WHETHER Rep. Benhur Salimbangon keeps his seat while appealing the Supreme Court (SC) decision depends now on House Speaker Prospero Nograles.
Salimbangon said Nograles has discretion whether to implement the order naming his rival, Celestino “Tining” Martinez III, as the district’s congressman.
“The ball right now is with the speaker,” said Delon Urot, one of Salimbangon’s lawyers.
Although no tension has been reported in the district, a platoon from the Regional Mobile Group (RMG) has been sent to the area to immediately defuse it if it occurs.
However, acting Cebu Provincial Police Chief Erson Digal said he talked to most of the police chiefs yesterday morning, including Bogo City Police Chief Tito Saterra, and was assured the situation there remains normal.
Salimbangon, meanwhile, said he will talk to Nograles on Monday when Congress resumes its session. He said he is confident that Nograles, his ally, will wait until the motion for reconsideration he filed with the SC will be resolved.
On Tuesday, the SC en banc ruled that Martinez won the May 2007 elections for the district’s House seat. The ruling said Martinez got 5,000 more votes than Salimbangon. The SC said the ruling was immediately executory.
Urot and Salimbangon said they are confident Nograles will use the same argument in the case of Rep. Dan Fernandez. In that case, Nograles did not implement the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal’s (HRET) decision to install Fernandez as congressman of Laguna because of his alleged failure to meet residency requirements.
Urot said Nograles didn’t want to implement a decision that could still be reversed by the SC.
“That’s the same argument that the speaker will use. The speaker will wait for the SC. It’s too chaotic if he will unseat Benhur then, if the SC will decide in favor of Benhur, he will unseat Tining again,” Urot said.
Urot said the possibility of the SC reversing itself is very great and the prudent thing to do is to wait for the motion for reconsideration to be resolved.
The recent SC decision has spurred Bogo mayoralty candidate Mariquita Salimbangon-Yeung to actively campaign. She had previously said she wouldn’t be campaigning
for the May polls.
Salimbangon, meanwhile, said he has strong support from the district’s officials. Some of the officials who joined him in his press conference yesterday were Provincial Board (PB) Member Joven Mondigo, Jr., Daanbantayan Mayor Sun Shimura and Vice Mayor Ma. Luisa Loot.
Loot said the Martinezes should now rest after ruling their district for more than 20 years. She accused the Martinezes of having committed fraud in the 2007 elections.
Meanwhile, Digal assured the Martinez and Salimbangon camps that maximum tolerance would be observed if their supporters decide to hold mass actions. But he asked supporters to stay calm and just wait for developments in the case.
“I hope they won’t resort to violence. After all, the next elections are coming,” Digal said. (RSA/MEA)