Citizenship issues hound 2 mayors
TENSION ROSE in two towns in Pangasinan and Lanao del Norte this week as supporters of losing mayoral candidates there held protest rallies to force the officials to step down after the courts and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) ruled that they had not given up their American citizenship.
In Pangasinan on Wednesday, 50 placard-bearing supporters of Jocelyn Perez, who Basista Mayor Manolito de Leon beat in the 2010 and 2013 elections, gathered in front of the town hall to demand that De Leon step down.
The move was prompted by the Supreme Court’s resolution on Nov. 10 dismissing De Leon’s petition against the Comelec which declared him ineligible to run in the 2013 elections for using his US passport twice despite renouncing his American citizenship.
De Leon said he would step down as mayor only if the Supreme Court issued a final decision.
“If the law says I have to step down, it’s fine with me,” De Leon said.
“The petition is still there and the matter has not attained finality as of this time,” said Orlando De Guzman, De Leon’s lawyer.
But Perez lamented the supposed inaction of Comelec on her plea to implement its decision.
“What I understand is that without a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court, the Comelec should issue a writ of execution 30 days after it issues a decision. But now, the Comelec is saying we should wait for the Supreme Court’s final decision. Is the Comelec not an independent body?” she said.
Domingo Frias, head of the town’s civil security office, said Perez and her supporters prevented him from entering the town hall at 6 a.m. Wednesday.
He said Perez’s supporters padlocked the door of the hallway leading to the mayor’s office but the town’s police chief, Senior Insp. Buenaventura Benavides, convinced them to open it.
In Lanao del Norte, supporters of Kauswagan Mayor Rommel Arnado stood their ground in a bid to prevent the camp of losing mayoral candidate, Florante Capitan, from occupying the town hall.
On Monday, seven people were hurt in a melee between followers of the two politicians. Capitan’s group, backed by the camp of Casan Maquiling, another rival of Arnado, had tried to enter the town hall on Monday, claiming Capitan had already been installed as mayor.
Capitan, who lost to Arnado in 2013, has been banking on an en banc decision of the Supreme Court in August last year, which said Arnado was an American citizen and unfit to run for any elective post in the Philippines.
He said by disqualifying the mayor, the Supreme Court had installed him as the rightful mayor. “On Sept. 17 last year, we asked the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to issue an implementing order but until now, no order had been issued,” he said.
Lt. Col. Leomar Doctolero, commander of the Army’s 15th Infantry Battalion, said soldiers had been posted at the town hall to prevent a repeat of Monday’s ruckus.
Capitan said the DILG should decide on Arnado’s case immediately to prevent confusion in the town. Reports from Gabriel Cardinoza and Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon, and Richel Umel, Inquirer Mindanao
‘What I understand is that without a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court, the Comelec should issue a writ of execution…’
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