Scandal hit Iloilo political family like a hurricane

By Alex P. Vidal

“Sometimes the scandal is not what law was broken, but what the law allows.”—Edward Snowden

THE scandal that walloped the Grabato political family in Mina, Iloilo was like a hurricane.

All of a sudden, they became the talk of the town; their enemies could be ecstatic after news spread around the globe (that’s the power of the Internet media) that 43-year-old Rey Grabato II, son of couple Rey and Lydia, both prominent political leaders in the third district of Iloilo, was indicted in New Jersey for alleged involvement in a $650 million Ponzi scheme and conspiring to evade $26 million in US federal tax liabilities.

Lydia Grabato is the incumbent mayor of Mina, Iloilo, while husband Rey used to occupy his wife’s position. They were scheduled to talk to the Iloilo press on October 25 “to clear matters.”

The accused son was reported in the United States where the cases were filed to be “still at large”, while his alleged accomplice, Thomas Nicholas Salzano, 64, of Secaucus, in New Jersey, was already arrested.

The son Grabato, who isn’t a US citizen, is believed to have fled to the Philippines and may be hiding in Iloilo, reports said.

It wasn’t immediately known if the Grabato couple would present their son or defend him in absentia.

It was not also known if the parents would convince the son to surrender if they hadn’t seen or contacted him.


The Grabatos aren’t only known as political leaders and allies of Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. and former governor Arthur Defensor Sr., but also as a “wealthy” family that owns several businesses in Iloilo province.

No one has openly linked their wealth to the son’s alleged fraudulent activities in the United States that resulted in 18 counts of criminal cases.

The parents have not been linked to graft and corruption and illegal activities and were known to be “outstanding” public servants.

But there were reportedly ugly whispers and speculations both from their friends and enemies that may not be good to the ears of the family.

Some people say “it is better to be charged in court and go to jail for murder than to be involved in a grand thievery, get arrested and thrown behind bars.”

The son Grabato, who hasn’t issued a public statement since the scandal erupted, is presumed innocent until proven guilty.


Like all the previous presidents, not all appointments handed by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. can be considered excellent.

Some are good, some are horrendous, to say the least. Even presidents aren’t perfect, or can’t pick the right man and woman for the right cabinet job right away.

Others get cabinet positions not because of their merits and talent, but because of political considerations or payback for helping the president in the previous election.

That’s the wisdom behind the creation and existence of the Commission on Appointments (CA), where both the Lower and Upper Houses have representatives and with the power to confirm or reject the presidential appointees.

If the appointees are deemed unqualified (due to derogatory and other appalling records) and/or incompetent, they are rejected in the CA.

Once rejected, they need to be reappointed again and be grilled once more in the CA.

Sometimes, the president does not reappoint those who have been rejected. He uses the CA rebuff as “justification” to get rid of the rejected appointee without fear of being accused of “walang utang na loob” (no debt of gratitude) by the rejected appointee who wanted to cling to the post despite being spurned by the CA.

By the way, Camilo Cascolan, a retired PNP chief, who was appointed as health undersecretary, is one of the reasons why the faith of some taxpayers to our government has been eroded.

He wasn’t only an underperforming PNP chief during his term, he also was reported to be an operator of online sabung (cockfighting).

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)