Mayoral issue in Pampanga town unresolved

    SASMUAN, Pampanga – Some two months before the next elections, the mayoral controversy in this town has remained unresolved despite the ouster last Friday of Mayor Nardo Velasco and the installation of Vice Mayor Fernando Baltazar Jr. as this town’s new chief executive.

    Mozart Panlaqui, Velasco’s lone rival in the 2004 mayoral race here, said he still has a pending petition for the Supreme Court to review its decision ousting Velasco and naming Baltazar as the new mayor.

    Last Friday, over a year since the Supreme Court ordered it, the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) finally served notice ousting Velasco and swearing in Baltazar as mayor.

    In December 2008, the Supreme Court declared “null and void” Velasco’s mayoral candidacy as he lacked the one-year residency requirement before the 2007 elections. Velasco had been staying in the US previously.

    “This means that I was the lone mayoral candidate then. There are similar cases in the past, such as the one in Albuquerque in Bohol in which the court also nullified the candidacy of a mayor and ordered the mayoral candidate who got the second biggest number of votes to assume the post,” Panlaqui said.

    Unlike Velasco who is again running for mayor as candidate of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD in the May elections, Panlaqui, however, opted to stay away from politics this time amid his initial frustration over the failure of the DILG to immediately carry out the High Court’s order.

    While he has lost interest in politics, Panlaqui said he still wants the High Court to decide on his case to make known to local folk his right to have been mayor of this town from the start.

    In the 2004 polls, the local Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) had disqualified Velasco for lack of the one year residency required by law, but he pursued his candidacy and won after the Municipal Trial Court issued on Feb. 9 in the same year an order for the BEI to include him in the local voters’ list.

    Panlaqui, however, questioned the MTC decision before higher courts.  On Oct. 15, 2007, the Comelec en banc issued a verdict upholding Velasco’s disqualification.

    On March 5, 2008, the Comelec en banc issued a writ of execution of its Oct. 15 order for Velasco “to vacate the position of municipal mayor” and “to cease and desist from performing the functions thereof and immediately make a return of the service within five days therefrom.”

    On appeal, the Supreme Court, on Dec. 24, 2008, upheld with finality the Comelec en banc’s verdict, but the DILG failed to enforce Velasco’s ouster.


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