Seares: Squabble over Lapu-Lapu City Hall office: Paz stands on shaky legs

PAZ Radaza, former Lapu-Lapu City mayor and now congresswoman of the city’s lone district, has bluntly defied the order of Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan, to vacate the office she occupies at City Hall.

The office located on the second floor of City Hall was used by previous House members from the city: Paz’s husband Arturo in 2010 and her daughter Aileen in 2013 and 2016. It is not certain when Boy Radaza began using it but the City Government website has an entry about the district office with the given year 2012. So it must be sometime during Boy’s term.

Now “Cong” Paz wants to keep the City Hall space as her district office while the new mayor, Ahong Chan, wants to use it as the mayor’s office.

Her legal basis

Paz cites an ordinance passed by the Lapu-Lapu City Council last June 6, or 24 days before Chan’s administration assumed office. For nine years or so, the Radazas, as House members, must have used the space without authority from the City Council and saw its need only before she would leave office. Like all “midnight” acts, the ordinance reeks with ill motive: to tie the hands of the incoming mayor. And “Cong” Paz rests on that ordinance as her legal support.

Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, in Cebu last Wednesday for a pre-Sona conference, cited (a) “separation of powers,” with the presence of a legislator in City Hall as intimidating to chief executive Chan and (b) such technical defects as non-publication of the ordinance in a local newspaper.

Authority over City Hall

The most compelling legal argument though against “Cong” Paz is Chan’s control over the city’s building and other properties, particularly City Hall, a power express and implied from being the mayor. As DILG chief Año put it, “Kung sino ang may authority doon, siya ang puwede magsabi kung kanino ibigay ang opisina. (Whoever holds the authority there decides to who the office is given.)”

What the congresswoman may do well to present is the law requiring the local government to provide office space for the district’s House member.

Most likely there is no such law, the reason that the House member’s lump-sum salary includes in the itemized list of expenses “office staff and supplies,” along with transportation and travel allowances.

A district office must be covered by that item but if the legislator is provided office space by the LGU--along with electricity, water and maybe even job-order help--he or she will pocket the money.

Reality of politics

Beyond any legal or moral argument, however, is the reality of politics, which “Cong” Paz as a veteran politician must know only too well: Chan doesn’t want her at City Hall because she is a rival, she is the enemy.

And she showed she was unwilling to work with the mayor when even before Chan assumed office, she publicly criticized his hiring of some key officials from outside Lapu-Lapu.

If they were political buddies, Chan could’ve let her keep the office previously occupied by Paz’s husband and daughter. In Cebu City, then mayor Tomas Osmeña provided his two BOPK congressmen, Raul del Mar and Bebot Abellana, office spaces at City Hall. Bebot used his but Del Mar reportedly preferred to use his house as his district office.

Whether Mayor Edgar Labella will allow the two legislators to keep the offices is not yet known.

But this is the deal: the House member uses the local facility “on the good graces” of the host chief executive. “Cong” Paz, of all people, cannot be unaware of the rule.

Given her reputation of being tough, if Paz were still the mayor and Chan were the elected congressman, she would have long ordered him and his staffers bodily removed from City Hall.


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