SCIENCE CITY OF MUÑOZ— City government employees found out too late on Friday that they were answerable to two mayors, whose clash brought policemen and soldiers at the City Hall grounds.
Vice Mayor Ester Lazaro took her oath as mayor on Nov. 5, saying she assumed the city’s reins because Mayor Efren Alvarez had allegedly been absent without official leave for sometime now and had been disqualified to hold public office following his Nov. 16, 2009, conviction by the antigraft court, the Sandiganbayan.
The court found Alvarez guilty of granting unwarranted benefits to a private construction firm, which won the build-operate-transfer contract for a P240-million multilevel shopping mall on a government property despite a problem with its license, said lawyer Domiciano Felipe Laurena IV, who sued the mayor.
The mayor had appealed his conviction before the Supreme Court but the graft court ordered his arrest on Oct. 15 after the high court junked his appeal.
Alvarez was sentenced to suffer six years to 10 years in prison, was disqualified to hold public office and was ordered to indemnify the city government with P4.8 million.
Because of these circumstances, Lazaro said she is the legitimate mayor of this city since Nov. 5, when she assumed the position.
But Alvarez said he has been holding office at a private building near City Hall, accompanied by some law enforcers, city employees and his supporters.
He said he has been signing documents and had approved the payroll of the city’s contractual employees.
Alvarez, who issued a memorandum saying he remains the city mayor, said the Sandiganbayan had lifted the bench warrant it issued against him following a notice by the high court allowing him to elevate his case before the Supreme Court en banc.
“I will not report to my office at City Hall yet. I will just wait until Monday (Nov. 26) for the orders [confirming that I remain mayor] from the regional interior and local government office in [Central Luzon],” Alvarez said.
“We are not barbarians, we are law-respecting officials,” he said.
Lazaro said she would step down if Alvarez could present valid documents attesting to his legitimacy as mayor. Anselmo Roque and Armand Galang, Inquirer Central Luzon