Treñas’ apology and itch for revenge 

By Alex P. Vidal 

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” —Winston Churchill

THE fact that he immediately apologized hours after running berserk in a Monday (May 20) morning press conference, Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas deserves credit for his effort to contain the conflagration that had threatened to altogether erase the good impression we have with the mercurial Iloilo City leader.

But we still hold him accountable for the ton of bricks he unloaded against the working press after he was unable to resist the impulse to strike back at his perceived tormentors.

After being pissed off by reports the blowing away of the Iloilo City Public Market’s art deco façade might be—or is being— investigated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCAA), and National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), Treñas missed the trademark of the best leaders who do something better and deeper under the same circumstance rather than capitulate.

These quality leaders smile after being lashed out in the press, looking at tense situations as if they were observers who are removed in time.

These good leaders see primarily their interests and those of their critics, and because it doesn’t feel personal, they react as calmly as actors on a stage.

What isn’t personal shouldn’t hurt any politician. Hostility whipped up by the press toward any public servant isn’t act of destruction; it’s construction or part of nation building.


The city mayor probably viewed criticism from the press as “attack” against his person, thus he inflated with anger.

In the Iloilo City Public Market tumult where he felt he was a victim of unjustified media nitpicking, Treñas’ immediate impulse was to strike back, quickly, with a cutting colloquy delivered right where it would hurt the “attackers” most: press conference.

But rather than ending the animosity, his irascible actuations only escalated the conflict. And it turned a drip into tidal wave of condemnation from various media organizations.

To get even, the illustrious bar exam 11th placer could use his position to seek revenge without showing tantrums or “to make life difficult for you.”  Remember we can’t fight City Hall.

But lest Treñas forgets, his former political benefactor, the late former congressman and justice secretary Raul Gonzalez, went down that road.

We know what happened to the Gonzalez wife and son who tried in vain to revive and sustain the patriarch’s astonishing political invincibility.

Napoleon Bonaparte once quipped, “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.”


We’ve encountered mayors, governors and even senators and presidents who possess that lurgy of being unable to forget a slight or resist the impulse to strike back.

They feel being criticized in public life is like being walloped by a baseball bat, which is a feature rather than a flaw in the system.

Our tendency is to give everyone a voice in public service in the thinking that, in the din, the proper way forward will show up. But to get there, we have to endure a certain amount of nonsense and nastiness.

Otis White once wrote that successful leaders learn how to manage their reactions to the nastiness. He cited Abraham Lincoln who wrote what he called “hot letters” to his critics, then stuck them in a drawer with the inscription: “Never sent. Never signed.” Thomas Jefferson suggested cooling off by counting not just to 10 but to 100.

“Some recommend a three-part response to being attacked in public: Listen politely, don’t get defensive, and ask for time before responding. This allows for a more thoughtful (and calmer) response,” White emphasized.


Below were some famous leaders known to have hot tempers:

-George Washington. Known for having a violent temper, which he expressed with foul language

-Warren G. Harding. Caught strangling a government official named Charles Forbes with his bare hands;

-Richard Nixon. Caught on tape shoving his young press secretary Ron Ziegler toward the press on an airport tarmac;

-Lyndon Baines Johnson. Known to be crass, belligerent and casually cruel, and took no small joy in humiliating enemies and underlings alike;

-Donald Trump. Has a habit of screaming, and has been described as having a volcanic, over the top, and out of control temper;

-Napoleon, the Emperor of France, who conquered most of Europe in the 1800s and stormed into a room full of his government officials and two “conspirators”;

-George Meade, who would sometimes explode but would often go back when he cooled down and apologize to the other officer; and

-Winfield Scott Hancock, who often blew up at subordinates, to name only a few.


THE US Department of State has reported that on the sidelines of the Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Manila, U.S. Senior Advisor to the President for Energy and Investment Amos Hochstein, along with Acting Special Coordinator for the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGI) Helaina Matza, joined fellow co-chairs Philippine Senior Advisor to the President for Investment and Economic Affairs Frederick Go and Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director-General for International Cooperation Bureau Ishizuki Hideo for the inaugural Luzon Corridor Steering Committee meeting, to drive infrastructure investment and development along the Corridor.

The Steering Committee aims to implement the Trilateral Leaders’ commitment in April to develop the Luzon Economic Corridor under the PGI Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) Investment Accelerator.

The partners discussed priority sectors for engagement and reviewed potential projects and areas of interest, committing to future meetings on a quarterly basis.

The Luzon Economic Corridor is the first PGI economic corridor in the Indo-Pacific region. The Corridor will support connectivity among Subic Bay, Clark, Manila, and Batangas as well as facilitate strategic, anchor investments within each hub in high-impact infrastructure projects, including rail, port modernization, agribusiness, and clean energy and semiconductor supply chains and deployments.

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