WE welcome the move made by Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento, acknowledging the rightful assumption of Vice Mayor Henry Laqui of the municipality of Mataasnakahoy, Batangas as acting mayor, replacing Mayor Jay Ilagan who remains in hiding in connection with rape and human trafficking charges.
Sarmiento on Monday noted that Laqui should have automatically taken over the mayor’s office on the fourth day that Ilagan remained on absence without leave (AWOL).
The DILG chief cited Section 46 of Republic Act 7160, or the Local Government Code, which says the city or municipal vice mayor shall have the right to assume the powers, duties and functions of the mayor’s office on the fourth day of absence of the local chief executive.
He made the clarification in the wake of complaints from Laqui and residents of the fourth-class municipality where public services were reportedly paralyzed in the absence of Ilagan, which also rendered municipal transactions questionable.
There were also reports that the fugitive mayor still called the shots at the mayor’s office through his relative who serves as municipal administrator.
Ilagan’s political dynasty reportedly wields strong influence in the locality since they became allied with the Liberal Party (LP).
The town constituents had expressed fear that politics could be behind DILG’s “delayed reaction” to their predicament because Vice Mayor Laqui happens to be a Nacionalista Party member.
To allay their anxiety, Sarmiento finally sent DILG Undersecretary Austere Panadero to Mataasnakahoy to ensure the smooth assumption of Laqui as acting mayor.
He also ordered Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ricardo Marquez to launch a manhunt for Ilagan and execute the arrest orders issued by Presiding Judge Girlie Borrel-Yu of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 35, Ormoc City, on March 31, 2014.
Ilagan and one Dinah Tupas are also facing human trafficking charges, also a non-bailable offense for bringing the teenage rape victim to Ormoc City in 2013.
Ilagan is also charged with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition after the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) discovered a firearms cache in his residence at JMI Compound, Barangay Santol, Mataasnakahoy, Batangas, last December 20.
Disqualified to run in may polls
Ilagan, who reportedly vowed never to surrender and fight law enforcement authorities to death who will attempt to arrest him, ironically filed through a representative his certificate of candidacy for reelection as Mataasnakahoy mayor in the May 9 elections this year.
Ang kapal naman ng mukha ng puganteng ito na may kasong panggagahasa!
If he professes innocence of the charges, then why can he not present himself to the authorities and clear himself in a fair trial at a court of justice.
Ilagan is clearly not qualified to run for any public office.
Section 40(e) of the Local Government Code states, among others, that fugitives from justice in criminal or non-political cases here or abroad are disqualified from running for any elective local position.
So, after the DILG did what it had to do, we now expect the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to carry out what’s right to do–disqualify Ilagan from running for reelection, as he is a fugitive facing two non-bailable criminal cases.