|Mayor-elect Fernandez (3rd from Left) and Dagupan City|
Mayor Benjie S. Lim
By MORTZ C. ORTIGOZA
Even though Mayoral- elect Belen Fernandez has already assumed the top executive post, as mandated by law, in Dagupan City after its Mayor Benjamin Lim was rushed to the hospital because of a stroke a day before the May 13 election, can the supporters of Lim, for the sake of argument, procrastinate so they can stall and buy time the assumption of Fernandez on the 4th day of Lim being bed ridden?
My answer is in the affirmative. Although it is embodied in Section 44 of the Local Government Code of 1991 that provides “If a permanent vacancy occurs in the office of the governor or mayor, the vice governor or vice mayor concerned shall become the governor or mayor…”
In this situation the Department of Interior and Local Government or the Office of the President (OP) comes to the fore to settle the issue.
The book author Attorney Jose Noledo annotated Section 44: “The rules of succession above shall be automatic and there is no need of any other legal requirements except to prove that a permanent vacancy occurs and the successor shall serve only for the unexpired term, there being no need to hold special election. The law specifies the instances of permanent vacancy as follows:
(1) When an elective local official fills a higher vacant offices; or
(2) When the elective official refuses to assume office; or
(3) He fails to qualify; or
(4) He dies; or
(5) He is removed from office; or
(6) He voluntarily resigns; or
(7) He is permanently incapacitated to discharge the functions of his office.
Noledo said No (7) may present a problematical situation as where the incumbent refuses to yield office even if he has become blind or is bedridden and becomes a hopeless patient.
In such case, the DILG or the President may decide the case. Such lizard-like attitude should be resolved with dispatch.”
But the term “such dispatch” means after a week or two or a month as the incumbent chief executive or through his representative can delay the assumption in a court injunction as a strategy to buy time.
This situation can happen in other local government units where the supporters of the indisposed mayor procrastinate for the assumption of the vice mayor who are not their ally so they can have time to extract and dispose the documents at the city or town hall that would incriminate their patron in court cases in the future.
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