Mayor ordered ousted is safe for now–DILG

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SAN PEDRO, Laguna—An election ban on government appointments is preventing the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) from enforcing a Malacañang directive to unseat Calixto Cataquiz, the mayor of this town, a ranking DILG official said.

But this did not mean the order has been rescinded, according to Local Government Undersecretary Austere Panadero, who said that the department is seeking permission from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to remove Cataquiz.

“We have asked the Comelec to give us the authority to implement (the order). If not for the election ban, we could have done that. We might be put on a tight spot because of the election ban,” Panadero said in a phone interview on Monday.

He said the DILG has written Comelec Chair Sixto Brilliantes Jr. last week and was waiting for the poll body to authorize the department to remove Cataquiz.

Malacañang ordered Cataquiz to step down after he was convicted of graft by the Supreme Court in connection with the complaint filed by the Concerned Employees of the Laguna Lake Development Authority at the defunct Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) while Cataquiz was general manager of the Laguna Lake Development Authority from 2001 to 2003.

The PAGC was later absorbed by the Office of the Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs, under the Office of the President.

According to the September 2011 SC ruling, Cataquiz is also disqualified from reemployment in the government service and his retirement benefits are forfeited.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., in an order issued on April 4, directed the DILG to serve its order for the mayor to step down.

Cataquiz, who is seeking reelection under the Nacionalista Party, however, refused to vacate his office, saying the disqualification penalty did not define whether or not it covered an elective position.

Since Thursday, Cataquiz’s supporters, all wearing yellow, have been barricading the grounds of the municipal hall to protest Ochoa’s directive.

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