Malilong: Balance of power in City Council tilting towards Labella’s camp?

The Other Side

A MAJOR shift in the configuration of the Cebu City Council looms after the Comelec en banc rejected the motion filed by reelected Cebu City North Councilor Alvin Arcilla to reconsider an earlier decision by the poll body’s First Division canceling his certificate of candidacy in the May 13 elections.

“After careful review of the records of the case, the Commission (En Banc) finds no cogent reason to disturb or modify the findings reached in the Assailed Resolution,” the En Banc resolution, dated May 28, 2019 and signed by the Comelec chairman and all six commissioners, said.

Arcilla is one of two BOPK three-term councilors who faced a disqualification suit after they insisted on running in spite of the constitutional provision limiting local officials to only three consecutive terms. The case of Sisinio Andales is expected to be resolved anytime soon.

Arcilla and Andales were suspended towards the end of their second term in 2016 for accepting calamity assistance from the city government. The suspension practically wiped out the entire local Cebu City officialdom, sweeping aside all but four of the city councilors as well as the mayor and the vice mayor.

Despite their suspension, Arcilla and Andales won again in 2016 for what should have been their last term ending on June 30, 2019. Both, however, claimed that their three-term limit was interrupted by their suspension and that the interruption entitled them to seek at least another term.

The Comelec, however, ruled that the interruption theory does not apply in their case, citing the case of Aldovino versus Comelec where the Supreme Court held that allowing a suspended elective official to run for a fourth term amounts to permitting “a constitutional violation through sophistry.”

“To rule otherwise,” the Comelec added “would reward Respondent for his own misconduct and contradict the aforesaid rulings of the Supreme Court.”

Because an en banc decision is immediately executory, Arcilla is expected to vacate his seat unless he secures a stay order from the Supreme Court. The legal implication of the cancellation of his certificate of candidacy is that it was as if he was never a candidate and therefore the ninth-placed candidate will be considered elected.

This means Jerry Guardo will be able to retain his membership in the city council although probably not in the BOPK. There are reports that Guardo has already issued a statement announcing his support for the administration of incoming Mayor Edgardo Labella. If true, that will reduce the numerical advantage of the BOPK in the council from 11-7 to 10-8.

If, as expected now, the Comelec similarly disqualifies Andales, Barug’s Joel Garganera will also return to the council since he placed 10th last May 13. In that event, the council will be evenly divided, 9-9, and Vice Mayor Michael Rama may have to be frequently called upon to break the tie unless, as rumored, Dave Tumulak of the city’s south district also returns to the fold of his original political party.

Labella must be smiling over this happy turn of events although when I asked him for comment yesterday, all that he said was that he is focused on his inclusive style of governance and will keep his hands off local politics.


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