Peña served as Makati mayor for three hours
MANILA, Philippines–For about three hours on Monday, Vice Mayor Romulo “Kid” Peña Jr. served as the acting mayor of Makati City.
At 8:30 a.m. Director Renato Brion of the Department of the Interior and Local Governments (DILG) finally served the suspension order against embattled Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr., posting it at the main entrance of City Hall.
Hundreds of supporters, gathered at the municipal grounds since the directive from the Office of the Ombudsman was issued last Wednesday, jeered Brion, who was accompanied by a force of several thousand Philippine National Police troops, including 200 members of the Special Action Force.
The troops barricaded all entrances to City Hall and caused heavy traffic in the area.
About an hour after the posting of the order, Peña was sworn into office by Assistant City Prosecutor Billy Evangelista in an oath-taking ceremony at Museo ng Makati in Barangay (village) Poblacion, attended by Brion.
The acting mayor immediately proceeded to his supposed to be office at the fourth floor of the old Makati City Hall building but had to leave upon arriving since the room was padlocked.
Peña told reporters he decided not to proceed to the office upon learning that the Court of Appeals had issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Ombudsman’s preventive suspension directive against Binay.
Asked what his first reaction was upon learning of the TRO, Peña said he felt it was a lost opportunity for him to serve the people better.
“But I have to accept it,” Peña said. “I was up to the challenge. I was ready to offer what I have for the service of the people but sadly it did not materialize,” the vice mayor said noting that he has accepted the turn of events because he believes “that everything has a purpose.”
Peña said his supporters and friends wept when they learned about the court action, but he vowed to continue with his duties.
In the afternoon, the 46-year-old vice mayor went around driving his motorbike, distributing medicines and aid to residents.
‘Just following the law’
“Being sworn as Makati mayor was not my choice but this was the responsibility handed to me and as a public servant, I am only doing what is required from me,” Peña said.
“I am not taking away anybody’s position here but we are just following what the law dictates,” he said. “I am relieved that the people can rest already and City Hall can also be cleaned and resume its operations.”
Claro Certeza, Binay’s lawyer, said Peña knew that the TRO was in the works. “They should have waited for a while before they did the oath-taking,” he said.
The lawyer said the Binay camp had told the appellate court that there was no evidence to pin the liability on Binay, pointing out that the transaction in the construction of the controversial Makati City Hall Building II happened when he was not yet mayor of Makati.
The reelection of Binay by an overwhelming margin freed him from any responsibility since the electorate believed in his honesty, Certeza said.
Despite the appellate court’s resolution, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said Peña would remain acting mayor of Makati “until matters are clarified.”
Roxas said in a text message he would refer the case to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, adding that there was “nothing to restrain” since the DILG had already served the suspension order.
“In fact, Vice Mayor Romulo Peña already took his oath,” he said in a statement issued later on Monday.
As of 7 p.m., the policemen sent to secure the area were still in their positions even after Binay’s supporters had left.
Senior Supt. Elmer Jamias, the PNP ground commander, said his men would stay in their post until the DILG orders them to leave. “We are law enforcers. We’re just here to maintain peace and order,” Jamias said.–With reports from Niña P. Calleja and Marlon Ramos
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