Mabalacat City mayor steps down

MABALACAT CITY -- Mayor Marino Morales relinquished his post after the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) served on Monday, June 19, a cease and desist order (CDO) in connection to his disqualification in the last mayoralty race.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is set to proclaim on June 27 Morales’ rival, former Pampanga First District Board Member Crisostomo Garbo, as the city’s new mayor after the DILG ordered the implementation of the poll body’s en banc resolution cancelling Morales’ certificate of candidacy from the last elections.

Garbo, who got the second highest votes, said he will be proclaimed at the central office of the Comelec in Intramuros, Manila.

The Comelec stated that Morales was disqualified in the 2016 elections after serving three successive terms as mayor, the maximum allowed by law.

The disqualification case (DQ) was filed by Pyra Lucas, who had landed fourth in the mayoral elections.

Garbo belied reports that Vice Mayor Christian Halili would replace Morales by virtue of succession.

“People should be told the truth,” he said.

“The Comelec en banc order is clear that I, as the one who got the second highest votes, would assume the post. It is also clear in its order that the rule of succession that could favor Halili does not apply in this case. As a matter of fact, the Comelec order outrightly dismissed this scenario,” Garbo said.

Garbo urged city hall workers, including casual and job order personnel, to “stay put.” He also assured them of continued support “if they are doing their jobs.”

“I am not confrontational. I just want to do my job as mandated by the people and I want all at city hall to do theirs. We must support each other. There are so many people needing our help. There are so many projects and programs that need to be done,” he stressed.

Morales had served as mayor of Mabalacat since 1995. His term was interrupted only briefly by political protests that worked to his advantage to allow him to remain in his position.

In her DQ case dated January 4, 2016, Lucas alleged that Morales could no longer run in the 2016 elections since he had already been elected and served for three consecutive terms for the same position from 2007 to 2013.

On May 20, 2016, Garbo filed a Motion for Leave to Intervene and to Admit Attached Petitioner-in-Intervention. He alleged that he was “vitally interested in and will be affected by the outcome of the instant case.”

According to Garbo, Morales was ineligible to run as mayor of Mabalacat City because he was constitutionally barred in serving his fourth consecutive terms.

Garbo claimed that he should be proclaimed as the mayor should Morales’ COC be cancelled because he obtained the second highest number of votes in the 2016 elections.

On August 8, 2016, Morales sought reconsideration of the Comelec First Division resolution. The mayor claimed that the Comelec First Division erred in cancelling his COC despite the fact that there was no prior authoritative finding by a competent authority that he violated the three-term limit rule.

Morales stated that the Commission First Division also erred for not dismissing Lucas’ DQ case despite its procedural defects – It was filed out of time and it lacked a certification against forum shopping.

Morales claimed that he is qualified to run because the general status of the city has changed following its conversion into a component city.

He insisted that the Congress has intended to include the area of Clark Freeport as part of Mabalacat City and that the residents of the economic zone became registered voters of the city.

But the Comelec First Division disfavored Morales claims. The Comelec En Banc stated in its May 26, 2017 that the decision of Commission First Division is correct.

“The Petitioner-Intervenor (Garbo), being the qualified mayoralty candidate with the highest number of votes should be proclaimed,” the Comelec En Banc stated.
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