SAN SEBASTIAN, Samar- This impoverished town of more than 8,000 people has two mayors.
This after the elected mayor who was suspended earlier by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the vice mayor who was designated as the acting mayor both claim to be the rightful chief executive of this sixth-class town (income: P53 million).
Arnold Abalos, who won the mayoralty race during the May 13, 2019 elections but was suspended by the regional office of DILG by virtue of memorandum order issued by Interior Sec. Eduardo Año barring officials elected on that elections not to assume their posts on grounds that they have either pending criminal and administrative cases or were dismissed despite their poll victories, reassumed the post on Thursday (Oct.10).
Abalos, who was supposed to serve his first term in office after completing a nine-year terms which ended in 2016, was meted with dismissal order with an accessory penalty not to hold any public or elective post by the Office of Ombudsman in 2014 after he failed to remit over P7 million of the municipal employees contributions to GSIS (Government Service Insurance System).
On July 3 of this year, the DILG in Eastern Visayas issued an order for Abalos to step aside, paving the way for then vice mayor Eleuterio Mabao to become the acting mayor of the town. Both are not political allies.
But this decision of the DILG was questioned by Abalos as he filed a quo warranto petition with prayer of motion for preliminary injuction and temporary restraining order before a regional trial court in Catbalogan City, the provincial capital, on July 12, seeking for Mabao to cease and desist from assuming the post of municipal mayor.
On Monday(Oct.7), Judge Cicero Lampasa, presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court-Branch 27, granted the temporary restraining order prayed for by Abalos which he used as the ground for him to reassume his post as mayor of the town.
But Mabao, in an interview, said that he would not stand aside unless there is an order by the DILG for him to do so.
“I am not clinging this post as acting mayor of San Sebastian as I will just revert to my post as vice mayor of the town which I was originally and duly elected. However, I will consult first the DILG for their opinion considering that it was the DILG who asked me to assume the post of municipal mayor in an acting capacity,” Mabao said.
Mabao said he would write to the DILG on this issue, adding that he would also consult his lawyers on what legal actions he would do.
He also questioned the jurisdiction of the regional trial court which granted the preliminary injuction as moved by Abalos considering that there was a decision made earlier by the Ombudsman dismissing his political rival.
But Abalos, in a separate interview, said that he is assuming his post due to an order ‘issued by a competent court.’
“So I am asking the elected vice mayor to (step down) and let’s talk to avoid any conflicts in our town,” he said.
Some supporters of Abalos camped themselves outside the municipal building as he assumed the post on Thursday (Oct.10).
Judy Batulan, provincial head of the DILG-Samar, said that he has not yet received a copy of the order of the court which was used by Abalos as his basis to retake the post.
“We have not received any order from any court regarding this matter. If there is a legal order (directing Abalos to reassume the post), we will follow it but pending such decision, (Mabao) is still the mayor (of San Sebastian),” Batulan said. (JOEY A. GABIETA/ROEL T.AMAZONA)