Official has not filed SALN for 21 years | Inquirer Opinion
As I See It

Official has not filed SALN for 21 years

/ 09:51 PM October 04, 2012

The mayoral election in Lucena City has long been over and a winner proclaimed, and another election is coming up, but the losers in that previous election are still trying to win it at the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Barbara Talaga has been proclaimed winner in the mayoral election held on May 10, 2010, in Lucena and is now sitting as mayor, but the losers have asked the Comelec to annul her proclamation. The loser, Philip M. Castillo, and the incumbent vice mayor, Roderick Alcala, who did not even run for mayor in the 2010 election, want to replace Mayor Talaga, Alcala by virtue of the rules on succession.

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The Supreme Court has already ruled in favor of Mayor Talaga but the impostors are still trying to win their cases in the Comelec. Despite the high court’s ruling, the Comelec is again on the verge of issuing its own ruling declaring as legitimate mayor Alcala who, I repeat, did not even seek the post in the 2010 election. Why don’t they just all run again in next year’s elections and see who the people of Lucena really want as their mayor?

How did this farce come about?

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Ramon Talaga was a 3-termer mayor of Lucena. He filed his certificate of candidacy for the 2010 election but the Comelec said he could not run for a fourth term. He withdrew his candidacy and his wife, Barbara, substituted for him. She won by a landslide of 4,000 votes over her rival, Castillo, and was officially proclaimed the elected mayor.

Castillo filed a petition with the Comelec seeking the annulment of Barbara’s proclamation on the ground that Barbara did not validly substitute for her husband because of legal technicalities. He claimed that the people of Lucena did not vote for Barbara but for her husband, Ramon, who was still in the Comelec’s list of candidates on election day. He wanted the votes counted for Barbara to be annulled. (How did Castillo know that the voters who wrote “Talaga” on their ballots were voting for Ramon and not for Barbara? Did he ask each one of them who they voted for?)

The Comelec’s Second Division threw out Castillo’s petition because of existing jurisprudence that the candidate who got the second highest number of votes cannot be declared a winner as the majority of the voters did not vote for him.

Then came Vice Mayor Alcala who claimed that he should be declared mayor by virtue of the rules on succession in the Local Government Code, which said that in case of a vacancy in the mayoral position, the vice mayor should take the mayor’s place. The Second Division also dismissed his petition. There is no vacancy as Barbara Talaga is serving as mayor, it said.

However, the Comelec en banc reversed the decision of the Second Division and declared Alcala as mayor. And here is the strange part: Two commissioners who issued the Second Division’s ruling reversed their previous decision. The fourth commissioner, Lucenito Tagle, who dissented in the Second Division’s decision, grabbed the position of  ponente  of the en banc and wrote the decision declaring Alcala as the legitimate mayor. Alcala is said to be Tagle’s nephew, and Tagle should have inhibited himself. He did not.

The Comelec en banc unseated Barbara but the Supreme Court issued an order restoring her as mayor.

But here comes the Comelec preparing to unseat Barbara once more and declare Alcala as mayor. In effect, the Comelec’s commissioners want their dozen votes to replace the thousands of votes of the people of Lucena.

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This, in spite of the ruling of Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes that “we cannot substitute nor undo the will of the people of Lucena by reason of a mere technicality of which they have no fault. It has long been ruled that ‘election cases involve public interest; thus, laws governing election contests must be liberally construed to the end that the will of the people in the choice of public officials may not be defeated by mere technical objections.’”

I repeat, why don’t Alcala and Castillo just run again against Barbara in the 2013 elections (today is the last day for the filing of certificates of candidacy) and see who the people of Lucena really want to be their mayor?

* * *

Then Chief Justice Renato Corona was impeached because he filed inaccurate statements of assets, liabilities and net worth, but here is a public official who has not filed his SALN for the last 21 years. According to the Office of the Ombudsman, Zenaida Brigida Pawid, chair of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), did not file her SALN from 1990 to 2011, in violation of RA 6713, otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standard for Public Officials and Employees.

Section 8 of RA 6713 requires all public officials to file under oath their SALN within 30 days after their assumption of office and every year thereafter. Section 11 provides penalties for violations, among which is a fine not exceeding the equivalent of six months’ salary, suspension not exceeding one year, or removal from office.

Pawid, 70, was appointed to the NCIP as commissioner representing Region 1 and the Cordillera Autonomous Region in November 2010. She was named chair on June 7, 2011, replacing Roque Agton who remains as commissioner for Southern Mindanao.

Confronted with the Ombudsman’s statement, Pawid told the NCIP commissioners during an en banc session that she would quit both as chair and member of the commission. She took back her statement later.

NCIP officials and employees said in a statement that Pawid should resign now. No comment, and no resignation, from Pawid until now.

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TAGS: 2013 Elections, As I See It, Comelec, Commission on Elections, Elections, Lucena, neal h. cruz, opinion, politics, SALN
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