Monday July 16, 2018

Seares: The law Tomas ‘almost memorized’

“(The ex-officio members in sanggunians) shall serve as such only during their term of office as presidents of the liga chapters, which in no case shall be beyond the term of office of the sanggunian concerned.”’
-- From section #494 of Republic Act 7160 of 1991

BLAME that Local Government Code section. It explicitly says that duly elected presidents of the “Liga ng mga Barangay” in towns, cities and provinces shall serve in the council but “in no case ... beyond the term of the sanggunian...”

Under that provision, Cebu City Councilor Philip Zafra, representing ABC as chief of chiefs, was to serve in the local legislature only until June 30, 2016.

Mayor Tomas was sure about the law, telling Cebu Daily News he “almost memorized it.” So was BOPK Counclor Sisinio Andales who, like Tomas, earlier questioned Zafra’s presence in the City Council. Zafra has no business (being) there, said the mayor and Andales.

The SC ruling

Tomas must not have read the Supreme Court decision in the Galarosa vs. Valencia case, written by then Associate Justice Hilario Davide Jr. The 1993 decision, which interpreted the law that Tomas “almost memorized, said the Local Government Code couldn’t have intended “to allow a gap in the representation of barangays in the ‘sanggunian.’” Andales may have read the ruling but failed to mention it when argued that Zafra be sacked as an overstaying councilor.

Zafra could’ve been replaced after June 30 last year. The term of all barangay captains was extended when the Oct. 31 election that year was reset to Oct. 23 this year. But that didn’t extend Zafra’s stay in the City Council. It only applied to his seat in his barangay. And, even with the new rescheduling of the election to May 14 next year, his term in the City Council was long over.

But, and it’s a huge BUT, there’s a requirement: Zafra, and others similarly situated, cannot be evicted until the ABC holds a new election and chooses his successor. The law that the mayor “almost memorized,” does not allow, as the high tribunal interpreted, a gap or “hiatus” in the “sanggunian” by the absence of a representative from the barangays.


So this is the situation, as we know it:

[] Zafra stays, lawfully, until that ABC election picks his replacement; the high court says so; so does the Dept. of Local Government & Interior.

[] DILG has ordered the said election to be held on or before Nov. 30 but DILG defers to the decision of the national executive board (NEB) of Liga ng mga Barangay. The NEB’s circularized order to its troops: don’t hold elections and don’t leave ex-officio posts until NEB gives the go-signal.

[] Liga’S NEB must be waiting for the full text of the law putting off the Oct. 23 polls until May 14 next year. The said republic act reportedly contains a provision allowing the ex-officio reps in the “sanggunians” to hold over. But then, even without such provision, relying on the SC ruling and DILG’s say-so, the NEB may opt to hold the ABC election now -- or defer it until new polls in May next year.

Woo, don’t sue

Don’t sue Zafra. Instead fight for the ABC top post; it’s being non-partisan is a ridiculous fiction. And if your bet loses, woo the elected winner to your party to help seize the majority in the City Council.