Before the Local Government Code the position of vice-mayor did not exist. Just like the municipalities or cities in other countries, the mayor presides over the council. Perhaps the drafters of the Local Government Code borrowed the concept from the set of the United States government where the vice-president presides over the senate. As my political science teacher used to say, the vice-president is the most “useless” office in the country and his function is only to pray every night for the president to die so he may succeed the presidency. The office is also called “spare tire” which only comes to use in the event that the tire presently used no longer functions. In the local governments such as the city, province, city or municipality, the vice-mayor is no longer a mere “spare tire” but is now the presiding officer of the sanggunian. But the nature of his office has become ambiguous: is he part of the executive or the legislative? If we go through his functions, he is mostly legislative since he presides over the session of the sanggunian and appoints employees in the sanggunian and the only thing that makes his position ambiguous is his title: “vice-mayor”. The issue with regard to the personality of this official was finally settled by the Supreme Court in La Carlota vs. Rojo. The vice-mayor was included in the determination of the existence of quorum during the session when Rojo’s resignation was tackled. The question is: is it correct to include the vice-mayor in the determination of the existence of a quorum?
Members of the Sanggunian
The Local Government Code provides that: Section 53. Quorum. (a) A majority of all the members of the sanggunian who have been elected and qualified shall constitute a quorum to transact official business. No business can be tackled by the body if quorum is not present. Who then are the members of the sanggunian? Section 457. Composition. (a) The sangguniang panlungsod, the legislative body of the city, shall be composed of the city vice-mayor as presiding officer, the regular sanggunian members, the president of the city chapter of the liga ng mga barangay, the president of the panlungsod na pederasyon ng mga sangguniang kabataan, and the sectoral representatives, as members. This provision seems straightforward since the vice-mayor is included in the composition of the sanggunian. Justice Del Castillo in his dissenting opinion however, said that the provision distinguishes between the presiding officer and the members and lthough he is included in the composition, the vice-mayor is not necessarily a member since Section 457 states that the regular sanggunian members etc., are “members”. According to the good Justice, when the law says “all the members” it does not mean the entire composition of the sanggunian. This opinion of Del Castillo makes sense because Section 456 in defining the powers and duties of the vice-mayor only states that he shall “be the presiding officer” and did not say “member” of the sanggunian. Section 53 also says that quorum constitutes a “majority of all the members” and not the entire composition. This however, was not the majority opinion. The Supreme Court (SC) decreed that in determining the presence of quorum the entire composition of the sanggunian should be taken into consideration. When the resignation of Rojo was presented to the sanggunian of 12 members where only six members were present there was quorum because the vice-mayor should be counted. The SC adhered to the ruling in Zamora vs. Caballero and opinions of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) stating that the vice-mayor should be included in the determination of quorum. Rojo’s resignation was irrevocable resignation as member of the sangguniang panlungsod was valid and so it follows that his appointment as sanggunian secretary was also valid.