There can be no doubt that the current man of the hour is Police Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido.
He has now been praised twice and decorated by no less than President Duterte. As the president mentioned in his National Heroes Day monologue, Espenido will be the new Chief of Police of Iloilo City. Espenido was the Chief of Police of Albuera, Leyte when the then Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. was killed sometime in November of 2016. Espenido was then assigned to Ozamis City where Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog, his wife, relatives and body guards (15 in all) were killed in an alleged shootout.
Both of these mayors had been tagged by police as big-time drug dealers. Now, Espenido is on his way to Iloilo City where Mayor Jed Mabilog is also included in police reports as a drug lord. President Duterte asked the rhetorical question—will he live?
Senator Franklin Drilon a relative of Mayor Mabilog, has already expressed his grave concern about the assignment of Espenido to Iloilo City.
The Palace however, issued a statement that Mayor Mabilog has nothing to fear if he is indeed not in the illegal drug trade—this is no comfort at all to the mayor and his family. What should the mayor do? Maybe he should consider filing a leave of absence or resign and go to “cooler” places —another country, perhaps—and wait it out.
By doing so, two things can happen. The illegal drug trade in the city can suddenly stop—an indication that he is indeed involved in the illegal drug trade. Or, the market will flourish, thereby proving his innocence. If, however, he decides to take the word of the President at face value, he can elect to stay and face whatever will come his way. Surely, there will be countries that will grant him and his family temporary residence while the Philippines is too “hot.”
The mayor’s position is admittedly a difficult one but a decision is something that he must make as soon as possible and must draw the right conclusions from what both the President and Chief Inspector Espenido have already said.
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Every time there is a long weekend, tourism in Baguio gets a boost even during the so-called lean, rainy months of July and August. The last two weekends saw the number of visitors to the City spike. This can easily be seen with the unusual number of new vehicles around the central business district. It seems that new car owners prefer to test drive and break in their new vehicles by taking a drive to the city.
Traffic gets heavy, but overall, the increase in visitors is generally good for business. This is in spite of what has become of the city—a mountain resort city with mountains full of squatters instead of trees. A few days ago, a major daily came out with a list of all the Heritage sites together with some pictures which could only be described as depressing. One is the post office which is now surrounded with makeshift stores built by former postal employees as a sort of cooperative.
In the process, however, the only standing government building built during the American period can no longer recognized. The building was constructed about the same time as the Baguio Cathedral around 1931. The building is now what some people refer to as a one-stop shop. There is an ukay-ukay store behind the building. There are also stalls selling various items. Someone even mentioned to me that there is a small beer house. Why the postal service allowed this to happen or the city is difficult to fathom. This is also what happened to the old building where the old Philippine Commission held their summer sessions.
The Vallejo Hotel is still there. Constructed in 1911, it survived the bombing of the city in 1945. Together with the wooden buildings of Brent International School and the Bell house in Camp John Hay, these structures are the oldest standing wooden buildings in the City. The venerable Baguio Cathedral on the other hand is as they say no more. Yes, it is still there but the grounds is now a pay parking area and the church has lost its serenity as a place of worship. The city hall and the Baguio General Hospital which were both constructed in 1946 to replace the wooden buildings are now barely recognizable because of numerous additions to the original structures. Wright and Mines View Parks are basically gone.
In a few more years, Wright Park will disappear, taken over by squatters. Even the original buildings of Teachers Camp are slowly rotting away and the grounds full of squatters. There are many squatter cities in the country but Baguio, it could be said, tops them all. Why, one would ask, would a city that prides itself as the summer capital of the country allow the destruction of its major tourists sites instead of trying its best to preserve them for the benefit of all? It is a marvel that tens of thousands of tourists still visit the city of disappearing pines.
Perhaps it is because of the fact that if there is one thing that our public officials cannot destroy, it is the year-long comfortable temperature that the city can still boast of. Still, with climate change, the city is also warming up and we might need to go higher up the mountains to enjoy the cool temperatures of the old Baguio.