Freeman Region

Who’s the mayor of Panglao?

Ric V. Obedencio - The Freeman

PANGLAO, BOHOL, Philippines — The wrangling of the two top officials of Panglao town in Bohol over who is the legitimate mayor continues.

Mayor Leonila Montero has been suspended for three months by the Ombudsman early this year, and Vice Mayor Pedro Fuertes took over when the DILG installed him as the mayor.

Fuertes and Montero used to be close political ally during their stint after 2013 and 2016 elections where they both came out as winners. But their alliance now turned sour as a result of the controversy on who is now the rightful mayor of Panglao.

After serving her suspension, Montero returned to the Municipal Hall to reassume her post as “duly elected mayor,” but Fuertes refused to vacate his assumed post as “full-fledged” mayor, contending that there is no Supreme Court’s order, to be enforced by the DILG, for him to yield to Montero.

Montero reassumed her post as mayor on Monday last week after the Municipal Council, chaired by acting vice-mayor Briccio Velasco, approved Resolution No. 226, “acknowledging” her reassumption, and re-instating her as the official signatory of the town’s checking account.

Montero was ordered suspended for simple misconduct for appointing her defeated candidates despite the one-year ban after the 2013 elections. But the Ombudsman amended the case, filed by her friend Agustin Cloribel, to grave misconduct and meted her with dismissal from service.

Montero appealed the Ombudsman decision before the Court of Appeals, which in turn ruled in her favor by reinstating the Ombudsman’s original decision of simple misconduct against her, with the penalty of suspension only.

In her speech before the Municipal Council, Montero cited section 46b of the Local Government Code of 1991, saying that there is no more legal impediment for her to reassume as mayor after she fully served her three-month suspension.

Section 46b says: “Temporary incapacity (suspension) shall terminate upon submission to the appropriate Sangguniang of a written declaration by the local chief executive concerned that he has reported back to the office. In cases where the temporary incapacity is due to legal causes, the local chief executive concerned shall also submit necessary documents showing that said legal causes no longer exist.”

For his part, Fuertes fired back by saying Montero’s reassumption is also unlawful since only the DILG can order for her to do so. Such re-assumption is tantamount to citing to sedition, he told the media, adding that without a Supreme Court order to be only implemented by DILG reinstalling Montero, he is still the “full-fledged” mayor of Panglao.

Montero’s friend, lawyer Johnson Hontanosas, however argued that there’s no need for the DILG to carry out the reinstatement of Montero as mayor because there is nothing the Local Government Code provision mandating the DILG to do so, and that there precedents that suspended mayors reassumes their posts without the DILG personnel enforcing it.

Hontanosas said there is only one legitimate mayor of Panglao, and that is Montero. He added that Fuertes’ refusal to step down as mayor is like being an impostor, and this is usurpation and illegal.

When asked for his reaction to the Council’s move recognizing Montero’s reassumption, Fuertes said it’s “ultra vires,” meaning that it is beyond the power of the Council to pass a resolution of such kind. Montero’s action is a false move and has stirred confusion among the Panglao constituents. (FREEMAN)

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