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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A TOTAL of 16 Iloilo towns and a component city are included in the “hotspot” list of the Police Regional Office (PRO-6).

Supt. Ranulfo Demiar, PRO-6 regional public information officer, said the towns are included in their election watchlist of areas of concern (EWAC) which is being validated by the regional command.

The areas included in the EWAC are classified in two categories: Category 1 for places with high possibility of election-related violent incidents (ERVI) is high while Category 2 areas have history of ERVIs, intense political rivalries and active movement of armed rebels.

In Iloilo, Category 1 areas include Anilao, Dueñas, Estancia, Maasin, Passi City, San Enrique and Tigbauan.

The towns of Bingawan, Calinog, Guimbal, Igbaras, Lambunao, Leon, Miag-ao, San Joaquin, and Tubungan are classified as Category 2 areas.

At total of 48 towns and cities in Western Visayas are included in the PRO-6’s EWAC.

Demiar said some of the areas might be removed from the list depending on the outcome of their validation.

Last Monday, former Estancia mayor Rene Cordero went to the office of PRO-6 Director Isagai R. Cuevas to seek assistance against alleged harassment by his rival, incumbent Mayor Restituto Mosqueda.

Cordero is seeking to recapture the mayorship of Estancia in the May 2010 elections.

Cuevas said he advised Cordero to gather evidence to prove his claims so that the PRO-6 can assess his request.

“They have to show proof before we ca provide security personnel to him,” Cuevas said.

Meanwhile, Presidential Assistant Raul Banias warned politicians against hiring members of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) in partisan political activities.

Banias said RPA-ABB members who work as bodyguards of politicians are liable for violating the peace agreement between the Philippine government and the rebel group.


Extended voters list-up pose problems

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the city and province of Iloilo is foreseeing many problems with the latest decision of the Supreme Court to extend the voters’ registration period.

Atty. Elizabeth Doronila, Iloilo provincial election supervisor, said election officers in the province flocked her office yesterday to express their apprehensions about the SC decision.

In a nine-page unanimous decision penned by Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, the high court en banc granted the petition filed by Kabataan party-list seeking to declare null and void Commission on Elections (Comelec) Resolution No. 8585, which shortened the deadline of voters registration to October 31, 2009, instead of December 15, 2009, as previously fixed by Comelec Resolution No. 8514.

The decision, which is immediately executory, will extend the voters’ registration period to January 9, 2010.

The Comelec earlier set the deadline for voters’ registration to October 31 due to the demands of poll automation.

In its decision, the Supreme Court said the people’s right to suffrage “is at the heart of our constitutional democracy.” It said the Comelec has no valid ground to justify its non-compliance to the system of continuing voter registration mandated under Section 8 of Republic Act 8189 or the Voter’s Registration Act of 1996.

Under the said provision, the registration of voters shall be conducted daily in the office of the election officer during regular office hours, except during the period starting 120 days before a regular election and 90 days before a special election.

“In the present case, the Court finds no ground to hold that the mandate of continuing voter registration cannot be reasonably held within the period provided by R.A. 8189, Section 8 – daily during officer hours, except during the period starting 120 days before the May 10, 2010 regular elections. There is thus no occasion for the Comelec to exercise its power to fix other dates or deadlines therefor,” the Court said.

Doronila said the SC order will compel election officers to undo the final list of voters culled from the latest registration period which ended last October 31.

“Our election officers have already finalized their list is (which is) ready for sealing and submission. If the registration period is extended, the election officers will have to make a new list of voters which is a tedious process,” Doronila said.

Aside from registering first time voters, Doronila said they foresee problems in transferees from other areas outside Iloilo.

“The mailing of the documents of transferees take some time which will surely delay things,” she added.

Jonathan Sayno, Iloilo City election assistant, said their timetable will be set back by the high court’s ruling as they are supposed to hear exclusion petitions against registered voters next year.

Sayno also echoed Doronila’s sentiments on undoing the final list of voters which the city Comelec office has already completed.

“We also lack registration forms. During the last day of registration, we even asked for 1,000 extra copies to accommodate those who tried to beat the deadline,” Sayno said.

Sayno added that they expect 5,000 additional registrants to take advantage of the extended registration period.

Sayno said the most practical period for the extension of the registration period is from December 21 to 29 to avoid disrupting Comelec’s timetable for the automated elections.

“Everything really depends on the Supreme Court. Since the decision is immediately executory, we are just awaiting guidance from our central office,” Sayno said.

PCOS allocation

Doronila said the allocation of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines in clustered precincts will also be affected with the extension of the registration period.

Doronila said the Comelec increased the number of precincts per cluster from five to seven because of the number of voters.

Based on Comelec’s calculation, the city and province of Iloilo need 2,392 PCOS machines for the same number of clustered precincts.

There are a total of 1,257,661 voters in the city and province, according to Doronila.

Registered voters in Iloilo City totaled 242,033, lower by 1% compared to 245,734 registered voters during the October 2007 barangays election.

“If the number of registered voters increases with the extension of the registration period, the number of clustered precincts and PCOS allocation will also increase which poses logistical problems to the Comelec,” she said.

Doronila said the extension might not be practical for areas in the province.

“Most municipal election officers said nobody else went to their office on the last day of registration on October 31. Maybe because the voters were informed through the media not to flock the election offices on the last day of registration. Except for Iloilo City which was swamped by last day registrants, our offices in the towns did not face such predicament. This is the first time that we will register voters after the deadline for the filing of candidacy,” Doronila said.

But Doronila and Sayno said their offices are ready for the extension.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

IS the 18-year-old lad who filed his candidacy for the Iloilo provincial board under the Liberal Party for real or just a dummy for another candidate?

This, after it was found out that Nonito Pasuelo Jr., incumbent Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Federation president of Pototan, Iloilo, is too young to run in the 2010 election.

Pasuelo, who filed his certificate of candidacy (CoC) Tuesday, will run for the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Iloilo representing the 3rd district. He is running under the Liberal Party led by the party’s gubernatorial bet, Barotac Viejo Mayor Raul Tupas.

Based on Section 39(b) of the Local Government Code of 1991: “Candidates for the position of governor, vice-governor or member of the sangguniang panlalawigan, or mayor, vice-mayor or member of the sangguniang panlungsod of highly urbanized cities must be at least twenty-three (23) years of age on election day.”

Atty. Elizabeth Doronila, Iloilo election supervisor, said anyone who questions Pasuelo’s qualification can file a petition to deny or cancel his candidacy with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) within 25 days after the deadline of the filing of CoCs which is December 1.

Even if no petition to deny due course or to cancel a CoC is filed against any candidate, the Comelec can cancel his or her candidacy if the poll body finds that the candidate did not pass the requirements.

Political observers said Pasuelo might just be a dummy for another Liberal candidate in the 3rd district.

The more serious candidate might replace Pasuelo on or before December 14 which is the deadline for the filing of CoC for substitute bets, based on Comelec Resolution No. 8678 (guidelines on the filing of candidacy and nomination of official candidates of registered political parties).

Pasuelo’s substitute may also replace him midday of election day, May 10, 2010.

The Comelec resolution said the substitute for a candidate who died or suffered permanent incapacity or disqualified by final judgment may file his certificate of candidacy up to mid-day of election day.

Comelec also said that a person who has withdrawn his candidacy for a position shall be no longer be eligible as substitute candidate for any other position after the deadline for COC.

Ausan sees complications in SC ruling on appointive officials

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Western Visayas is awaiting guidance from its central office as regards the recent decision of the Supreme Court on appointed officials who filed their certificates of candidacy (CoC) for the 2010 elections.

Atty. Dennis Ausan, Comelec regional director, said he has yet to see a copy of the SC decision stating that Cabinet officials and other appointive public servants participating in next year’s elections need not resign from their respective posts even if they have filed their COCs.

Ausan said he learned of the SC decision only in media reports.

The Comelec official said he saw some complications in the new ruling, particularly in the case of PNP, AFP and Comelec officials who are running for the 2010 elections.

Ausan cited the case of Alfonso Combong III, election officer of Hamtic, Antique, who is running for board member next year.

Combong filed his CoC Monday and did not report to work thinking that he automatically resigned his post after formalizing his candidacy.

But the SC order put the Comelec regional office in a bind whether to let Combong continue to discharge his office as election supervisor or consider him resigned.

Ausan said there might complications in Combong’s case and other officials such as the police and the military.

He said the SC might have overlooked the case of AFP and PNP personnel.

“Will they continue to be police and military officers while campaigning? We have to seek guidance from our central office on this. As regards Combong’s case, we suggested that he go on leave but it all depends on him,” Ausan said.

Reports from Antique said Comelec’s director for personnel Adolfo Ibañez to go on leave for the meantime.

Ausan said while appointive officials can stay in office even if they are candidates, they cannot use their office resources for their campaigns.

“If they use their offices for political purposes, they can still be pinned down by anti-graft laws,” he added.

The latest SC decision is the result of a petition filed by election lawyer Romulo Macalintal questioning a resolution issued by Comelec.

The Comelec resolution was based on Sec. 13 of Republic Act 9369 (The Automation Law) which states that “any person holding a public appointive officer shall be considered ipso facto resigned from office and must vacate the same at the start of the day of CoC.”

But Macalintal, in the petition, argued that such provision runs counter to another section that says “any person who files his COC shall be considered as a candidate at the start of the campaign period.”

Macalintal argued that the requirement discriminates against government officials vis-a-vis the elective officials who are not obliged to give up their posts when they run for public office.

The SC ruled that appointive officials are only considered resigned at the start of the official campaign period.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

IT WILL be the longest day for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as candidates vying for various posts in 2010 try to beat the deadline 12 midnight today.

Jonathan Sayno, Comelec Iloilo City election assistant, said they are prepared physically and logistically to cater to candidates who will lodge their certificates of candidacy (CoC).

Sayno said their work eased a bit after major political groups in Iloilo City filed their CoCs since the weekend.

Sayno said they have requested police officers to be stationed at their office in Iloilo Terminal Market, also known as Super Market, to keep peace and order.

“The filing is peaceful and orderly and no untoward incident happened along the way. Although candidates brought along their supporters and fun fares, the filing went smoothly as candidates observed proper procedure and friendly competition,” he added.

Mayor Jerry Treñas, who is running for congressman, and his ally Vice Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, who is seeking the Office of the City Mayor, led their respective groups in filing their CoCs Monday morning.

The group of Sec. Raul M. Gonzalez Sr. will formalize their candidacies this morning. Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr. will try to win his last 3-year term against Treñas while Sec. Gonzalez Sr. will run against Mabilog.

The Gonzalezes will carry the banner of Partido Lakas-Kampi-CMD.

The group of mayorable Lorenzo “Larry” Jamora filed their CoCs Friday last week.

City Councilor Erwin Plagata is running for vice mayor while his City Council slate includes incumbent Councilor Perla S. Zulueta and lawyer Edeljulio Romero. They will run as independent candidates.

Atty. Elizabeth Doronila, Comelec Iloilo provincial office head, said they also requested additional police officers to secure their office at Burgos Street, LaPaz, Iloilo City.

Four police officers from the Police Regional Office (PRO-6) and LaPaz police station were assigned to the Comelec provincial office since the start of the filing CoCs.

The group of Barotac Viejo Mayor Raul C. Tupas, who is running for Iloilo governor, is expected to file their certificates of candidacy today at the Comelec provincial office. (With reports from Lydia C. Pendon)

Comelec, PNP validating risk areas

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the PNP will start identifying so-called election hotspots in the region.

Atty. Dennis Ausan, Comelec director in Western Visayas, said the move is to prevent another poll-related incident similar to the Maguindanao massacre. As of yesterday, 52 persons were confirmed killed in the gruesome incident.

Ausan said the PNP is helping them validate the lists of possible election areas of concern in the region after these were submitted by provincial and city police offices in Western Visayas to the Police Regional Office (PRO-6).

C/Supt. Isagani Cuevas, PRO-6 director, said they will release the final list after they have studied and assessed the reports of their subordinate units.

The list of hotspots is normally made public during the start of the campaign season but the Comelec and the PNP might publicized it early after what happened in Maguindanao.

The election period officially starts January 10, 2010.

Election hotspots are identified in two categories: Category 1 pertains to areas where the possibility of election-related violent incidents (ERVI) is high; Category 2 areas have a history of ERVIs, intense political rivalries and high probability of occurrence of ERVIs with participation of private armed groups and rebel groups.

ERVIs are incidents which could affect or disrupt the electoral proceedings in the area or create a form of political tension that could eventually upset the electoral process, not only in the site of the incident but also in the surrounding areas during election days.

Aside from drawing up the election areas of concern, the PRO-6 is also keeping tabs of politicians who hire private armies and horde illegal firearms.

Cuevas also advised journalists who will cover areas with intense political rivalries to coordinate with the PNP so they can be provided protection.

“The police will be ready to provide them with security personnel if our media practitioners make the request,” Cuevas said.

At least 18 journalists were confirmed killed in the massacre allegedly perpetrated by the Ampatuan clan against members of the Mangudadatu family.

The journalists were supposed to cover the filing of the certificate of candidacy of Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu of Buluan, Maguindanao who will run for governor versus Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Panay Electric Co. (Peco), the sole power distributor in Iloilo City, are preparing contingencies to avoid power outages during the 2010 elections.

This after Department of Energy (DoE) Secretary Angelo Reyes warned last week of nationwide power interruptions next year – a problem that could affect the conduct of the May 2010 automated polls.

Engr. Randy Pastolero, Peco operations manager, said they will finish the construction of a 50MVA power substation in Baldoza, LaPaz.

An electrical substation is a subsidiary station of an electricity generation, transmission and distribution system where voltage is transformed from high to low or the reverse using transformers.

A power substation typically does two or three things:

– It has transformers that step transmission voltages down to distribution voltages;

– It can split the distribution power off in multiple directions.

– It often has circuit breakers and switches so that the substation can be disconnected from the transmission grid or separate distribution lines can be disconnected from the substation when necessary.

The substation also protects the distribution lines from sudden power surges or failures in power plants.

Peco’s new power substation in LaPaz will replace the 15MVA facility which the distribution firm retired recently.

Pastolero said they will also install new feeders around Iloilo City to optimize their distribution system and avoid massive outages. The distribution utility also continues to replace old posts with newer and stronger poles.

The 50MVA substation is also in preparation for the commissioning of the 164-megawatt coal-fired power plant of Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC) in LaPaz.

The new substation is also in anticipation of Peco’s participation in the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market.

Pastolero said they are concerned with the looming expiration of Peco’s supply contract with the National Power Corp. (NPC) next year which could result in a 15-megawatt power shortage in the city.

Peco currently draws around 8-9MW from NPC plants in the Visayas grid in keeping with an order of the Energy Regulatory Commission to draw part of its power requirements from other sources.

The distribution utility obtains 72MW from Panay Power Corp., which is operated by GBPC. 

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said they will install generators in voting precincts which can be used in cases of brownouts.

Jimenez said they also used generators for three days when blackouts hit areas of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao where the first automated polls were held two years ago.


Based on the DoE’s Power Supply and Demand report covering 2008 to 2017, the Philippines is staring at challenges in power supply development.

Sec. Reyes said Visayas and Mindanao have been suffering from rotating brownouts, while Luzon would enter a “critical period” next year.

The Luzon grid has been experiencing transmission congestion problems in North Luzon since 2008.

Luzon needs 3,000 megawatts of power during the 10-year period. However, there are only around 600 MW of committed projects and 3,380 MW of indicative projects so far.

The Visayas sub-grids (Cebu-Negros-Panay-Bohol) are still dependent heavily on the interconnection lines to transmit the power generated from the geothermal plants in Leyte.

The Visayas grid reached critical period last year due to a 500MW deficiency. The grid has a required additional capacity of 500 MW for the years 2008-2017.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) is taking advantage of the internet to educate voters, particularly the youth, on the 2010 polls and possible presidential bets next year.

The Comelec’s Education and Information Department (EID) recently launched, a website dedicated for personal data of presidential timbers.

James Jimenez, EID chief who hails from Iloilo City, said the website will bring together data on personalities who are reportedly running for president next year.

Jimenez said the internet could be a more effective vehicle of information on these presidentiables compared to traditional modes such as pamphlets and mass media.

“If your use a pamphlet, you can only use so much space. Infomericals in TV and radio have prohibitive prices aside from having limited time which tend to make the campaign focus on trivial and one-liners. In the internet, you virtually have unlimited space aside from being online 24 hours a day,” Jimenez said.

The Comelec website features 22 presidentiables in alphabetical order. It also contains news, videos, photographs and bulletins of each candidate.

Voters can also post questions to the candidates regarding issues on education, economy, politics among others.

Jimenez said the internet is an emerging force in gathering new voters to come out and discuss the platforms and programs of persons who eye the highest position of the land.

He likened the Comelec program to US President Barack Obama’s campaign which harnessed the internet and telecommunications.

“There is a growing number of internet users in the country, most of them young voters. The youth voters are expected to comprise a significant chunk of the voting population and we think they need to be informed about these possible candidates,” Jimenez said.

The Comelec expects 1.96 million youths to register and vote in the presidential elections.

The population of young voters will now reach almost 11 million, more than enough to make a difference in swinging the vote and installing a new president.

According to the Universal McCann Report Wave 3 report (March 2008), which tracks social media growth, there are 3.7 million active Internet users in the Philippines.

The report said 2.3 million active Filipino internet users have started a blog or web log. Some 90.3% or 3.3 million read blogs while 45.2% or 1.6 million subscribed to an RSS feed.

Some 83.1% or 3 million users created a profile on a new social network such as Facebook, Friendster, among others.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) ordered the resumption of the election protest filed by a mayoralty candidate in Ajuy, Iloilo.


In a joint resolution promulgated May 26, 2009, the Comelec’s First Division presided by Commissioner Rene V. Sarmiento lifted the writ of preliminary injunction issued last December 17, 2008 against Judge Rogelio Amador of the Regional Trial Court Branch 66 in Barotac Viejo.


In lifting the injunction, the poll body directed Amador to resume the election protest filed by Ramon Espinosa against Mayor Juan Alvarez of Ajuy.


Espinosa filed the protest June 15, 2007 on the grounds that Alvarez’ camp allegedly committed election fraud including vote buying, tampering of ballots, dagdag-bawas (vote padding and shaving), among others.


The Comelec issued the injunction after Alvarez questioned Amador’s order last January 24, 2008 to examine and appreciate the ballots in 25 voting precincts where the alleged manipulations occurred.


Prior to the injunction, the late Comelec Commissioner Romeo Brawner issued a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) against the RTC after Alvarez filed a petition (SPR No. 44-2008) questioning Amador’s order.


But the TRO lapsed while Alvarez’s petition was still pending with the poll body’s First Division.


Amador then proceeded with the presentation of evidence which Alvarez continued to question via two motions for reconsideration filed with the RTC.


But the RTC rebuffed Alvarez’s petitions and went on to hear the protest.


Alvarez went to the Comelec and filed his second petition against Amador (SPR 120-2008) last June 28, 2008.


On October 22, 2008, Sarmiento issued a 60-day TRO against Amador, preventing the judge from continuing the election protest while the poll body deliberated Alvarez’s twin petitions.


Sarmiento later upgraded the TRO to a preliminary injunction in an order dated December 17, 2008.




In his twin petitions, Alvarez claimed Amador ordered the hearing of the protest despite the judge’s letter to the Supreme Court asking for time to decide whether to inhibit from the case or reassign it to another sala.


Alvarez said Amador already lost jurisdiction of the protest because the 6-month period for the resolution of the election case already lapsed.


The mayor said the judge also failed to determine the 20% pinpointed precincts that are subject of the protest.


Alvarez also questioned Amador’s decision to allow Espinosa’s camp to present evidence of election fraud from other sources aside from the ballots. The mayor said this presentation was not agreed upon during the preliminary conference.




But in the join resolution penned by Commissioner Armando Velasco, the Comelec found Alvarez’s arguments untenable.


Velasco said it is the duty of the court to open ballot boxes and examine and count the ballots which are subject of the protest.


The Comelec also noted that the preliminary conference order did not limit the protest in the appreciation of contested ballots.


“Precisely, both parties have listed their respective witnesses, who certainly can testify on matters outside the ballot itself. Petitioner’s view, therefore, that presentation of evidence aliunde (from another source) has not been agreed upon is erroneous,” Velasco said.


The Comelec said Alvarez should present his objections to Amador’s orders to the appellate court after the election protest has been resolved.


“We cannot overemphasize the fact that petitioner’s proper recourse would be an ordinary appeal once the court has decided the protests on the merits,” the joint resolution said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Iloilo City projected a double digit increase in the number of new registrants who will vote in the 2010 local and national elections.


Atty. G. Bert Arbis, Iloilo City election officer, said a total of 5,927 new voters registered with their office from January 5 to March 30, 2009.


The number of new registrants is 6% of the 246,601 registered voters recorded in Iloilo city as of last year.


“We expect some 25,000 would be registrants this year. We are sure to reach the 10% projected increase since we already breached the 6% mark this early. Whether we reach the 20% projection remains to be seen after the deadline for the registration of new voters in October 2009,” Arbis told The Daily Guardian.


Based on the breakdown provided by Arbis, Jaro district recorded the most number of new registrants at 2,016, Molo with 1,658, Mandurriao – 1534, City proper – 408, LaPaz – 138, Arevalo – 92, Lapuz – 83.


Arbis attributed the increase in new registrants to the district registration campaign they adopted early this year.


Instead to trooping to the City Comelec office at the Iloilo Terminal Market, new voters can register at district plazas where Comelec personnel set up registration centers.


“We have this tendency to register at the last hour which crowds our small office. But because of the district registration system, they have no more reason to register earlier than the deadline,” Arbis said.


Arbis cited the case of a man in his 50s who registered for the first time during one of their district sorties.


“The man said he cannot register because he cannot afford the fare to the office aside from being busy in his work,” he added.


As to the number voters who transferred their registration from other towns to Iloilo City, Arbis said they recorded 1,153 transferees in the past three months.


Arbis said they noticed a spike in transferees during barangay elections compared to local and national elections.


“During local elections, voters can still choose their mayor and other officials regardless of their address and registration. But during barangay elections, village officials haul all their relatives to their barangays during registration period. When the elections are done, they transfer their registration to their old addresses,” Arbis said.


Arbis said it is natural for the “hakot” system to kick in during the barangay polls “which is bloodier compared to other elections.”


By Francis Allan L. Angelo


THE House of Representatives will be compelled to pass a P2.5-billion supplemental budget for the 32 additional party list representatives.


House majority floor leader Arthur Defensor Sr. said the salaries, allowances and pork barrels of the additional party list representatives were not included in the 2009 national budget.


The Supreme Court the other day added 32 more party list seats in the House after ordering the Commission on Elections to follow a new formula for allotting party-list seats.


Under the 2009 national budget, the House allocated P3.9 billion in operating funds.


Since each congressional office is allocated P350,000 a month, the 32 new offices would cost P134.4 million annually.


Each of the new party-list representatives would also need around P70 million in pork barrel funds per year, for a total of P2.24 billion.


Defensor said the SC decision will also result in space problems for the House.


“We have to look for additional office spaces for the new representatives. We have no more vacant space in the plenary hall at the Batasan Complex. The South Wing expansion is still under construction,” Defensor said.


The P700-million expansion project which includes a four-storey building will be completed next year.


The SC decision also spawned legal questions since the 1986 Constitution only provides 250 seats for the House, Defensor said.


Accommodating 32 new seats would bring the total number of House members to 270 aside from the creation of 192 additional co-terminus positions.


Defensor said they don’t expect the SC to reverse its ruling on the allocation of party-list seats thus “we should be ready that the House membership will increase.”


The House membership is expected to further swell after the Committee on Revision of Laws approved Wednesday morning a bill seeking to create 50 new congressional districts and increase the constitutional ceiling to 300 seats.


The bill was filed by Iloilo City Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr. who is pushing for the creation of another congressional district in the city.

By Tara Yap and Francis Allan L. Angelo


THE Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG-6) is disappointed with the refusal of ousted mayor Salvador Divinagracia to give way to installed mayor Alex Centena Tuesday.


This, as the standoff in Calinog, Iloilo continues after Divinagracia ignored the DILG decision recognizing Centena as the legitimate mayor of their town.


Reports from Calinog said Divinagracia tore a copy of the DILG certificate of recognition which Centena sent to Chief Insp. Gerry Castillo, municipal police station chief.


Divinagracia’s actuation was contrary to the executive order he issued Monday that he will step down on orders of the DILG.


Divinagracia said he will not obey the DILG order because it was based on a “defective” writ of execution issued by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) last week.


DILG-6 legal counsel Ferdinand Panes said they are disappointed with the actuation of Divinagracia because the latter vowed to follow their decision.


“We are surprised by his stand because we thought the DILG already settled the matter last Monday. We presumed that Divinagracia will follow our orders based on his executive order. The DILG already made its stand and we stand firm on that – we have recognized Alex Centena and he is clothed with the power and functions of the municipal mayor,” Panes said.


Panes said they sent a copy of the certificate of recognition to the Calinog municipal hall through DILG-Iloilo provincial head Eliseo Orendez.


“We sympathize with the supporters of Divinagracia and we believe that emotions are running high now. But we have recognized Centena. If the Supreme Court favors his petition, the DILG-6 will re-install him. For the meantime, he should vacate the municipal hall and let Mayor Centena assume office,” Panes said.


Some 200 Divinagracia supporters were holed up at the Calinog town hall upon learning of the recognition letter and Centena’s assumption to the mayor’s office.


Centena, who reported to work 9:30am, is temporarily holding office at the Calinog Water District building to avoid confrontation with Divinagracia supporters. His first official act was to issue an executive order informing all municipal department heads that he is the legitimate mayor.


Centena attached to the EO the DILG certificate and the report of Comelec provincial head Elizabeth Doronila who served the writ of execution and cease and desist order to Divinagracia. He also signed several business permits and identification cards.


The newly-installed mayor said even if Divinagracia refuses to vacate the town hall, he will continue to discharge his function as mayor regardless of the location of his office.


Centena told The Daily Guardian he will let the Comelec, DILG and PNP decide whether or not to forcibly remove his rival from the municipal building.


“I want to avoid a violent clash that’s why I’m holding office in the water district,” he added.


Panes said they will submit a report to DILG Secretary Ronaldo Puno regarding the events in Calinog.


“This will reach the attention of the secretary of Interior and Local Government then we will decide whether to forcibly remove Divinagracia or not,” Panes added.


Divinagracia supporters continue to flock the town hall as they urge him not to step down.


Iloilo provincial police director Ricardo dela Paz has formed Task Force Calinog to monitor and maintain peace and order in the town.


The Calinog police are also on their toes as they keep watch on supporters of the opposing politicians.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


WILL Mayor Salvador Divinagracia of Calinog, Iloilo give way to his rival, Mayor Alex Centena today?


This, after the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG-6) regional office officially recognized Centena as Calinog mayor Monday afternoon.


DILG-6 Evelyn Trompeta said they recognize Centena in keeping with the writ of execution issued by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).


Trompeta said they issued a certificate of recognition informing Calinog municipal department heads, the Iloilo provincial government and national government agencies that Centena will discharge the office and powers of municipal mayor.


The certificate came out after Centena filed his oath office with the DILG regional office.


The Comelec writ ordered the installation of Centena as vice mayor after he won his election protest against Divinagracia.


Divinagracia won the 2007 vice mayoralty race and he was catapulted to the Office of the Mayor after then mayor Teodoro Lao died of illness last year.


The Comelec en banc later reversed Divinagracia’s election victory in a decision dated January 26, 2009 and ordered him to vacate the Office of the Vice Mayor.


The Comelec writ and cease-and-desist order (CDO) were served Friday to Divinagracia who refused to receive it saying he already left the vice mayor’s office after Lao died.


The service report submitted by Iloilo provincial election supervisor Elizabeth Doronila, who served the writ and CDO to Divinagracia, with the DILG also became the basis of the recognition certificate.


Trompeta also explained the situation to Divinagracia who sought clarifications from her office yesterday.


Before the DILG recognition came out, Divinagracia issued an executive order directing municipal department heads he is still the legitimate mayor.


The EO also ordered the processing of the performance bonuses of municipal hall workers.


Trompeta said transactions and documents which Divinagracia signed before the DILG officially recognized Centena are still deemed legal.


Centena delivered yesterday a copy of his certificate of recognition to the office of Governor Niel Tupas Sr. at the Iloilo provincial capitol.


When asked if he will recognize Centena, Tupas did not make any categorical statement even as he pointed to the DILG as the agency that can resolve the matter.


Tupas said his office received Centena’s certificate but he has yet to talk with the DILG regarding the standoff.


Divinagracia said he will only vacate his office if the Comelec specifically orders him to leave the mayor’s office.


Divinagracia is also pinning his hopes on the petition for review, which assailed the Comelec decision favoring Centena, pending with the Supreme Court.


But the SC has yet to issue a temporary restraining order against the implementation of the Comelec decision.


Some Divinagracia loyalists at the municipal hall were seen wearing red armbands to signify their support to the beleaguered mayor.

Centena takes oath of office but Divinagracia won’t budge


By Tara Yap and Francis Allan L. Angelo


CALINOG, Iloilo has two municipal mayors.


Mayor Alex Centena took his oath of office before Regional Trial Court Judge Rene Hortillo around 4pm Friday.


Centena was sworn in as mayor after Commission on Elections (Comelec) provincial election supervisor Elizabeth Doronila served the cease and desist order and writ of execution on Mayor Salvador Divinagracia at the Calinog municipal hall.


Centena filed an election protest against Divinagracia’s victory in the May 2007 vice mayoralty race.


But then Mayor Teodoro Lao died of sickness while the protest was pending.


Last January 26, the Comelec en banc declared Centena as the winner of the 2007 vice mayoralty race in the town.


Divinagracia filed a petition for review with the Supreme Court and asked for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Comelec en banc decision.


But the TRO never came until the Comelec issued the writ of execution and cease-and-desist order directing Divinagracia to stop functioning as mayor. 


Divinagracia said he remains municipal mayor as cannot accept the writ of execution and cease-and-desist order.


Divinagracia averred that the writ is defective as it only refers to the Office of the Vice Mayor.  He said he is no longer vice mayor as he assumed the post of mayor when then Mayor Lao died last March 2008.


“I will not receive the said writ of execution, as I cannot legally comply with the same considering that I had long vacated and stopped performing the duties and responsibilities of the Office of the Vice Mayor after the death of then incumbent mayor Teodoro Lao,” Divinagracia said


Divinagracia further said he has a petition pending before the Supreme Court. He said the Comelec was directed to submit a written report, but has yet to do so.


The legal battle between Divinagracia and Centena temporarily affected the services of the municipal government Friday. 


As Divinagracia’s supporters flocked to the municipal hall in an attempt to block the delivery of the writ, a number of employees chose to go home early for fear of violence erupting.


Supporters of Divinagracia are thankful that the delivery of the writ was peaceful and orderly.


Centena said he will issue an executive order to other government offices informing them that he is now the municipal mayor.


Centena said the order will be forwarded to the Department of Interior and Local Government.


Doronila said she will make a report to their central office regarding Divinagracia’s refusal to accept the writ.  

By Francis Allan Angelo


IS Department of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. the “prominent person” behind the bid of former mayor Alex Centena to reclaim the top post of Calinog, Iloilo?


No less than Gonzalez confirmed reports that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc has issued a writ of execution relative to its January 26 decision declaring Centena as the winner of the 2007 vice mayoralty race in Calinog.


Gonzalez said Comelec chair Jose Melo has signed the writ after the poll body’s en banc session Tuesday.


“Normally, the writ of execution is directed to the court where the case originated. Since the election protest was filed with the Regional Trial Court in Iloilo, it will be the one to implement the installation of Centena,” Gonzalez said.


Why is Gonzalez the one announcing this latest development in Calinog politics?


Gonzalez earlier said he will not dabble in Calinog politics although he believes that Centena won the elections and has a strong case in his protest.


Last year, Centena was spotted at the Gonzalez residence in Brgy. Quintin Salas, Jaro, Iloilo City during the birthday of the justice secretary.


Incumbent Calinog Mayor Salvador Divinagracia had said that prominent persons are helping Centena get a favorable ruling from the Comelec.


Divinagracia, through his lawyer Roberto Catolico, have appealed the Comelec decision upholding Centena’s victory pending the motion for certiorari they filed with the Supreme Court.


Aside from the certiorari, Divinagracia also asked the SC to issue a temporary restraining order against the Comelec decision.


But the high tribunal has yet to issue any TRO and only asked the Comelec to comment on Divinagracia’s motion.


Divinagracia said the SC’s order to the poll body to comment on his plea is a “TRO of sorts” against Centena’s looming assumption to the Calinog municipal hall.


Divinagracia succeeded then mayor Teodoro Lao who died last year of a lingering illness.



While they have yet to receive a copy of the supposed writ from their central office, Comelec regional director Dennis Ausan said they are ready to implement the order.


“It all depends on the tenor of the writ. If the central office directs the RTC to install Centena, it will be court’s call. If the RTC seeks our assistance, we are ready to do so,” Ausan said.


Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) regional legal officer Ferdinand Panes said their role is to administer Centena’s oath of office before he is installed.


Panes shared Ausan’s point that the RTC will implement the Comelec decision “although the court can deputize the Comelec regional office or the DILG.”


“Even the PNP is ready should there be an order to install Centena,” Panes added.


Ausan said they don’t expect violence to occur when they implement the writ citing his previous experience in other areas.


“Everything will be given due course. We will convene both parties to lessen or eliminate friction,” Ausan said.  

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


WILL former mayor Alex Centena of Calinog, Iloilo assume the town’s top post today? Or will incumbent Mayor Salvador Divinagracia stay put?


These questions linger a month after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) declared Centena winner of the 2007 vice mayoralty race in the town.


The poll body declared that Centena garnered 8,130 votes against Divinagracia’s 8,119 votes for a margin of 11 votes.


The Comelec said its January 26, 2009 decision will become final and executory 30 days after its promulgation unless Divinagracia secures a temporary restraining order or injunction from the courts.


The 30-day period expired Thursday but Divinagracia has yet to get a TRO or injunction.


Divinagracia assumed the Calinog mayor’s office after Mayor Teodoro Lao died last year.


Centena said he sent his lawyer Francisco Sibayan to Comelec central office in Manila to follow up the enforcement of the decision.


Centena said Comelec can direct the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to implement his assumption of office.


Reports from Calinog said supporters of both Centena and Divinagracia have mounted their own “checkpoints” around the town proper since yesterday.


Senior Supt. Ricardo dela Paz, Iloilo provincial police director, said the town remains peaceful even as the police continue to monitor the situation.


“No movement so far; remains peaceful,” dela Paz said in a text message.


But Centena said he will not use force and violence to take over the municipal hall.


“We followed due process by filing an election protest until the Comelec decided on the case. I will follow the order peacefully and orderly and I also expect the same from Mr. Divinagracia,” he said.


Meanwhile, the DILG has no jurisdiction in implementing the Comelec order, said regional legal officer Ferdinand Panes.


Panes said they can only assist the Comelec in implementing the order.


“We have yet to receive a copy of the Comelec decision,” Panes said.


Divinagracia, meanwhile, said he was expecting a temporary restraining order from the court.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has affirmed unanimously the resolution of its 2nd Division declaring Alex A. Centena as the winner of the May 14, 2007 vice mayoralty race in Calinog, Iloilo over incumbent Mayor Salvador Divinagracia.


In a 50-page en banc resolution promulgated January 26, 2008, the poll body declared that Centena won 8,130 votes against Divinagracia’s 8,119 votes.


This latest Comelec ruling gives Centena the chance to assume as Calinog mayor after then mayor Teodoro Lao died March 2008 while the former’s election protest was pending.


Centena questioned the results of the elections through an election protest against Divinagracia before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Iloilo City.


His protest focused on marked ballots considered valid by the Boards of Election Inspectors (BEIs) causing him to narrowly lose to Divinagracia by 13 votes.


But the RTC dismissed Centena’s protest December 5, 2007 saying he failed to overcome the disputable presumption provided in the Rules of Procedure in Election Contest.


Centena, assisted by lawyer Francisco Sibayan, assailed the RTC decision before the Comelec 2nd Division presided by Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer.


On July 17, 2008, the Comelec 2nd Division reversed the RTC decision because it violated Section 2, Rule 14 of A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC.


“Instead of adhering to the mandatory requirements provided under the above-mentioned Rule, the trial court undertook to discuss, in a general manner, the reasons why the contested ballots should not be declared as ‘marked.’ This is not in accord with the Rule promulgated by no less than the Supreme Court,” the 2nd Division said.


The division found out that “protestant-appellant Alex Centena garnered 8,130 votes while protestee-appellee Salvador Divinagracia Jr. obtained 8,122 votes or a winning margin of 8 votes in favor of the former.”


“Considering that protestant-appellant Alex Centena garnered more votes than protestee-appellee Salvador Divinagracia Jr., there is no dispute that Alex Centena is the duly elected Vice Mayor of the Municipality of Calinog, Iloilo in the 14 May 2007 elections,” it said.


Divinagracia filed a motion for reconsideration with the Comelec en banc which reaffirmed the 2nd Division’s ruling.


The poll body said it is “disappointed over the deportment displayed by Divinagracia and his legal counsel” during the hearing on the motion for reconsideration “specifically on the baseless accusations they hurled against one member of the Commission.”


“This behavior showed disrespect to the dignity and authority of this Commission while performing quasi-judicial functions,” the en banc resolution said.


The en banc resolution also directed Divinagracia and his counsel to file their joint manifestation within five days explaining why they should not be cited for contempt.


The resolution was signed by Comelec chair Jose A.R. Melo and Commissioners Rene V. Sarmiento, Nicodemo T. Ferrer, Leonardo A. Leonida, Lucenito N. Tagle and Armando C. Velasco.


Centena said he is awaiting the instructions of the Department of Interior and Local Government regarding his assumption of the Calinog mayor’s office.


Centena also asked Divinagracia to take the issue in a professional manner to avoid disputes in their town.

January 2019
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