Seares: San Fernando can survive the disruption. Compostela did.

JUST after the results of the 2010 elections in Compostela, Cebu were announced, the Comelec suspended the effects of the proclamation of all the supposed winners in that town.

No elective official was deemed qualified to hold office until the election protest was resolved. On July 5, then DILG Regional Director Pedro Noval, on order of his agency’s central office, assumed as caretaker mayor. For more than half of the term, DILG officials filled the top executive posts, with the town council totally shut down.

In 2016, the Cebu City mayor, Mike Rama, Vice Mayor Edgar Labella and 12 councilors were suspended by the office of the president. Councilor Margot Osmeña and another councilor moved up to serve as acting mayor and vice mayor, leaving only three councilors in the Council. Yet the skeletal Sanggunian reportedly met and transacted business, with many us still clueless as to how they could have legally done so.

Last Tuesday, Jan. 22, a van carrying San Fernando, Cebu Mayor Lakambini Reluya was ambushed on the way to the town: her husband, ABC chief and Councilor Ricardo Reluya Jr., and two others were killed while the mayor and two companions were wounded. The town council had earlier lost two councilors, separately gunned down; its vice mayor, Franz Sabalones and two other councilors have been on leave. Rivalry in politics is believed to have prompted the ambush while the absences of three lawmakers are caused by fear of execution.

Reasons for disruption

Those are examples of disruption of official functions for different reasons: failure to qualify, suspension from office, and violence and threat of violence.

In Compostela: all proclaimed officials could not assume office as Comelec nullified their proclamation. In Cebu City: the mayor, vice mayor, and 12 councilors were suspended for alleged malfeasance. In San Fernando: the mayor was wounded, almost killed; the number of dead councilors rose to four, while the vice mayor and other Sanggunian members have been absent for fear of their lives; they are obviously in hiding.

Confusion on motive

Note the sharp change in cause, from eight years or so ago to less than three years ago. Before, disruptions were set off by bumps in the election process or administrative sanctions, which didn’t involve loss of life or limb. Now, it can be murder on the street, in one’s car or home, or at work.

The San Fernando situation is confusing because politics, illegal drugs and business interplay. Businessman Ruben Feliciano, who is running against Mayor Reluya, allegedly posted in social media threats to kill rival politicians.

But the vice mayor and at least four councilors were linked to illegal drugs. Which would bring in as other probable suspects the police, the drug lords and their hit squads.

The police, ordered by the PNP chief to solve the case in two weeks, would’ve to find a plausible suspect to meet the deadline or ask for more time. If other high-profile killings were not clamped with deadlines, why should the San Fernando attack be? The change of stance is admirable but suspicious.

“Town of fear”

Compostela and Cebu City survived their respective disruptions. Compostela showed it could be run with a mayor and vice mayor “imported” from DILG. In Cebu City, three councilors legislated with more speed and much less noise.

San Fernando could very well do it. They could order the arrest of the absentee VM and councilors or, like Cebu City almost three years ago, proceed without raising the question of quorum and just steer away from such big decisions as selling public land or incurring a huge debt.

More formidable is the problem of peace and order. If the elected leaders could not be protected even in the “municipio,” how could other people feel safe in their town?


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