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Today in Bantayan: DILG to serve order vs Despi

Kristine B. Quintas (The Freeman) - May 11, 2017 - 4:00pm

CEBU, Philippines - Officials of the Department of Interior and Local Government in Cebu are expected to serve today the order asking disqualified Bantayan mayor Arthur Despi to vacate his post.

Sources have confirmed to The FREEMAN that acting DILG Secretary Catalino Uy has signed the order that also directs Ian Christopher Escario to assume the mayorship.

“It's an order for him (Despi) to honor the decision of the Comelec and Supreme Court, and that he needs to vacate his office,” according to a source at the Capitol who sought anonymity as he was not authorized to divulge the information.

The DILG central office forwarded the order to the DILG field office in Central Visayas on Wednesday, another source told this paper.

DILG-7 Director Rene Burdeos, however, yesterday said he has not received such order yet while DILG Provincial Director Jerome Gonzales, in a phone interview at around 5 p.m. yesterday, likewise said the same has not reached his office.

But one of the sources said officials may have suppressed the information to avoid supporters of the aggrieved camp to defy the order or stage a protest.

Transition

Escario himself confirmed the order has already been issued.

“Past 12 noon yesterday (Wednesday), Director Burdeos told me that the order was already signed by DILG secretary and addressed to DILG-7,” he told The FREEMAN over the phone yesterday afternoon.

Gonzales, together with the municipal local government officer of Bantayan, will serve the order anytime soon, he said.

Escario sought assistance from DILG-7 and DILG-Cebu on Wednesday to ensure that the transition would be smooth.

“Kay ako naman gyud ang mayor. Kay di man gyud ganahan monaog si Despi. Di ko ganahan og gubot gud once ma-serve na ang order (Because I am already the mayor. Because Despi would not step down. I want to spare myself from trouble once the order is served),” he said.

“I also asked them to fast-track the implementation of the order to put a stop to this issue,” he added.

Another hurdle

Yet even if Escario has stepped in, running the town may not be a walk in the park, given the composition of the municipal council.

The council is presently dominated by members who align themselves with Despi. Among them are Vice Mayor Antonio Montemar, Councilors Janeth Hobahib, Josette Tan, Jerome Mata, Nico Pacheco, Alex Layese, and Danny Despi.

Escario will find alliance in at least two councilors, Paul Umbao and Eddieline Mae Layese Mansueto.

Bantayan is among the three towns comprising the Bantayan Island in northern Cebu, the other two being Sta. Fe and Madridejos.

As of August 2015, Bantayan has a population of 79,084.

Background

Escario lost to Despi in a hotly-contested May 2016 elections by a margin of 4,451 votes. Despi got a total of 16,494 votes against Escario’s 12,043.

But the Comelec en banc revoked Despi’s certificate of candidacy (CoC), which, in effect, disqualified him from running for mayor in the first place, because Despi allegedly falsified his certificate of nomination.

Escario ran under the National Unity Party (NUP) in the May 2016 polls.

The decision of the Comelec to revoke Despi’s CoC for “material misrepresentation” was upheld by the Supreme Court.

Despi said earlier the cancellation of his CoC is tantamount to disenfranchisement of the 57.09 percent of the voters in Bantayan.

He argued that the Comelec disqualified him based on Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC) on invalid substitution and not under Section 78 in relation to Section 74 of the OEC on material misrepresentation.

“Had I been disqualified under Section 78, I would just have stepped down and passed the leadership to Chris Escario because my Certificate of Candidacy (CoC) would be void from the beginning,” he said.

The Supreme Court has yet to resolve Despi’s petition supposedly for it to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Escario’s proclamation.

No TRO was issued and Escario’s proclamation proceeded last Monday at the Comelec central office in Manila. On the same day, Escario took his oath before Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Andres Reyes.

Despi’s backers

Like Governor Davide III, Vice Mayor Montemar believes Escario should not have been proclaimed mayor because he was not elected by the people.

Instead, by virtue of succession, Montemayor should assume the mayorship, granting the court will not reverse the Comelec’s ruling.

On the same day Escario was proclaimed, Montemar filed a petition for quo warranto before the Regional Trial Court in Bogo City in northern Cebu.

A quo warranto is a special form of legal action used to resolve a dispute over whether a specific person has the legal right to hold the public office that he or she occupies.

Davide, chairman of the Liberal Party in Cebu, agreed with Despi’s argument that the Comelec should have given more weight on “voice of the electorate" when it ruled on Escario’s petition to have Despi disqualified.

“Clearly he (Despi) was the choice of the Bantayanons,” Davide said.

Davide argued that instead of disqualifying Despi in the absence of a nomination, the Comelec should have just considered him an independent candidate.

"My personal position, the Comelec should not have disqualified Mayor Despi. They could have simply considered him as independent candidate. In fact, he filed his CoC in substitution for the person nominated by PROMDI,” the governor said. (FREEMAN)

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