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2 ‘mayors’ battle for Ecija post

JAEN, Nueva Ecija – A political standoff occurred in this town between a mayor has just been proclaimed winner over the other in an election protest case filed before a Gapan City local court.

Both “mayors” continued to occupy separate floors of the two-story-municipal building amid a phalanx of armed police personnel deployed for security purposes inside and outside the town hall as both their supporters remained massed up here on Thursday.

The standoff occurred when newly court-proclaimed Mayor Antonio Prospero Esquivel assumed his post on Thursday morning with rival-Mayor Sylvia C. Austria still holed up at the building’s second floor and still performing her functions.

Esquivel, who earlier took his oath of office as mayor before Gapan City Judge John Voltaire Venturina, arrived at 10 a.m. in compliance with the court’s writ of execution to assume his post. He was accompanied by his counsel Rod Rafael De Leon.

Gapan City RTC Branch 37 court sheriff Jorge L. Battung posted on the town’s bulletin board the copies of the writ of execution issued by Clerk of Court Maureen R. Genetiano-Pabaira.

Esquivel stayed at the treasurer’s office and issued written orders informing the Land of the Philippines, the town’s depository bank, of his assumption as the new mayor and as such will become the authorized signatory in all transactions of the municipal government.

He also came out with a directive that he would preside an urgent meeting with all the municipal department heads in the afternoon.

For their part, Atty. Silvestre Austria, the mayor’s councilor-son expressed shock at the court decision unseating his mother.

Esquivel, who formerly served as mayor for three broken terms from 2004-2007 and from 1992-1998, said his rival could have erred in filing the correct legal remedy to stop him from assuming his post.

His assumption as mayor replacing Austria was by virtue of a December 7, 2020 decision issued by Judge Angelo C. Perez, of the Gapan City RTC Branch 87, declaring Austria’s proclamation as mayor in the 2019 local polls as null and void and as such she was ordered by Perez to vacate the said office to give way to Esquivel, who was proclaimed winner in the said electoral protest against Austria.

Records showed that after a court-ordered recount of ballots, Esquivel was declared the winner over Austria with total votes of 18,737 as against the latter’s 14,392 or a margin of 4,345 votes.