Seares: Councilors Pesquera and Hontiveros send out a balloon to test Dondon's bid for Cebu City north congressman. Quite different from then councilor June Pe's strategy in changing districts for 2013 elections.

Seares: Councilors Pesquera and Hontiveros send out a balloon to test Dondon's bid for Cebu City north congressman. Quite different from then councilor June Pe's strategy in changing districts for 2013 elections.
Screenshot from Pesquera's Facebook post

[] The City Council's No. 1 vote-getter said the question of his running for congressman in the north was still "for discussion." Councilor Hontiveros added: “Councilor Pesquera is endorsing me as a party-mate.”

[] Hontiveros would've a different reason to run in the north, surely not to beat term limit

[] Dondon topped in the last two elections (2019 and 2022) and yet failed to get the vice mayor's slot in the last race. Understandably, he'd want a position higher than the same councilor's seat.

CEBU City Councilor Jocelyn Pesquera on Wednesday (February 28, 2024) posted on Facebook a photo of herself raising the hand of Councilor Donaldo "Dondon" Hontiveros with the caption "My Congressman in the North."

Both were smiling, indicating that the promo or gimmick was consensual: the two councilors were in on it.

It could be a trial balloon, sent aloft to find out public reaction. Or it could be a teaser, a prank or gag in social media, between Sanggunian Council sessions.

Kons Dondon told me Wednesday afternoon: "... for discussion pa ni." Pesquera read my request for comment but still had not answered.

Still, the publicity the social media post drew raised interesting questions in coffee shops and chat rooms, including these:

[] Could Councilor Dondon Hontiveros legally change districts to run in, as then councilor June Pe did for the 2013 elections?

BOPK's June Pe 11 years or so ago staged what I then called a "novel and daring move." Term-limited as city south councilor, he filed his certificate of candidacy in the north. That would've earned him a fourth consecutive term, which lay persons would've deemed a violation of the law. He failed because he lost, thus removing the need for the Supreme Court to settle the dispute that would've followed.

[RELATED: Seares: June Pe opened hatch for avoiding term limit, June 6, 2013; Seares: Avoiding term limit: June Pe's move; Andales Arcilla attempt]

But Dondon's case, should he decide to change districts, wouldn't be similar to June Pe's as Hontiveros (a) would be running for another position, not the same position, and (b) even if he were, he is not yet term-limited.

Atty. Lionel Marco Castillano, Comelec-7 regional director, told me Wednesday that for the Comelec, there's no legal disqualification for anyone like Hontiveros but a disqualification complaint may be filed against him, "especially if his residence is material to the position he seeks." Once a complaint is filed, Comelec would've to settle the question of residence.

[] Hontiveros wouldn't lose his seat in the City Council but would he not cease representing the south district as one of the councilors elected in that district?

If Hontiveros would file a COC for congressman in the north district, assuming he'd do so after complying with the residence requirement, he'd still be a councilor still representing the south district until his term as councilor is completed.

The south district wouldn't be zero-represented; there would still be seven other councilors from that district until the end of their term on June 30, 2025. Besides, as a collegial body, the members look after the interest of the entire city, not just one district's interest.

TIP FOR DISTRICT CROSSERS. Parenthetically, here's a tip for those who, like June Pe in 2013, would move from one district to another to beat the term limit.

In Arseno Latasa vs Comelec (GR#15482, December 10, 2003), the Supreme Court said the new LGU or district where the candidate would run must not cover the same territory or inhabitants/voters whom he has left.

June Pe would've not been disqualified on the basis of his transfer to the north. He faced a different set of voters in the north located in a different area. Comelec disqualified him for lack of residence in the north, not for his choice of a new district. But then even if he had qualified under that standard, the voters struck him out in the voting.

DIFFERENT PURPOSES. Should Hontiveros opt for a congressional seat, it could be due to the high prospect of not getting the vice mayor's slot in the Barug 2025 lineup.

He missed that in 2022, having "given way" to then councilor, now Vice Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia. Hontiveros ran for reelection as councilor but as an independent, although he and Barug didn't part ways; he supported Barug and stayed in the Barug ticket and aced the election.

Hontiveros topped the councilors race in 2019 (161,347 votes as against north topnotcher BOPK Nestor Archival's 124,466) and in 2022 (178,953 votes as against Archival's 119,456).

But in the last elections, Vice Mayor Garcia, who got the VM slot instead of Hontiveros, also pulled in a whooper: 266,924 votes against 209,674 votes of rival Franklyn Ong of BOPK.

Dondon was twice an election topnotcher and has served many times as acting vice mayor and Sanggunian presiding officer. Understandably, he'd look for a higher post. He must think he might fail again: Mayor Rama announced twice -- last February 16 and 17 -- the Rama-Garcia tandem in 2022 would still lead Barug in 2025.

NOT THE SOUTH SEAT HELD BY EDU. Hontiveros can only cast covetous eyes on the south district congressional seat, as incumbent Representative Edu Rama, is still on his first term and most likely wouldn't give it up in the next two elections. Mayor Mike has repeatedly mentioned Edu as Barug's pick ("logically") for congressman in the south. Outside Barug's fold, Dondon would've to run as an independent, against Edu Rama and other aspirants. That may not be an option, even with the close bond between Dondon and the mayor.

Looking elsewhere, Dondon must see the green field of Cebu City north, where Representative Rachel "Cutie" del Mar has held forth, her first term (2022-2025) after the era of her dad -- multiple-termer Raul Del Mar who passed away in 2020 -- and her second since her 2010-2013 term.

RESIDENCE THE MOST LIKELY ISSUE AGAINST DONDON. Before then, Comelec-7 chief Castillano told me they'll post on the bulletin board a list of those who apply for registration. "If there's no opposition to anyone's registration, election registration board will approve it." Otherwise, Castillano said, if there's an opposition, a hearing will determine the fact of residence.

As of February 28, Castillano's reply on whether Dondon had filed a notice/request for change of residence: "Wala pa man." But Hontiveros or anyone else would have until May 12, 2024 to transfer legal residence as a requirement for running in the May 12, 2025 election.

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