“God as my witness, may He strike me down if this allegation is true.”–Paul Crouc
NEW YORK CITY — We suspect that Bacolod City Mayor Evelio “Bing” Leonardia wasn’t happy that the honor of holding Manny Pacquiao’s WBA 147-lb belt when the senator defended his crown against Adrien Broner in Las Vegas on January 19, 2019 went to senatorial candidate Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa.
The role of holding Pacquiao’s championship belt during the introduction inside the ring has been Leonardia’s exclusive franchise since Pacquiao became a WBO kingpin 10 years ago.
In fact, the chief reason why Leonardia flew to Las Vegas despite his busy schedule in Bacolod City, was “to fulfill that obligation.”
There were many attempts in the past from eager-beaver Pacquiao friends and subalterns to dislodge Leonardia from that lofty honor but they all failed.
I am a living witness to some of these foiled heists.
In fact, I know personally some of the purported VIPs who tried but failed to trick Leonardia.
In one of Pacquiao’s fights at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino many years back, Leonardia had to grip the belt tightly like Conan the Barbarian and defend it like his honor was at stake when a physician friend attempted to grab it from his hands.
If coolers heads did not interfere, the Ilonggo mayor was prepared to square off with the intruder in what could have been the undercard’s preliminary bout right there in the dressing room.
If these charlatans weren’t jealous with Leonardia, they wanted to become instant celebrity by being seen instantly by millions of boxing fans from all over the world monitoring the event “live” on a pay-per-view.
This time, one of them succeeded.
Bato, of course, had a sinister intention.
As a senatorial candidate, the retired police director general knew his presence would generate a lot of attention from the voters.
The first-ever serious allegation of a possible graft and corruption “committed” in the infant administration of Iloilo City Mayor Jose “Joe III” Espinosa III has been fired by Councilor Joshua Alim.
The eye of the storm is the controversial P45-million newly-built grandstand in the Muelle Loney, City Proper, which Espinosa III had temporarily named as the Iloilo Dinagyang Grandstand.
Alim, a candidate in Iloilo City’s lone congressional district in the May 2019 elections, said he wasn’t convinced that the recently-inaugurated main venue of this year’s Dinagyang Festival was worth that amount.
The opposition councilor wasn’t impressed by the grandstand’s design even as he declared he would call for a committee investigation in the Sangguniang Panlungsod to shed light on the issue.
The grandstand, originally known as the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand when it was still standing in front of the Customs house in corner Mapa-J.M. Basa Streets, City Proper, was built under the Espinosa III’s administration.
Once Alim starts to seriously pursue the investigation, it will give Mayor Joe III, a rich man who does not need to steal and has no bad record in public service, a terrible inconvenience as he, too, is running for city mayor against Rep. Jerry Trenas in the May 2019 elections.
Alim’s recent saber-rattling, of course, was a music to Trenas’ ears.
Although Alim and Trenas do not belong in one political bandwagon, the councilor’s offensive move against Mayor Joe III is expected to be welcomed by Trenas’ group as a shibboleth of conquest.
Ilonggos who don’t believe that Mayor Joe III is a thief, meanwhile, will now start to suspect that he tolerated graft and corruption when he employed grafters in his administration.
Of course we are not saying that Alim is right.
In fairness to the mayor, everything is a mere suspicion and allegation; no formal complaint has been lodged yet against any Espinosa III minion in relation to the construction of the controversial grandstand.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, Mayor Joe III can’t just shrug off Alim’s fusillade as a mere powder puff.
He must prove that the councilor is wrong by facing the issue squarely and grabbing the bull by the horns.