Jeanette Bernaldez, who was duly elected as town mayor in the 2013 elections, was imposed a disciplinary action by the Office of the Ombudsman and meted a penalty of six months and one day suspension without pay for abuse of authority. Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Regional Director for Bicol Elouisa Pastor herself executed the order.
As a result of Bernaldez’ suspension, Alvin Sacueza, who was elected vice mayor in 2013, was installed as acting mayor. Sacueza, however, was also suspended for six months by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan due to administrative charges that several members of the Municipal Council filed against him.
Meanwhile, topnotcher municipal councilor Domingo Zorilla, Jr., who was first installed as the town’s Acting Vice Mayor when Bernaldez was suspended, was sworn into office as Acting Mayor on June 22. He took his oath of office as the Acting Mayor on the same date.
Despite Zorilla’s assumption into office, however, locals remain puzzled as to who should legally occupy the seat of the local chief executive.
It would be recalled that although DILG implemented the suspension order against Bernaldez, she never yielded her office to Sacueza.
Bernaldez earlier said she was waiting for the decision of the Court of Appeals, which had since dismissed the former mayor’s petition for certiorari.
But plain confusion on the part of the constituents seems to be the least of their worries.
Already, the battle for the mayoralty seat has resulted into delays in salaries and utilities. As the standoff continues, the question as to whose signature must be recognized by depository banks, when withdrawals for the salaries and other financial obligations of the municipality are needed, remains sorely unanswered.
This has left the third class municipality in chaos, as many are dependent on the local government’s services.
Reports reaching BICOL STANDARD suggest that Bernaldez is amenable to relinquishing her post to political ally Zorilla, so she can start the service of the administrative suspension.
On the other hand, Sacueza has already filed an appeal to the Office of the President to have his suspension lifted.—BICOLSTANDARD.COM