Carlos Celdran, tourists say Mabilog’s ‘White House’ not a palace
ILOILO CITY – The controversial house of sacked Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog has drawn curiosity especially from tourists and might be soon included among tour destinations in this city.
Visitors in Iloilo have been asking about the “White House” especially after President Duterte described it as a “palace” and “more grandiose” than Malacañang Palace, the official residence and work place of Philippine presidents.
But those who have seen and visited the three-story house in Barangay Tap-oc in Molo District have belied the President’s claims.
Among those who recently toured the mayor’s house were officers of the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (Atop) which held a three-day convention in this city.
Accompanied by Iloilo City tourism officer June Ann Divinagracia, the tourism officers posed for photographs after touring the house.
“They were amazed at the view, the brunch and the ‘fake news,’” Divinagracia, a close friend of Mabilog, said in a post in her Facebook page.
Divinagracia earlier said that they were planning to include the house among the tourist destinations offered to visitors.
Cultural activist and tour guide Carlos Celdran also visited the house and posted photographs in his Facebook page.
“This is not a political post. It was only out of curiosity that I requested to see the ‘luxurious mansion’ of Mayor Jed Mabilog that was creating such a fuss with our chief executive and his online posse. Verdict: It’s not a mansion at all. Seriously. Well, it’s not exactly a shoebox but a 200-square meter footprint does not a mansion make,” Celdran said
Celdran gave details to illustrate the size of the house.
“I took photos of myself on each side of the property (living room and dining room) and it literally took me less than 20 steps. His residence is set at the far end of his parents’ compound next to the river, it’s got no garden, ridiculously narrow parking, and – no offense, Mr. Mabilog – decorated like a condo model unit. His neighbors’ house is way bigger than his,” Celdran said.
Mabilog, his wife Marivic and their two children left their house on Aug. 31 amid continued tirades of the President accusing the mayor of being a drug protector.
The mayor, who has repeatedly denied the President’s allegations, went to Japan to attend a conference and later to Malaysia for another international meeting. He then filed a sick leave, which he extended until the end of this month.
But later Mabilog’s spokesperson lawyer Mark Piad confirmed a statement of Marivic that they also left the country for security reasons amid reported threats to their lives.
The President also ordered a lifestyle check on Mabilog and agents of the National Bureau of Investigated had visited the house for an ocular inspection.
On Monday, Mabilog was officially removed from office after the Department of the Interior and Local Government in Western Visayas (DILG-6) implemented the dismissal order issued by the Ombudsman. He was found guilty of serious dishonesty for failing to sufficiently explain the increase of his net worth in a year by about P9 million.
The house located along the city’s famous lateral park, the Iloilo Esplanade, is already subject of separate criminal and administrative complaints filed by former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada at the Ombudsman and the Office of the President for alleged unexplained wealth and plunder.
The Ombudsman Visayas is conducting a fact-finding investigation on the house based on Mejorada’s complaint.
Mejorada, a long-time critic of Mabilog, had claimed that the house could reached P50 million based on its size and features but the couple insisted that their house was built over three years at a cost of less than P8 million.
The mayor has said that their house and other assets were accumulated from his earnings as a businessman and from Marivic’s income who was employed for 21 years rising to become vice president for finance and comptroller of Terracom Geotechnique, a geodetic engineering firm based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She retired in December 2014.