THERE is a lesson to be gained from what happened to ex-councilor Alvin Arcilla and Councilor Sisinio Andales who is soon to be ex too.
It’s a lesson not for two people but for those who hold public office.
Arcilla has been replaced by Councilor Jerry Guardo as the eighth elected city councilor in the north district of Cebu City, following a final ruling that found Arcilla ineligible to another term.
In Andales’ case, he also won in the May 13, 2019 elections but, as what happened to Arcilla, he is now expecting his disqualification after a final ruling barred him from another term. Joel Garganera will assume the post of councilor once a writ of execution is issued.
Arcilla and Andales knew they completed three successive terms. They accepted plaques of recognition given by the City Council last June 25 in a ceremony to honor three-termers. Records showed they were elected councilors in elections in 2010, 2013 and 2016.
The Supreme Court has said elective officials must observe the three-term limit rule in public office as provided under Section 8, Article 10, of the 1987 Constitution and Section 43 (b) of Republic Act 7160, or the Local Government Code of 1991. A term limit is a constitutional tool to prevent a monopoly, to check the concentration of power and strengthen democracy. No one has the monopoly of the wish to serve.
Arcilla and Andales joined the 2019 race because, they said, they were not able to complete their second term when they were suspended from office in 2016. Both were suspended for six months along with 10 councilors, the then mayor and then vice mayor for abuse of authority. The suspension was for six months but it actually lasted about six weeks. It was implemented only on May 17, 2016 after the election campaign period and it finished on June 30, 2016 when their terms ended.
Reason for the suspension was the grant of P20,000 in calamity assistance to all officials and employees of Cebu City Hall in 2013, in the wake of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake and super typhoon Yolanda. The complaint against them said these public officials fabricated documents to claim they were calamity victims that qualified them for the aid.
The lesson is that, even in a calamity or emergency, there are rules to be followed. City Hall employees may be among those who suffered in the earthquake and super typhoon but the grant of assistance is to the individual. The punishment of suspension must have forced them to realize that now.
Arcilla and Andales, however, decided to test the rules further by seeking reelection. As it turned out, they were wrong.
The lesson to all public officials is to realize it is wrong to believe they are special, that they can beat the law or be the exception to the rule. The message here is for leaders to regain their sense of what is right and wrong because people look up to them and follow their example.