sensible suggestions, it’s a bonus. If he doesn’t, no hard feelings.

The city mayor is the master of all ceremonies; he has the final say on every crucial matter that requires a critical judgment of the city hall chief executive.

Whether he fails or succeeds, the buck stops on his table.

For sure, there were those who did attempt to tell him to go slow on the issue against the Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD).

But he didn’t.

Public opinion showed the odds were stacked against him. Some were saying it backfired.

Mayor Joe III’s unfortunate bicker with the water utility’s board of directors, his baptism of fire after clinching the mayoral post on October 30, 2017, has remained unresolved before 2018 came.


Recently, for sure, there were those within his coterie of consultants who tried but failed to dissuade him from closing the Plaza Rizal Street in Jaro district for vendors on January 8, 2018 through an executive order.

Not all his recent decisions were popular, in the same manner that not all the suggestions or opposition from his acolytes were reasonable and acceptable.

Because of the city mayor’s executive order, vendors have erected kiosks on two lanes of the four-lane road as part of the 2018 Jaro Agro-Industrial and Charity Fair from Jan. 8 to Feb. 8. The fair is part of the Jaro fiesta celebration that will highlight on Feb. 2.

The closure order didn’t sit well with pedestrians and motorists caught in traffic jam as a result.

But because the city mayor has the solid backing from City Administrator Hernando Galvez and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), he won’t believe Councilor Plaridel Nava, a lawyer like him, who considered the executive order as legally infirm.


Ilonggos will have to brace for more surprises on Mayor Joe III’s brand of leadership as he completes the remaining term of office of his predecessor, Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, in 2019.

Some of his detractors may be waiting for Mayor Joe III to slip in the banana peel or to commit bad and unpopular decisions while in office and kiss goodbye his chances to win the same position in May 2019.

But there are also strong chances he will finish the remaining 15 months of Mabilog’s unfinished term with flying colors.

This was made possible after he reportedly retained some of Mabilog’s best consultants, not to mention his built-in rapport with his former peers in the city council.

Among those who are reportedly helping rev up his engine in public service are former vice mayor, Dr. Guillermo dela Llana, and former city councilors, Victor Facultad and Dr. Perla Zulueta.

Dela Llana is one of the only few consultants that Mayor Joe III respects most when it comes to running a public office.

Back in 1990s when Dela Llana was vice mayor and Mayor Joe III was senior member of the city council, they worked together like father and son. So closed were Dela Llana and Mayor Joe III that they would sometimes swap some trusted staffers.

Then Councilor Joe III also “accommodated” casual workers handpicked by then Vice Mayor De Llana.

When Dela Llana, Joe III, and the late former Councilor Eduardo Laczi formed a triumvirate in the city council, they became Mayor Mansueto Malabor’s “headaches.”

Facultad and Zulueta were also his most trusted and long-time allies and some of the only few remnants of their dreaded bloc in the city council that brought nightmares to the Malabor administration.




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Posted by on March 12, 2018 in POLITICS


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No knee-jerk reaction on Defensor’s transfer to PDP-Laban

“In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”

–Franklin D. Roosevelt

By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey –– When big names in Philippine local politics jump from one political party to another, it is normally greeted with derision and mockery from the deserters’ hitherto party mates and rivals.

They are tagged as “opportunists” and dismissed as “balimbings” (fruit with scientific name Averrhoa carambola) or turncoats.

Such was the misfortune that befell politicians in Iloilo City led by Rep. Jerry Trenas and Mayor Jose Espinosa III, who abandoned the Liberal Party (LP) for the administration’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) last year.

Political rivals took turns in lambasting “ingrate” Trenas , Espinosa and some of their ilk in the city council.

Their political enemies also utilized the social media to ridicule their move to leave LP and embrace President Rodrigo Duterte’s political party.

It’s always an earthshaking event for their detractors; the kind of opportunity to skin them alive in public their detractors would never allow to slip away. Politics 101.


Not in Iloilo province.

When Governor Arthur “Art” Defensor Sr. disclosed last year that he, his son, Iloilo third district Rep. Arthur “Toto” Defensor Jr. , and 4,000 other local officials from their district will take their oath as the newest members of the PDP-Laban on January 18, 2018, nobody from the governor’s political rivals–or potential political enemies–raised a whimper.

Team Defensor’s scheduled “mass oath taking” would be administered by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez at the Pototan Astrodome in Pototan town, 30 kilometers north from Iloilo City.

No admonition even from Iloilo fourth district Rep. Ferjenel “Dr. Ferj” G. Biron, Rep. Defensor’s rumored rival for governor in 2019.

Rep. Biron, who admits he has big respect and admiration for Gov. Defensor despite his loss in the 2013 gubernatorial race, probably didn’t want to sully the Defensors’ significant date with political history.

It would be awkward for the lawmaker from Dumangas to criticize the Defensors’ transfer from LP to PDP-Laban if he was eyeing LP’s official nomination for the top capitol post.


Some provincial board members and municipal mayors who have remained loyal to LP also didn’t find it necessary to rebuke the Defensors’ decision to transfer even for the sake of “check and balance” and, to some extent, publicity.

They probably got Gov. Defensor’s message loud and clear: he needed the President’s blessings for Toto Defensor’s candidacy in 2019.

From the very beginning, the governor never hid his cards and was even excited to immediately lay them on the table without beating around the bush: he wanted the congressman son to be the administration’s standard-bearer in 2019.

Defensor would have been chided both by allies and detractors as hypocrite if he did not admit his decision to walk away from LP to PDP-Laban had something to do with political survival.


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