Espinoza: Approved without thinking

Free zone

THE situation in Lapu-Lapu City is getting ugly since Rep. Paz Radaza is still holding on to her district office, which is inside City Hall and beside the city mayor’s office, despite the opinion of no less than Sec. Eduardo M. Año that the city ordinance providing for the legislator’s office at City Hall is not valid.

While Radaza’s argument may be correct that Año’s opinion did not order her to vacate her office, but she should better have understood that since the city ordinance that allows her to hold office is invalid, it follows without saying that her occupation of the office is also irregular, if not illegal.

With the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) opinion in favor of the stand of Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan, the legislative district office is now covered with wooden panels and Radaza’s staff could not hold office, except to get some records but with the approval from the mayor’s office.

Had Radaza not clung on to this office, the situation would not have been bad as it looks now and there would have been no negative comments about her. Not being party mates, Razada should have been aware that anytime soon, Chan would need the space.

The secretary’s opinion even described the city ordinance on Radaza’s use of a City Hall space as a “midnight ordinance” since it was passed and approved days before former mayor Radaza concluded her full term of nine years. It’s also a big embarrassment for the city councilors who passed and approved the irregular and illegal city ordinance without looking first into the legal consequences. This is one ordinance that could be described by a lawyer’s joke: “Approved without thinking.” This is expected, though, because the majority councilors then were Paz’s party mates.

The DILG opinion was also a rebuke on the authority of the City Council. The DILG said the right or authority to apportion the use of the spaces in City Hall belongs to the chief executive and not with the legislators.

It’s a fact that Congress allocated funds for each representative’s district office. The big question now is where are the funds allocated for the legislative district office? How was it disbursed? Considering that this district office is right at City Hall, it is very safe to assume that it’s not paying rent for the space, water and light utilities. In short, the district office is a freebie.

Lapu-Lapu City became a lone congressional district after Congress approval. It was former Sixth District Rep. Nerissa Soon-Ruiz who authored the law creating the city as a lone district. The city was part of the sixth congressional district, composed of Mandaue City and the towns of Cordova and Consolacion. From my research, it’s only Lapu-Lapu City that provided an office at City Hall for its representative.

The other reason that Radaza won’t leave her district office even if it was already ordered closed is that she filed a petition with the Regional Trial Court on the basis of that irregular city ordinance to prevent Chan from shooing her out. This is not to preempt the court, but I don’t think it would issue the injunction after the DILG issued a searing opinion.

With the city ordinance declared invalid by the DILG, the petition before the court no longer has legal legs to stand on.


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