FORMER Bogo mayor Celestino “Tining” Marti-nez III said he will file a charge of usurpation of authority if his rival, Benhur Salimbangon, will attend the session of the House of Representatives tomorrow.
Salimbangon, he added, could be held in contempt for ignoring the Supreme Court (SC) order that declared him (Mar-tinez) as the congressman of Cebu Province’s fourth district.
But Delon Urot, one of Salimbangon’s lawyers, dismissed Martinez’s claim, saying his client also has the right to sue Martinez for usurpation.
“There is no directive from the House Speaker that Tining has been recognized and for Benhur to step down. Note also that though the decision is worded as immediately executory, there is no writ of execution to implement the same, absent which, Tining is still a civilian despite his claims to the contrary,” Urot said.
“Why would Congressman Benhur be cited for contempt? He is still the congressman and he has not been unseated yet,” Urot added.
Rep. Pablo John Garcia (Cebu Province, 3rd district) said that Martinez cannot be recognized until the SC’s decision becomes final, while Rep. Ramon “Red” Durano VI (Cebu Province, 5th district) deferred his comment until he studies the SC decision.
Other Cebuano members of the House of Representatives could not be reached for comment yesterday.
It will be crucial to get the recognition of House Speaker Prospero Nog-rales, said Urot. But the Salimbangon camp remains confident the Speaker will wait until the SC resolves the motion for reconsideration.
Nograles and Salim-bangon are allies in the administration party, Lakas-Kampi-CMD, while Martinez is running for Congress under the Liberal Party.
While Salimbangon assured his constituents he is still the legitimate district congressman, he also admitted he has given Nograles a copy of his motion for reconsideration and plans to talk with him on Monday.
“The Speaker should know how to resolve it. I will be there (to attend the session),” Salimbangon said yesterday.
Just like Salimbangon, the Martinezes also hope to speak with Nograles.
The session will start at 4 p.m.
Martinez believes the motion for reconsideration (MR) is “inconsequential to the decision of the SC.”
Urot disagreed. “His (Martinez) oath-taking is inconsequential. Not our MR,” Urot said.
It took about two months after the election in May 2007 before the fourth district’s representative could be proclaimed. The Commission on Elections sided with Salimbangon, saying he had a margin of 104 votes.
The House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) later agreed that Salimbangon had won, but the HRET revised the margin to 453 votes.
Recently, the Supreme Court declared Martinez the winner, saying the 5,401 votes cast for “Martinez” and “C. Martinez” should be counted in Tining’s favor. Candidate Edilito C. Martinez had been disqualified, the SC pointed out.
“Mr. Salimbangon has to learn to respect the law as I have done so in the last two years. That is, if he considers himself honorable enough to do the same and not to resort to childish acts, which only further put himself to shame,” Martinez said.
“I have but four to five months left remaining of what supposedly and rightfully would be my first term in office, to do what I can for the people in our district. And I intend to do so by the mandate given to me as congressman,” Martinez said.
Urot, however, said that Salimbangon will not budge for now.
“Congressman Benhur will be there (at the session) as it is his duty and obligation to do so. Not Tining nor his so-called oath-taking will prevent that,” Urot said.
Garcia, secretary-general of One Cebu, where Salimbangon belongs, said the SC decision is not yet final.
“Until the Supreme Court decision becomes final, it is the implication that Salimbangon is still the fourth district representative,” Garcia said in a phone interview.
To be formally enrolled in the 14th Congress, Martinez will have to be sworn in by Nograles, even if he already took his oath before Supreme Court Senior Justice Antonio Carpio, said Garcia.
Durano, though, said this may not necessarily be the case. He recalled that while he took his oath before then House Speaker Jose de Venecia in 2005 (replacing his brother Ace, who was appointed tourism secretary), in the 2007 elections, he only took his oath before Court of Appeals Justice Arsenio Magpale.
Congress is set to adjourn on Feb. 5 for the election campaign, and will only resume during the canvassing of votes. (RSA/JGA)