Commentary: It’s final, they’re out!

By Jun Almeda

"The Smile". This should have been the title of my column this week. Why so? A smile can mean an infinite lot. Of the estimated 81 million tourists who visit Paris every year, at least 33 million of them go to the Louvre museum to see the most famous painting of all times, the Mona Lisa of Leonardo da Vinci.

Those who who have seen it are really amazed what makes it so extremely popular. The painting is barely 18x 20 inches. It looks puny and forlorn where it hangs on a corner compared to the gigantic paintings of Titian nearby, all of which are classics in their own right. But believe it or not, it's the enigmatic smile of Mona Lisa that holds the world spellbound with its magic.
No one has yet been able to fathom its meaning. In the case of P.Noy, it's his smile that gave him his Teflon image and made his victory by a landslide possible. The same smile may damn and doom him. How come? By what leap of illogic have I come to this conclusion? That's something I'll answer next week. The bigger national issues can wait. But not our local concern, especially one that involves Surigao - my very own home along the placid but often stormy Pacific Ocean.

If you recall, I wrote earlier about the Supreme Court decision which has declared the law creating the province of Dinagat Islands unconstitutional and the elections there null and void. At that time, there was a motion for reconsideration filed before the SC and so there was no sense of finality in our discussion. But the inevitable has come to pass. The decision of the High Tribunal,a cause for dread and nervous breakdown to some but jubilation joy for others, has become final. In a town that takes gossiping as a past time seriously, people are agog and every tongue is wagging speculating about the consequences of the SC verdict.
I welcome a contrary opinion. But that will come later ,if at all, after "The Smile".

For now, I will yield this space to Atty. Rene O. Medina whose letter to Interior Secretary Jesse M. Robredo deals on the effects of the SC decision which he describe as coming into being by operation of law. Medina, a UP graduate with two other petitioners by their lonesome, threesome fought an uphill legal battle before the SC to question the legality of the law creating Dinagat Island province at enormous personal risk on what they maintain is "strictly a matter of principle." Judge for yourself. Every hero is a heel to those who don't agree with him. Here below is Medina's letter:

Hon. Secretary Jesse M. Robredo, Department of Interior and Local Governments, Quezon City

I am writing you as one of three (3) petitioners in G.R. No. 180050 entitled, Rodolfo G. Navarro, et. Al. versus Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, et. Al. which involves the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 9355 creating the province of Dinagat Islands. In a decision that was promulgated on February 10, 2010, the Supreme Court has ruled as follows:

"where, the petition is granted. Republic Act. No. 9355, otherwise known as an [An Act Creating the Province of Dinagat Islands], is hereby declared unconstitutional. The proclamation of the province of Dinagat Islands and the election of the officials thereof are declared null and void.

The provision in Article 9 (2) of the Rules and Regulations

Implementing the Local Government Code of 1991 stating,
"The land requirement shall not apply where the proposed province is composed of one (1) or more island's is declared null and void" A photocopy of the said judgment is hereto attached for your reference as Annex "A".

It is also revealed in court records that the said judgment had attained finality on May 18, 2010. This is shown in the Entry of Judgment that I received recently from Atty. Ma. Lourdes C. Perfecto, Deputy Clerk of Court and Chief, Judicial Records Office of the Supreme Court, a photocopy of which is hereto attached for your reference as Annex "B".

As a consequence of the said judgment, it is expected that the Commission on Elections will schedule a special election for affected offices in the province of Surigao del Norte and the congressional seat for the revived First Congressional District comprising the islands of Siargao, Bucas Grande and Dinagat. The rationale for the conduct of a special election had been explained by the Commision on Elections when it issued Resolution No. 8790 issued on March 9, 2010, a photocopy of which is hereto attached as Annex "C". It is also expected that the special elections for the affected provincial offices and congressional seat will be held sometime in January or February 2011.

On the part of the Department of Interior and Local Government, it is my view that your office has the mandate to: (1) make certain that the vacated offices of Provincial Governor and Vice Governor should be occupied by qualified and legally authorized officials between now and the forthcoming special elections to be called by Comelec; (2) appoint caretaker officials for the vacated offices of Provincial Governor and Vice Governor; and (3) to appoint on the authority of the Office of the President five (5) OIC members for the Sangguniang Panlalawigan for the original District on sound and legal discretion.

The nullification by Comelec of the May 10, 2010 elections results for the positions of Governor and Vice Governor and the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan demands prompt legal action from DILG. For one, it is extremely urgent and necessary that your office should replace the present Governor in the person of Mrs.

Soledad F. Matugas and the incumbent Vice Governor on the of the following justifications: (1) both were not legally elected in the May 10, 2010 elections as explained in COMELEC Resolution No. 8790 (Please refer to ANNEX "C"); (2) both should not be allowed to exercise the powers of their present positions even on hold-over capacity as their right to the office had been nullified by the operation of law; (3) the fact that they may run again in the forthcoming special elections proves that their right to their present positions have become indefensible; and (4) that for every day that they are allowed to continue in office is tantamount to continued usurpation of a public office and a similar derogation of the right of the Office of the President to appoint Officers in Charge for positions that were affected by the judgment in G.R. No. 180050.

Finally, I pray that prompt determination should be made on who is the rightful occupant for the offices of Provincial Governor and Vice Governor to avoid legal uncertainties. I also believe that the continued stay in office of Mrs. Soledad F. Matugas as "Governor" after the finality of the judgment of the Supreme Court on May 18, 201 0 is likely to create a situation where public funds will continue to be disbursed upon the signature of one whose right to the office has become illegal as a consequence of a valid judgment rendered in G.R. No. 180050.

There you have it. What next? Will there be a hiatus in the provincial government and chaos? Or will the law take its due course? This is an unprecedented situation. Let's see if this government of smile can pass this test.


A version of this article appeared in print (Goldstar Daily) on October 28, 2010 Thursday.


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