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DAPITAN CITY, Philippines – What’s the national government to do when the court names a new mayor in a city, but forgets to say what happens to the sitting mayor who was earlier asked to resign as vice mayor to assume the post of chief executive?
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) isn’t sure either and is still consulting lawyers on what step to take. This is reportedly the first such case in the Philippines.
In the meantime, Dapitan—the rustic city in Zamboanga del Norte famous for being national hero Jose Rizal’s place of exile—has two mayors.
“Undersecretary Austere Panadero admitted to me that they (DILG) have difficulty in coming up with an order because this is the first time this happened in Philippine history. There is a law on succession, but there is nothing for rewinding the succession,” Mayor Patri Chan told reporters over the weekend.
Last Saturday, Chan allowed newly sworn in Mayor Agapito Cardino, her cousin, to ocuppy the City Mayor’s Office. Cardino, in turn, said Chan could hold office anywhere in the City Government Center.
“I respect DILG’s decision to recognize Cardino, but I am not vacating my post as mayor because until now I still have to receive a written order from DILG that would legally place me back to being the vice mayor,” Chan said.
Faizal Abutazil, DILG regional director for Zamboanga Peninsula, said the DILG is recognizing Cardino but has yet to formally install him because a written order is still being prepared by their central office.
In 2010, Cardino was the lone challenger to re-electionist Mayor Dominador Jalosjos Jr, brother of former congressman Romeo Jalosjos. Months before the elections, he asked the poll body to deny Jalosjos’s certificate of candidacy on the account that Jalosjos was convicted of robbery in band at a court in Cebu City.
On election day, May 10, 2010, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) disqualified Jalosjos and ruled that the law of succession be followed. Voting took place anyway and Cardino lost miserably to Jalosjos.
Jalosjos appealed the decision, but the Comelec en banc affirmed it, forcing him to elevate the case to the Supreme Court.
On Feb 2, 2011, the SC dismissed Jalosjos’s petition. He filed a motion for reconsideration, but before the tribunal could decide, Jalosjos on April 30, 2012, resigned as mayor to prepare for his gubernatorial bid in Zamboanga del Sur.
With the mayor’s seat vacant, Chan had to resign as vice mayor to become the mayor. First councilor Ruben Cad also resigned to fill the position left by Chan.
Almost 9 months later, the SC issued on October 9 an order denying Jalosjos’s motion for reconsideration and affirming the Comelec decision. The court, however, made a “modification that Agapito J. Cardino ran unopposed in the Mayn2010 elections and thus received the highest number of votes for Mayor.”
The decision’s dispositive portion also added: “The Comelc en banc is directed to constitute a Special City Board of Canvassers to proclaim Agapito J. Cardino as the duly elected mayor of Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte.”
The “modification” in effect set aside the law of succession.
When Comelec on January 17 issued a writ of execution of the SC decision, it added that Chan should “cease and desist from performing the functions as acting mayor.”
“The cease and desist order on me was not included in the dispositive portion of the Supreme Court order,” a furious Chan said. “Why should I be penalized now when I’m not party to Cardino’s case against Jalosjos?”
Besides, Chan added, “I am the mayor, not just the acting mayor. Where will I go now? The writ of execution did not include that Ruben Cad should go back to being the first councilor. I need a written order from DILG to put me back to being the vice mayor.”
Last January 23, she filed with the Supreme Court a petition for prohibition and certiorari with urgent prayer for temporary restraining order, questioning the Comelec’s writ of execution.
Cardino’s reaction: “I don’t think that the Supreme Court will issue a TRO against itself. She (Chan) just have to go back to her old position.”
Chan continues doing transactions as mayor on one side the City Government Center. On the other side, Cardino has issued a memorandum to all government officials and employees that they should recognize him as the mayor.
Chan said that it does not matter if she lost her office as long as she still has the support of the heads of offices.
Asked who she recognized as mayor, city treasurer Medelyn Pacatang said: “Whoever has the mandate. Right now I still have not received any document that Cardino is the mayor, so Chan is still our chief executive.” – Rappler.com
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