By: Alex P. Vidal
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” – George S. Patton
AS Ilonggos in Western Visayas mourned the deaths of hundreds of children in separate areas from the dengue outbreak in June and July, the first week in the month of August has brought more grief and shock to Iloilo.
Sadness immediately hovered around the populace with the drowning of nearly 31 passengers of two pumpboats in the Guimaras and Iloilo strait on August 3.
As of this writing, the buck-passing and the “what ifs” rant among coast guard and wharf authorities went on as investigations commenced.
Then came the demise of former Iloilo City Mayor “Mansing” Malabor on August 4 and former Iloilo Governor Simplicio “Sim” Griño on August 5.
The city and province of Iloilo lost two eminent fathers one day after another in a gloomy week obfuscated by horrors at sea otherwise known as “Black Saturday.”
Both Griño, 85, and Malabor, 88, were among the hitherto unheralded but immaculate local chief executives that emerged in the post-EDA Revolution era.
As a namby-pamby vice mayor in 1988, Malabor didn’t achieve rockstar popularity until he was ordered by then President Tita Cory’s Executive Secretary and now Senator Franklin “Frank” Drilon to “stay put” (meaning he shouldn’t leave the City Mayor’s Office as OIC) in 1990 while Malacanang was finalizing the dotted lines for suspension of Mayor Rodolfo “Roding” Ganzon, who had declared war against the Aquino Government in dispute of the small town lottery (STL), among other local and national political and personal issues.
Malabor was exuberant and brimming with confidence, but refused to let the initial burst of political success go to his head.
He coyly obeyed Drilon’s order but, at the same time, was careful not to annoy and antagonize the wounded political behemoth from Molo district, who was a colorful figure in the Senate in the late 60’s before he was incarcerated by President Marcos during the Martial Law.
When he was elected as city mayor in 1992 by trouncing Timoteo “Nene” Consing, Malabor zoomed to heights as a public servant until his last hours in the City Mayor’s Office office in 2001 as a “graduating” chief local executive.
It was the year when the charismatic Griño exited from the Iloilo Provincial Governor’s Office following a heart-rending defeat to then former President Commission on Good Government (PCGG) Commissioner Arthur Defensor Sr.
It was a gubernatorial contest that altogether wiped out the myth Griño had established when he brought down, in a stunning upset, Olive Lopez-Padilla, in the January 1988 elections.
The tell-tale “sign” (for believers of superstition) that he was going to lose a reelection bid came a week before the 1992 elections when Griño’s vehicle, going home from the campaign trail turned turtle on the highway. He suffered minor scratches and was declared out of danger.
Back in 1988 when Griño gored the very popular Lopez-Padilla, who was supported by all the province’s political giants associated with Tita Cory’s political bandwagon led by the late then-Rep. Albertito Lopez (2nd District, Iloilo), Griño was endorsed only by the late Rep. Narciso D. Monfort (4th District, Iloilo).
Griño’s administration had been constantly rocked by scandals not because he was crooked, but because many of the minions he helped employ in the capitol helped themselves to numerous deals tainted with anomaly.
To add misery, his No. 1 critic, then Board Member Perla Zulueta, made sure she had some of those “anomalies” (mostly committed by dishonest subalterns) placed under microscopic scrutiny, which always landed in the prime time news and the front pages the following morning.
Despite his one-term as governor, Griño undeniably was one of the most honest Iloilo governors; soft-spoken; a family and religious man.
Admired by many national and religious leaders, Griño’s integrity was intact when he retired from public service.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)