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Saturday, August 24, 2019
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Seares: Paz Radaza sought DILG opinion, rejects it, to wait for court ruling

News sense

BOTH Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan and Rep. Paz Radaza wanted the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to resolve their dispute over office space at City Hall.

Last July 10, Radaza wrote to DILG, asking Secretary Eduardo Año to clarify the public statement he made during a Cebu visit. Año said Radaza didn’t have the right to insist on using the office allocated by city ordinance for the representative of the city’s lone district. Earlier, last July 5, Mayor Chan also requested for DILG opinion, saying he ordered July 1 that Radaza vacate the office but the former mayor refused.

DILG’s three punches

Last Aug. 1, DILG issued Opinion #40, series of 2019, which contained these findings:

[1] NOT PUBLISHED. The ordinance that allocated the office (Ordinance #14-200-2019) was “legally infirm” because it violated the Local Government Code (section 59 [d]) requiring that the document “shall” be posted and published in a newspaper of general circulation. It was not so published and thus remained inoperative.

[2] POWER OF MAYOR. The power to “allocate and assign offices belongs to the mayor,” not the City Council. While the LGC (section 455 [b] [ix]) says “allocated by law or ordinance,” the ordinance granting office space to the House member is ineffective and therefore “cannot be made the basis” for the assignment.

[3] ‘MIDNIGHT ORDINANCE.’ It was a “clear case of a midnight ordinance,” passed a few days before the end of then mayor Radaza’s term. It was “designed to favor” the outgoing mayor and “to deprive” the incoming mayor of his power to decide on use of space at City Hall.

Forum hunt?

The DILG opinion, which both Chan and Radaza sought, is supposed to end the squabble, for them to “move on”: the mayor to his more important work and the congresswoman to her legislative duties.

It turned out Radaza’s recourse to DILG was just one stop in some forum hunt. When Chan wrote her again last Aug. 9 to leave City Hall, only then that she disclosed, on Facebook, that a case was pending in court. She gave no details when the complaint was filed and her arguments, only saying that the mayor must respect the court process.

Her motive in asking for opinion at DILG, which supervises local governments, thus becomes suspect. She was suing or planning the lawsuit: she must have intended all along not to be bound by an adverse opinion from DILG.

DILG policy is not “to act on queries that are made pending litigation” and not to give an opinion “pendente lite” except when the court requests for it.

All about politics

What is this all about then?

Radaza does not actually need office space at City Hall for her legislative work. Many other House members hold district offices at their residence. Congress pays each legislator a lump sum that covers basic pay, travel expenses and office rental, supplies and personnel.

Of course, the mayor can provide Radaza the office space--along with water, electricity, supplies and even job-order help--as other LGUs like Cebu City do. But Chan does not want to if he can help it. Like most other politicians, he hates to give the political enemy any favor.

More so when his election opponent started the new term by (a) criticizing Chan’s “import” of key department officials from outside Lapu-Lapu and (b) unleashing her party-mates to torpedo the mayor’s moves in the City Council. First target: Danilo Almendras, Chan’s city administrator. The “Sanggunian” rejected his appointment.

Oppressor or wimp

It is not lost on the public that both Chan and Radaza are locked in a partisan combat, which the elections didn’t end or suspend. Both are not pure as to honesty of purpose.

Chan though has the legal and PR advantage as he doesn’t have Radaza’s badge of direct personal gain. Radaza’s moves are suspect, particularly those made as bases for her demand. Her husband and her daughter had used the City Hall office space for three terms as House members (one term for Arturo and two for Aileen), when Paz was the mayor, without City Council approval. The last-minute scramble for the ordinance, in the dying days of her third term, unavoidably scarred motive of the measure and weakened her argument for latching on and not letting go.

Radaza now appears to be baiting Chan to stop being civil and do something drastic. The mayor risks appearing as oppressor or wimp--and neither image is flattering.


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