Finally, Alcala is new Lucena mayor

LUCENA CITY – After more than two and a half years of waiting, the vice mayor of this city was finally installed yesterday by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as the new mayor after the Supreme Court denied the motion for reconsideration filed by the ousted lady mayor.

Vice Mayor Roderick “Dondon” Alcala took his oath before Judge Joselito Tamaray shortly after the Comelec represented by Provincial Elections Supervisor Allan Enriquez served the writ of execution dated November 28, 2012 at the Mayor’s office and was received by City Legal Officer Ingrid Anne Bermido and her assistant, lawyer Mark Zoleta. Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) regional director Josefina Castilla- Go witnessed the serving.

Right after the oath taking, Go confirmed the assumption of Alcala to office replacing ousted mayor Barbara Talaga, in front of the latter’s supporters and newsmen inside the mayor’s office. She told newsmen that the writ of execution  was received by her office on Wednesday afternoon.

The Supreme Court earlier came up in its decision and unseated the incumbent mayor of this city whose assumption to the post was contested by his losing opponent and by the incumbent vice mayor for being “highly questionable”.

In an En Banc resolution last October 9, the high tribunal issued a decision affirming the May 20, 2011 decision of the Commission on Election en banc that annulled the election and  proclamation of Talaga as mayor of Lucena and cancelled the certificate of canvass that declared her as the winner in May 10, 2010 election.

The said Comelec resolution also granted the petition for intervention of Alcala and ordered him to succeed Barbara as provided under Section 44 or the “succession rule” for elected local officials under Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991, reversing the earlier the resolution by the Comelec 2nd Division in January 2011 that ruled Talaga’s election as valid and legal.

Last November 6, Talaga filed a motion for reconsideration before the Supreme Court regarding its October 9 decision unseating her, but the high tribunal junked the motion on November 13.

In  their separate petitions filed in 2010, Alcala and loosing mayoralty candidate Philip Castillo questioned  the legitimacy of Talaga’s assumption to office after she substituted for her husband Ramon Talaga Jr, the then  incumbent  mayor.

Ramon, while serving his last term filed his Certificate of Candidacy in 2010 elections while with the belief that he was still qualified to run for a fresh term because he was suspended in two separate occasions for three months by the Sandigan Bayan, and thus failed to serve three consecutive terms in office.

But the poll body later ruled that Ramon was no longer qualified to run for another term based on existing elections law prompting him to have himself substituted by his wife just six days before the elections, a fact that was hidden from their political foes and the city electorate.

In its 26-page decision penned by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin, the Supreme Court ruled that Ramon’s disqualification rendered his CoC invalid and thus, could not be validly substituted.

“Considering that a cancelled CoC does not give rise to a valid candidacy, there can be no valid substitution of the candidate…that a candidate who does not file a valid CoC may not be validly substituted because a person without a valid CoC is not considered a candidate in much the same way as any person who has not filed a CoC is not at all a candidate,” the SC said.

Castillo who was then the vice mayor running for mayor under Liberal Party  immediately asked the poll body to have him declared as the winner saying that since Ramon’s candidacy was found by the poll body to be null and void from the start, it meant that he who obtained the second highest vote ran unopposed.

But the high court dismissed Castillo’s assertion and reiterated  its earlier ruling that “a candidate obtaining the second highest number of votes for the contested office could not assume the office despite the disqualification of the first placer because the second placer was ‘not the choice of the sovereign will”, adding, “There was to be no question that the second placer lost in the election,  was repudiated by the electorate, and could not assume the vacated position. No law imposed upon and compelled the people of Lucena City to  accept a loser to be their political leader or their representative”.

Alcala who won vice- mayor on the other hand filed a petition for intervention with the Comelec last July 22, 2010 to implement Section 44 or the “succession rule” for elected local officials under RA 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991.

Saying that Talaga’s dismissal has resulted to a permanent vacancy in the office of Lucena mayor and such vacancy should be filled by Alcala pursuant to the law of succession as defined under the Local Government Code.

Number one city Councilor Ramil Talaga, the youngest son of the Talaga couple automatically replaced Alcala under succession rule as vice mayor after the latter assumed the mayoralty post.

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