SC gives reprieve to Lucena City mayor

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LUCENA CITY—The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave a reprieve to embattled Mayor Barbara Ruby Talaga, who has been ordered by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to leave office for an invalid candidacy but refused to yield and clung to her post.

Former Mayor Ramon Talaga Jr., husband of Barbara, said he received a phone call from the high court informing him of a status quo ante order issued by the court against the ouster of his wife as city mayor.

Vice Mayor Roderick Alcala, who has been acting as city mayor since Friday, confirmed Talaga’s information.

“I will step down and reassume my old post as vice mayor. There’s no problem with that,” Alcala said over the phone.

Ramon Talaga, who now serves as city administrator, said majority of the justices signed the order.

“God is really good. He really won’t allow a great injustice to prevail to frustrate the will of our people,” Talaga said over the phone.

Last Friday, Comelec representatives implemented the order to unseat Barbara and be replaced by Alcala, who later took his oath of office before a Lucena judge.

The May 20 Comelec decision said Barbara’s proclamation and election last year was illegal and ordered her to vacate her post in favor of Alcala in accordance with the rule of succession.

The Comelec said her candidacy was invalid when she substituted for her husband, Ramon, because he had not yet withdrawn his certificate of candidacy when she filed her own candidacy on May 4, 2010.

Barbara contested the Comelec decision at the Supreme Court and sought the court’s help to stop the enforcement of the Comelec order.

When news of the Supreme Court decision was relayed to supporters of the Talaga couple, who have been camping out at the old City Hall, a celebration broke out.

Casual employees fearful of losing their jobs if Alcala assumes office heaved a sigh of relief.

“This is a gift from heaven,” said a street sweeper.

A lawyer ally of Alcala, however, clarified that the Comelec ruling still stands unless the high court issues a ruling to the contrary.

“There is no reason for them to celebrate because the Comelec ruling continues to hang like a Damocles sword over her (Ruby) head,” Lucena Councilor Rey Oliver Alejandrino said over the phone.

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