THE local Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the lawyers of outgoing Compostela mayor Ritchie Wagas engaged in a heated argument yesterday whether mayor-elect Joel Quiño be allowed to assume office.

DILG 7 Director Pedro Noval, Jr. said Joel and the rest of the elected town officials cannot be prevented from assuming their duties and functions.

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“They already took their oath of office, so they can already assume their posts. We cannot prevent them,” he said.

He also said Association of Barangay Councils President Felijur Quiño’s “acting and performing as mayor is illegal.”

Noval, Provincial Election supervisor Lionel Marco Castillano and lawyers of Wagas met at Compostela yesterday.

Joel, vice mayor-elect Antoinette Dangoy and the eight councilors failed to assume office last June 30 after the Comelec Second Division suspended their proclamation pending the resolution of election protest filed by Wagas.

Wagas, in a petition filed last June 18, asked for the suspension of Joel due to alleged irregularities in the May 10 elections.

Wagas appointed Joel’s brother Felijur, who served as Wagas’s campaign manager, as acting mayor.

Castillano said the decision whether Joel can assume as mayor lies in the hands of the Comelec Second Division.

Castillano served the Comelec division’s order to Joel yesterday.

He was assisted by Cebu Provincial Police Office Acting Director Erson Digal, who also helped maintain the peace and order among the supporters of the two camps.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen. I cannot decide,” Castillano said in an interview.

However, he will meet with the parties to come up with an agreement to ensure the carrying out of official duties at the municipal hall will not be compromised.

Joel said his camp is ready to file a motion for reconsideration.

Noval sent yesterday a memorandum to DILG central office Undersecretary for Local Government Austere Panadero to ask for guidance on how to proceed with the matter.

In a letter to Castillano yesterday, Noval said “the residual power of the President will come into play” if no officials can run the affairs of the municipality due to the order suspending the proclamation of elected officials.

Felijur wrote DILG 7 informing the agency he would act as the officer-in-charge of the municipal government, upon the suggestion of the outgoing mayor.

Atty. Ernesto Rama, a lawyer of Wagas, said the taking of oath does not necessarily means the assumption of office.

“You have to show first that you are qualified. Joel is not yet qualified given the motion filed against him,” he said.

Atty. Benjamin Bongon, another lawyer of Wagas, warned Noval against encouraging Joel to assume office.

The lawyers of Wagas also raised concerns about the peace and order outside the municipal hall.

“Our responsibility here is to maintain peace and order. We need to cooperate,” said Rama.

He added the people holding vigils outside the municipal hall should be respected. “We need to respect the two sides,” he added.

Noval suggested the people holding a vigil outside the town hall should be dispersed if peace and order is to be preserved.

Atty. Ireneo Morales, another lawyer of Wagas, said the DILG director has no authority to order such dispersal.

Noval defended himself, saying he was merely suggesting.

Although Joel was the sole respondent in Wagas’ petition, Dangoy and the eight municipal council members were affected with the suspension of their proclamation.

However, they held their inaugural session in the afternoon of June 30 and passed and approved their first resolution.

Rama said the Comelec second division will also have to determine the validity of the resolutions passed by the municipal council. (RSB)