FORMER Bogo Mayor Celestino “Tining” Martinez, who was recently declared by as rightful winner in the 2007 congressional race in Cebu’s 4th district, fights for his seat in Congress with three session days left.
Former Bogo mayor Celestino Martinez held a press conference at the House of Representatives. (Sunnex/Angela Casauay)
The Supreme Court (SC) en banc earlier ruled an "immediately executory" order declaring Martinez as winner in 2007 elections over Lakas-Kampi-CMD’s Benhur Salimbangon. It also denied with finality the motion for reconsideration filed by Salimbangon.
On the other hand, the Office of the Solicitor-General filed another motion for reconsideration appealing the SC's final decision in behalf of Salimbangon last Tuesday.
According to Martinez, House Speaker Prospero Nograles gave him word that he would be sworn in last Monday.
Martinez took an informal oath in Nograles's office but House rules state that any member should take the oath before the Speaker in an open session.
“The reason I got is that he has a stomach flu (last Monday). Yesterday (Tuesday), he was not around. I hope today (Wednesday) he will be here," Martinez said, adding that he wants to give the Speaker the benefit of the doubt.
“I would really hate to insinuate or believe any stories that have been going around. As of the moment, I'd like to believe that as a gentleman he would implement the decision of the Supreme Court and the laws that provide for such implementation,” Martinez added.
In response, Nograles said he is still waiting for the decision of the SC on the Office of the Solicitor's General motion for reconsideration before making any action.
“The Speaker has no problem implementing the decision of the Supreme Court... but there are pending legal obstacles that need to be addressed before the House can implement the High Tribunal's decision,” his statement read.
“The legal status of this issue is that while the SC rendered its decision with finality, the Office of the Solicitor-General which is the counsel for the Republic of the Philippines has a pending motion for reconsideration in relation to the SC decision and it is our legal position that we should wait for the SC to act on the Office of the Solicitor-General's motion before taking any action on this matter,” added Nograles.
Salimbangon won over Martinez by 104 votes during the May 2007 elections but when the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) canvassed the votes, his lead went up to 453 votes.
The SC meanwhile ruled that the 5,401 votes should not be considered stray but instead be counted for Martinez.
Martinez however said that the Office of the Solicitor-General earlier filed a “Manifestation and Motion” dated October 26, 2009 excusing itself from participating in the electoral protest because the HRET is only a nominal party to the case.
“The motion for reconsideration of the Office of the Solicitor-General is already moot and academic,” said Martinez.
Salimbangon attended the Wednesday plenary session and sat on his usual seat but refused to comment on the issue.
A brief altercation meanwhile ensued after the press conference of Martinez when one of Salimbangon's entourage barged in on the room asking the staff of the former Bogo mayor whether they have the right to use the said room.
Members of the House media calmed down the situation by telling the staff that the media has discretion on who will use the press conference room. (Angela M. Casauay/Sunnex)