Frustrated residents of a town in Batangas are asking Interior Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento to act on the leadership void left by the absence of a mayor who has been running from the law over alleged rape and other crimes.
Local government services at the municipality of Mataasnakahoy, Batangas have been in shambles with the disappearance of Mayor Jay Ilagan since March 2014, the subject of at least three warrants of arrest for rape, human trafficking and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.
“I hope politics has nothing to do with DILG’s inaction against Ilagan because he is a member of the administration party while the Vice Mayor [Henry Librea Laqui] is with the opposition,” said lawyer Boy Zafiro in a statement over the weekend, speaking for Laqui.
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), however, has failed to allow Laqui to take over, apparently because of political reasons.
Ilagan is a Liberal Party stalwart, while Laqui belongs to the Nacionalista Party.
Sarmiento has not authorized Laqui to assume as officer-in-charge of the mayor’s office, even as the peace and order situation in the fourth-class municipality has reportedly deteriorated.
In December 2015, an active coordinator of Laqui was gunned down, triggering an atmosphere of chaos.
Ilagan fled and remained at large since an order of arrest was issued against him by Presiding Judge Girlie Borrel-Yu of the Regional Trial Court Branch 35 in Ormoc City on March 31, 2014.
“According to the Local Government Code, fugitive officials should be relieved from office if they are non-performing or incapacitated, such as the case of Mayor Ilagan, who does. He has not reported for work for over a year because he is in hiding,” according to Zafiro.
Municipal transactions are rendered invalid or questionable as there is no authorized signatory in the complete absence of Ilagan.
Court documents show Ilagan, along with one Dina Tupas, waylaid a teenaged girl in Ormoc City, during which the fugitive Batangas mayor raped the victim. Ilagan and Tupas are also subjects of warrants of arrest for human trafficking.
Ilagan is also facing charges for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition in connection with the recovery of assorted automatic rifles, handguns and ammunition inside his residence in JMI Compound, Barangay Santol, Mataasnakahoy, Batangas on December 20, 2014.
Sarmiento has not responded to the appeal made by Laqui in behalf of the beleaguered Mataasnakahoy constituents.
RAADEE S. SAUSA