Jed Patrick E. Mabilog is definitely one of the wealthiest public officials in the country today. Only 48 years old, he has a net worth of P68,341,622.41 based on his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) for the year ending December 31, 2013. He has been in public service for only nine years. He is an example of how public office has enriched its occupant.
When Mabilog first won as city councilor in 2004, he declared his net worth at only P7.4 million. In a span of one decade, his fortune rose to almost 10 times his original net worth. In the language of the anti-graft law, this is unexplained wealth. And considering the magnitude of his wealth accumulation, this could very well qualify as plunder. His newfound wealth while in public office exceeded P50 million.
How did Mabilog become so rich while so young? He isn’t a business tycoon in the category of Edgar “Injap” Sia II. He does have businesses. But everybody knows that there’s no business venture that could yield fantastic returns to explain the rapid growth of his wealth. If that wealth accumulation was the product of Mabilog’s business acumen, then he would put Warren Buffet to shame.
In our country, there are only two tracks to sudden riches: illegal drugs and corruption. Even Injap will tell you that there are no short-cuts. You have to work hard to achieve financial success. I am certain Mabilog isn’t into illegal drugs. He is a politician. True, he has businesses. The size of his investments isn’t big enough to explain his wealth, however.
Let me dissect his SALN to prove my point that his wealth couldn’t possibly have come from his declared business interests which, as he declared, stood at about P20 million at the end of 2013. And I will also show that Mabilog is treating his job as a sideline. He is using his clout to gain financial advantages that smack of corruption and grave misconduct.
In his 2013 SALN, Mabilog declared that he has financial interests in four new corporations. These are Iloilo One Esplanade Realty, Iloilo Happy Haus Donut, Mega Pacific Food Services Inc. and Global Jami Motors Corp. Before that, his only business interests were confined to Pan Pacific Food Services Inc. which operates four Mang Inasal stores as franchisee.
What does this indicate? It shows that Mabilog is expanding his business empire, using his position as City Mayor as launching pad to corner juicy transactions. In two or three of these corporations, his Executive Assistant in the Mayor’s Office, Patrick Alan Sy, is an incorporator and officer. Don’t you see the conflict of interest? Mabilog has transformed the City Mayor’s Office into a holding company for his businesses. His assistant in City Hall helps him run his businesses.
This is no joking matter. This is the first time in the history of Iloilo City where the local chief executive is actively involved in business, with his own Executive Assistant as President of one of his companies. Mabilog is not even hiding his involvement in business concerns in his city. It’s as if he is above the law on anti-graft and corruption.
Do I have proof? Yes, definitely. I have certified copies of the General Information Sheet (GIS) issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mabilog also listed these corporations in his SALN for 2013.
You might ask: What’s wrong with the city mayor engaging in business? Doesn’t he have a right to make money for himself?
First, the office of the City Mayor is the most powerful position in the LGU. He wields the power of life and death over businesses. He can close down businesses which clash with his own business interests through technicalities, the same way he prevented the Bali Hotel of Rommel Ynion from operating despite the huge investments put into it. He can harass his business rivals. He can give undue advantages to his partners. He can compel new investors to take him in as a partner and share in the profits.
That’s the reason public officials are required to divest their financial interests in businesses where there is potential for conflict of interest. Public officials, especially a City Mayor, should shun situations where temptation for financial gain might arise.
Has there been an instance when this conflict of interest and taking undue advantage for financial gain have arisen?
There’s at least one situation which would pin him down in a graft case. At the Molo end of the overpriced Iloilo Esplanade stands the Iloilo One Esplanade building. It’s that place where a “patahan” used to operate. The building is leased by Coffeebreak and Quix Mart of the Que family. Upon investigation, I learned that Iloilo One Esplanade is owned by the company in which Mabilog and Sy are the majority owners.
How could I say there was conflict of interest? Well, it’s easy to connect the dots. Iloilo One Esplanade Realty was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission on September 24, 2012. At the time, the Esplanade had just been inaugurated, and the place was opened to the public. The lot occupied by the “patahan” suddenly became a strategic location. Whoever put up a building there was sure about reaping huge profits.
Mabilog saw the opportunity. Without shame, he put up a company to buy the property and construct a commercial building for rental purposes. Had he been an ordinary businessman or investor, getting that property would not have been so easy. But he was City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog, and the property owner must have found it hard to turn him down.
At this time, I still can’t connect the other companies with other business activities in Iloilo City. There are rumors circulating in the business community that Mega Pacific Food Services Inc. owns two of the twenty-five 7 Eleven store franchises that have opened, or about to open, in Iloilo City. His companies put him in a vantage position to be a partner or franchise holder for other big names coming into the city.
There’s another reason why his business activities must be looked upon with disfavor. It only shows that his attention is divided. Indeed, during the last four years, Mabilog has spent almost an equal time going to Manila to look after his Mang Inasal franchises. He has also travelled abroad extensively more as a tourist than a public official looking for investors for the city.
Because he isn’t giving his job undivided attention, our city is mired in a quicksand of problems. Mabilog isn’t treating his mandate with a seriousness of purpose. He is more concerned about amassing wealth than delivering genuine public service.
When Mabilog was singled out by President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday for being a young leader, I suddenly remembered a classic phrase attributed to the late Manila Mayor Arsenio Lacson back in the 60s to describe a young politician. Lacson said that man was “so young and so corrupt”.