Bzzzzz: Cimatu, 'savior' of Cebu City; Felicianos, adopted couple. North's caretaker, rival camps may shun special polls.

CEBU. (From left) DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu and retired major general Melquiades Feliciano with his wife, Mia. (Photos from Wikimedia Commons and Facebook account of Mia Feliciano)

Adopted couple

DENR Cabinet Secretary Roy Cimatu is being hailed by some sectors in Manila as "savior" of Cebu City after he "rescued" the city from the grip of coronavirus, taking it from the ECQ hole -- during the June 15 to July 15 period -- to modified enhanced or MECQ from July 16 to 30, before it was reverted to GCQ, then the present less severe MGCQ.

As the "trouble-shooter" sent by President Rodrigo Duterte to reform the "stubborn" Cebuanos in their response to the health crisis, Cimatu got a lot of credit for the turnaround, taking off some of the light on Mayor Edgardo Labella. At a live-streamed press-con Monday, November 15, where the retired general and the mayor appeared to talk on a threat of a new surge of the virus, at least two comments displayed on the screen said "Mayor Cimatu."

The city, it appears now, is crediting not just one outsider for containing Covid-19.

Through the City Council, it has also recognized and honored retired major general Melquiades Feliciano, IATF chief implementer for the Visayas, by "adopting" him and his wife Mia as the city's first "adopted couple" for "having contributed greatly to improving the way of the life of the people of Cebu City..." To be specific, for Feliciano's work in setting up the city's Emergency Operations Center and, with his wife (a nurse), for leading the campaign against the plague.

Councilor Joel Garganera -- who with Councilor Franklyn Ong authored the resolution -- serves as deputy implementer of IATF for the city.


Caretaker of the north

House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco was formally designated as caretaker of Cebu City's north congressional district, following the death on November 16 of congressman Raul del Mar.

Wait. The speaker decides whether a caretaker must be named and as to who will be the caretaker in case a vacancy occurs before the term is finished. He named himself?

Yes and no. While a deputy speaker, Representative Dong Gonzales Jr., was presiding the session Wednesday, November 18, the deputy majority leader, Representative XJ Romualdez, nominated the speaker. Gonzales, not hearing any objection, "accepted" the nomination.

Nobody opposed because it is an accepted "tradition" for the speaker to decide the matter of caretakers. An announcement from his office said it was "upon the wishes of the family and constituency" of the late Raul del Mar that the speaker be the caretaker. Velasco had the option of naming himself, or one deputy speaker (out of 60 deputy speakers in the House), or any other congressman or congresswoman from anywhere, even if not from Cebu. The speaker comes from Marinduque, whose sole district he represents.

"Added advantage"

The caretaker controls the development funds for the departed legislator's district. If no special election will be held, Speaker Velasco is likely to use the said funds according to how they were specified by the late congressman.

Del Mar in effect would still be getting the benefit of the incumbent, except that the caretaker is doing it for him.

Had Del Mar died when Alan Peter Cayetano was still the speaker, the picture would've been different. Del Mar not being allied with Cayetano, the House leader would've picked a caretaker, or he himself as caretaker, either of whom would've been sympathetic to the rival of late congressman.

"That's how politics works. You help your allies wherever you can," a Manila-based Cebuano journalist said. "It's the rest of Del Mar's term anyway. It should benefit his camp."

Special elections

The vacancy occurred outside the one-year period preceding the end of the incumbent's term. Del Mar died on November 16. One year before June 30, 2022 is June 30, 2021. So special elections may be called, not earlier than 60 days after the vacancy occurred but not later than 90 days after the vacancy occurred.

Unlike before Republic Act 6645 of 1987 was amended RA 8295 of 1997, when Comelec had to wait for the resolution of the chamber informing it of the vacancy, the existing rule is that Comelec may call the election, reckoned from the date it occurred, or in Cebu City north district's case, on November 16.

It looks like though Comelec takes the cue from Congress, especially when the next regular election is not too far away. There were some cases when no special elections were held and the caretaker legislator ran things as if the House member or senator who died or resigned hadn't completely left.

The camp of the lawmaker for whom a caretaker is named, or that camp's rivals, wouldn't be keen about waging two campaigns close to each other. That would mean a campaign in 2021 and another campaign in 2022 in Cebu City north: a serious overlapping of expenses and energy. Another reason not to be strict in implementing the law is that the plague is not yet totally contained.


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