YES SHE CAN
The Cebu Comelec says no stopping Lagon from assuming post unless Mayor Democrito Diamante can secure a temporary restraining order
Without any restraining order from the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Daphne Lagon can assume as the new mayor of Tuburan town, northwest Cebu.
Cebu Provincial Election Supervisor Lionel Marco Castillano said Lagon, who won over incumbent Tuburan Mayor Democrito Diamante by a margin of just 94 votes in a Toledo City Regional Trial Court (RTC)-supervised vote recount, has an option to request the judge to issue a writ of execution even while her opponent contests her victory.
“While the court still has the records of the case, it can issue a ‘writ of execution pending appeal’ upon Lagon’s request,” said Castillano in an interview yesterday.
Diamante, on the other hand, can block Lagon’s plan to assume as mayor of Tuburan by filing an appeal at the Comelec central office in Manila with the request for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO).
Castillano said a Comelec-issued TRO is valid for only 60 days, but it can be extended throughout the duration of the appeal upon the request of Diamante, and with the approval of the poll body.
As to who will first get a lawful order, Castillano said it now lies on the abilities of the lawyers of both camps.
“If Diamante’s lawyers are quick in securing a TRO from Comelec, then the court could not issue a writ of execution to allow Lagon to assume as mayor. In contrast, if Lagon’s lawyers are quick, then they could get a writ of execution from the court and so Lagon can sit as mayor,” he explained.
Castillano has appealed to Diamante and Lagon as well as their respective supporters to follow the rule of law, and to avoid resorting to violence.
“Hangyo lang ta nila nga kay gisugdan man ni nila sa legal nga paagi, ato lang pud tapuson sa legal nga paagi. (I am requesting them that since they started this election dispute through legal means, let us also resolve the issues through the legal way),” he said.
Supt. Marlu Conag, the chief of the Tuburan Police Station, said the town remained peaceful although they were not discounting the possibility that supporters of both camps might stage protest rallies or hold gatherings to express their sentiments.
“Hindi naman maiwasan na yung mga supporters and sympathizers (of both parties) mag-rarally at posibleng magdala ng kaguluhan. (We cannot avoid that the supporters and sympathizers of both parties will hold rallies and even cause disorder in the municipality),” said Conag in a phone interview on Saturday.
After the news about Lagon’s victory in the recount broke out last Friday, Conag said they received a report that a group staged a rally somewhere in Tuburan town.
The report turned out to be false, he said.
Conag advised the supporters of Diamante and Lagon not to do anything in order to maintain the peace and order in their municipality.
“I call upon the supporters to remain calm and to uphold peace in our town,” he said.
In the event that the Comelec or the Toledo City RTC will ask the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to implement any order,
Conag said they are ready to control the people and ensure the safety of everyone.
So far, the police chief said there is no need to request for an augmentation force as they can still handle the situation in Tuburan.
However, when the need arises, Conag said he will ask help from the Provincial Public Safety Company (PPSC) unit, which is also based in Tuburan.
“May isang platoon ng PPSC na na-assign dito (A platoon of PPSC is assigned in Tuburan),” Conag added.
Lagon is set to file a motion for the issuance of a writ of execution pending appeal before Judge Hermes Montero of RTC Branch 59 in Toledo City on Monday to allow her to assume the mayoral seat.
Diamante, on the other hand, will file an appeal at the Comelec in Manila and request the poll body to issue a temporary restraining order to stop Lagon from assuming as mayor of Tuburan.
Although no one wants to give way and back down, both Lagon and Diamante promised not to resort to violence while the tug-of-war for the mayoralty seat in Tuburan continues.
Lagon, in a phone interview yesterday, said she already advised her supporters to be patient and to wait for the court to grant their plea for the issuance of a writ of execution.
“Of course, we will maintain peace in Tuburan. If we get a writ of execution from the court, then it’s up to the Comelec and DILG to implement it,” she said.
Lagon, who in last year’s election lost to Diamante by just 46 votes, also appealed to the sitting mayor to respect the decision of the court, and to instead support her for the good of the people of Tuburan.
“I hope they will abide by the result (of the court proceedings),” said Lagon, whose family runs a company that install and maintains telecommunication lines.
Lagon said she is ready to assume as mayor and work with the municipal council, which is dominated by allies of Diamante.
No final order
For his part, Diamante said he respected the decision of the court, but it won’t stop him from seeking all possible legal remedies.
“Akong gidawat sa tumang papaubos ang decision sa korte, apan daghan pa man ta ug options to get justice. (I accept with full humility the court’s decision, but we still have many options to get justice),” he said in a separate interview.
Diamante, who aside from being mayor of Tuburan also sits as president of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines-Cebu Chapter, said he is willing to obey lawful orders but only those that are final and executory.
“I am willing to turnover the position of mayor to her (Lagon) but there should be a final order first. So far, there is none so they have no right to disrupt my administration,” he said.
“If they (Lagon and her supporters) become unruly, and harass us, I will ask the police to intervene. I have more supporters than her,” he added.
If he will be ordered by the court or the Comelec to step down from office, Diamante, who is on his last term as mayor, said he will challenge Lagon in the 2019 elections.
“Magkakontra gihapon mi. (We still will face each other),” Diamante said.
In an order dated Oct. 10, 2016, Montero declared Lagon as the “duly elected mayor” of the town in the May 2016 elections.
A manual recount of votes in at least 11 precincts in Tuburan showed Lagon leading by 93 votes over Diamante.
Diamante, a member of the Liberal Party (LP), was directed to relinquish his post in favor of Lagon, the mayoralty candidate of One Cebu Party.
Lagon filed the election protest shortly after Diamante was declared as mayor of Tuburan by the Commission on Elections.
But an election protest filed by Lagon prompted the court to order a vote recount where Lagon won.
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