La Union board members worry on ‘seniority’

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SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union – Members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) of La Union, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) are facing ‘blank wall’ on who would assume as ‘senior’ among the ten elected provincial board members of La Union.

The DILG, through provincial director Roger Daquioag, said they have no authority to determine the ranking of SP members while the Comelec only shows the percentage and votes obtained by the winning board members but could not determine the seniority.

The number one in ranked among the provincial board members is vital because it will succeeds the vice governor based on the law of succession.

During the regular session of the provincial board members here on Sept. 8, 2016, Atty. Reynaldo Mosuela, one of the five board members in the first district, raised the issue after board member Francisco Ortega Jr. was elected as temporary presiding officer of the SP session in the absence of Vice Governor Aureo Nisce.

“The SP is faced with a problem in the absence of the Vice Governor. Who will assume as acting Vice Governor? Is it the number one in rank or the so-called “senior board member’ from among the SP members? Who and how then is the number one in rank determined? Who will preside at the session,” Mosuela said.

Records of the provincial Comelec on the May 2016 elections showed that Ortega was only third in the ranking based on percentage of votes.

Board member Annabelle De Guzman got 113,800 votes or 53.89-percent of the total votes cast, followed by board member Christian Rivera with 106,959 votes or 50.65-percent, both in the second district, while Ortega, who was number one among the five elected board members in the first district, has 91, 866 votes with 50.52-percent of the total votes cast.

Mosuela presented a letter dated Aug. 13, 2016 from Atty. Dominique Jose Puzon, the provincial legal officer, confirming that board member De Guzman is considered the highest ranking SP member but did not mention if she is the ‘senior board member.’

Puzon issued the confirmation based on the Supreme Court ruling on the Jan. 10, 1994 case of Victoria vs Comelec and Calisin wherein the high court ruled that “the law is clear that the ranking in the Sanggunian shall be determined on the basis of proportion of the votes obtained by each winning candidate of the total number of registered voters.”

However, Mosuela said that although the Comelec’s computation on the votes cast is correct, it could not be relied upon as basis in the determination of would be the ‘senior board member.’ He even said the SP itself cannot solve the matter.

“We do not know which is which, who or which will determine who the number one in rank is and who is the last. We (SP) do not have the legal authority to do so,” Mosuela said.

The SP secretariat inquired about the issue to the DILG regional office but the officer-in-charge, Atty. Joseph Apolonio, endorsed the matter to the provincial director. But director Daquioag claimed his office has no authority to the matter.

De Guzman, for her part, asked the SP secretariat to provide a copy of their reference when they selected the ‘senior board member’ in 2013 election where Ortega was chosen as senior board member although he came out only second in the total votes cast compared to the votes garnered by board member Nancy Bacurnay who came out number one among the ten winning board members.

Board member Bellarmin Flores II, who nominated Ortega as temporary presiding officer, suggested that the matter would be discussed by the committee on laws, rules and privileges.

By Dexter A. See

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