The corruption issue involving former Yona Mayor Jesse Mendiola Blas as the main character has concluded.
“You are now a fallen public servant,” District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood said at the hearing on Thursday where the federal judge sentenced Blas. “I don’t know what went on in your mind but you are here today. You appear to be very remorseful.”
Tydingco-Gatewood sentenced Blas to 37 months in prison. Blas has spent more than a year in jail since the FBI and other federal agents arrested him for extorting money in exchange for postal mailboxes in the Yona mayor's office's jurisdiction.
Blas was given credit for the time he has spent in jail waiting for the resolution of his case so he only has less than two years left of his prison sentence.
Blas' case was pretty intense and left him with not a lot of wiggle room out of his predicament. He was recorded multiple times demanding payment and naming a price – $15,000 for a mailbox – for drug-dealing operators to use mailboxes in his jurisdiction for illegal drug distribution.
"I have brought much shame and dishonor upon myself and my family,” said Blas. “As a mayor, I have broken the trust of the community I once served. I am scarred for life. If I could only turn back time, I would change the things that caused me to be where I am today.”
At the same time, Blas acknowledged he needed some money, hence the extortion.
Giving him a sentence of a little over three years was within the high end of the sentencing range for the extortion charge he pleaded guilty to.
Had the former mayor opted to go full-on trial and if he were also found guilty of the bribery charges he faces, he could have faced a maximum of 20 years in federal prison.
It was a tactical move on the former mayor's part.
It paid off for him and he was within his rights to decide to plead guilty to one offense.
He pleaded guilty to a single count of extortion as a government official.
But as far as sending a signal to the community so that future public officials will not do the same, there's not much in this case to serve as a deterrent.
Helping illegal drug dealers and spending just a little more than three years behind bars isn't going to stop others from doing more of the same.