The first time the name of Jesus “Jing Jing” Espinosa came out in the news happened sometime in 1993 when he was accused of murdering a deaf-mute who had done nothing to provoke him.
Jing Jing, as he is popularly known, happened to pass by when the victim, Augusto Elon, was urinating in front of their house. He shot him three times at close range. The victim died instantly.
Jed is a frequent visitor to Jing Jing Espinosa’s residence in Barangay Monica. He is a godfather to one of Jing Jing’s children.
The Regional Trial Court of Iloilo found Jing Jing guilty of murder and sentenced him to 10-17 years in prison. After serving his prison term, Jing Jing returned to the “waterfront” area in Barangay Monica.
Sources in the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said Jing Jing became friends with a known drug lord while he was in jail. They became business associates upon getting out of jail, the sources said.
“Jing Jing is now a big-time drug lord in Iloilo City,” said a relative in Barangay Monica. His house there is almost like a tower overlooking the waterfront area. It is five stories tall.
In June 2010, Jing Jing’s name again hit the news when a relative, Pascual “Toto E” Espinosa and his brother, Leo, were ambushed on Zamora St., City Proper. “Toto”, a former executive assistant at City Hall during the Malabor administration, suffered wounds but survived. Jing Jing was accused as the perpetrator.
When the case was filed before the City Prosecutor’s Office, Jing Jing asked that the entire prosecutor’s office be inhibited from handling the investigation. The case is still pending before the Department of Justice.
That was the second time “Toto E” was ambushed, allegedly by Jing Jing. In an earlier incident, “Toto E” suffered scratches after his relative allegedly fired at him near a church in the waterfront area.
According to sources, Jing Jing was also convicted of the crime of frustrated murder. The conviction is pending appeal before the Court of Appeals.
Jing Jing is described as a very violent individual. His rise as a drug lord has enabled him to control the entire waterfront area and keeps the police force assigned to the area under his beck and call, according to another relative interviewed for this article.
Because of this, the police is virtually helpless in stopping crimes taking place in the area. One resident said there is hardly a night when there are no gunfire bursts to shatter the quiet evening; the police could do nothing about it, she said.
Jing Jing Espinosa has his own private army in Barangay Monica, armed with heavy firepower. When Mabilog and Trenas visit him, even barangay tanods are issued machine pistols to beef up security.
“Jing Jing is untouchable in the waterfront, and this is largely because of his close friendship with Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog,” an informant in the area said.
Mabilog, the informant said, is a frequent visitor to Jing Jing’s house. This information is validated by the numerous photographs that surfaced over social media networks these last few days showing Mabilog and Jing Jing together.
“Mabilog is the godfather of one of Jing Jing’s children,” said another source. “Mag-kumpare sila,” he added.
When Mabilog was asked about his association with Jing Jing, he told local media there was nothing wrong with it. He even dismissed the issue as “non-sense”.
But the spread of the photographs showing Mabilog and Jing Jing on intimate terms shows many Ilonggos are bothered by this friendship.
Former Iloilo City congressman Raul Gonzalez Jr. sent a text message that in Davao City, drug pushers flee upon seeing the approach of former City Mayor, and now Vice Mayor, Rodrigo Duterte.
“In Iloilo City, our city mayor and congressman (Jerry P. Trenas) even wine and dine with drug lords,” Gonzalez said.
One of the photographs that circulated on the Internet also shows Trenas, along with Vice Mayor Joe Espinosa III and Liga ng mga Barangay federation president Bobby Divinagracia, enjoying a meal with Jing Jing.
There are worries that the intimacy between Mabilog and Jing Jing is the reason the illegal drugs problem has flourished in Iloilo City.
“Mabilog has kept a tight rein on law enforcement authorities and prevented them from pursuing drug pushers in the city,” one police officer, who asked not to be identified, said.