City Hall retrieves donated equipment from Museo Iloilo

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas confirmed that the city government reclaimed several pieces of equipment previously donated to Museo Iloilo by former mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog.

The reclaimed items include tables, chairs, steel cabinets, glass doors, closed-circuit television, and air conditioning units, among other essential objects crucial for preserving and showcasing the cultural history of Western Visayas from prehistory to the present.

The removal of the items reportedly began this June, with one instance coinciding with an art workshop for children.

Treñas explained that the General Services Office’s inventory division stated that properties purchased using public funds cannot be given to a private foundation.

“Public funds cannot be used for the benefit of a private foundation like Museo Iloilo,” he clarified.

Museo Iloilo, located on Bonifacio Drive near the Iloilo Provincial Capitol, is the country’s first government-sponsored museum outside of Metro Manila and was conceived by the Ministry of Tourism.

The ministry leased it to the Iloilo Cultural Research Foundation, Inc. (ICRFI) for 25 years with an agreement signed on October 5, 1972.

ICRFI, which still manages Museo Iloilo, is a Securities and Exchange Commission-registered foundation, with a registration date of October 30, 1990. The private foundation is currently led by Chairwoman of the Board Imelda Caperonce-Florete and President Gina Sarabia-Espinosa.

Gina Sarabia-Espinosa is the wife of former city mayor Jose “Joe” Espinosa III, who is expected to run for Congress in the midterm polls against Treñas’ executive assistant and daughter, Raisa Treñas-Chu.

Joe Espinosa is anticipated to run alongside incumbent Lone District Representative Julienne Baronda, who will run for mayor, sources told Daily Guardian.

Baronda and Treñas recently parted ways after the latter endorsed his daughter’s candidacy.

Daily Guardian has reached out to the management of Museo Iloilo for a comment on the matter but has yet to receive a response.

Meanwhile, Treñas clarified that the reclamation of equipment is not related to the 2025 midterm elections.

He explained that Museo Iloilo was notified to return the equipment last year, but they requested a delay.

“It’s supposed to be early last year but Museo Iloilo asked for the delay of return. Nothing to do with elections,” he said.

Treñas further clarified his position in a Facebook post on Sunday evening.

“The Iloilo City Government, through the City Inventory Division of the General Services Office (GSO), implemented the retrieval of donated properties currently held by Museo Iloilo, a museum privately run by the Iloilo Cultural Research Foundation. These donations, made during previous administrations, are now being retrieved due to the fundamental principle that public property cannot be used for private purposes, a principle that is enshrined in our laws and upheld by the Commission on Audit (COA) Circular No. 1989-296 dated January 27, 1989.”

The mayor said that while they acknowledge the good intentions behind the original donation of these properties and the affirmation of their validity by former COA Regional Director Dominador Tersol, “our priority is to adhere to this fundamental principle and the prevailing COA guidelines.”

“To ensure a fair and conclusive resolution regarding the appropriate disposition of these retrieved items, we will defer to the expertise of the COA Regional Office through the Audit Team Leader, who will provide a final determination.”

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