REP. Benhur Salimbangon urged constituents to stay calm and not be confused by the ongoing tug-of-war between him and his rival, former Bogo Mayor Celestino “Tining” Martinez III.

He said he can’t abandon his post and is busy working on the budget for the fourth district’s infrastructure projects, like P80 million for road concreting in Medellin, P72 million for a Tabuelan-San Remigio road project and some schools.

Martinez, however, said he is ready to take oath in the Plenary Hall tomorrow and may deliver a privilege speech. He described the oath-taking as a formality.

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Salimbangon said he, too, will attend tomorrow’s session of the House of Representatives.

The Supreme Court (SC) declared two weeks ago that it was Martinez who won the May 2007 congressional elections in Cebu Province’s fourth district. It said that over 5,000 votes previously declared as stray, because these were only marked as “Martinez” or “C. Martinez”, should be counted in Tining’s favor.

The Salimbangon camp insists the decision is not yet final and executory.

Salimbangon pointed out the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) has not issued a writ of execution yet. There’s also no word from House Speaker Prospero Nograles that he has been unseated.

“I can’t abandon my work,” Salimbangon said.

In an earlier interview, he objected to Martinez’s submission of a photo (which saw print in Sun.Star Cebu) of Tining taking oath before Speaker Nograles. 

“Under the house rules, he needs to take his oath in the Plenary Hall. This is also the statement of the Speaker,” Salimbangon insisted.

Nograles has also clarified that Martinez is not yet included in the roster of congressmen until he takes his oath in the Plenary Hall. That previous oath-taking, he said, was for Martinez to join the majority.

Challenge

Martinez said there’s nothing wrong with Nograles’ statement, adding that his name was not in the list because he took his oath only last Wednesday night.

If Nograles has not acknowledged him as a congressman, Martinez said, why would the Speaker state that he had taken his oath to join the majority?

“You can’t be a member of the majority if you are not a member of the House,” Martinez said.

His view is that as soon as the Supreme Court decided in his favor, he became congressman of the fourth district.

Told about Salimbangon’s challenge to show proof, like a copy of the oath of office he recited before Nograles, Martinez said: “He should stop making statements against me. Am I a subject to his demands? Who is he to order me? He can’t order me what to do. We will see each other again in the election, but he should be gentleman enough to leave his post. The SC is telling him to go and leave.”

Both will face off again in the congressional race in May 2010. (RSA)