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Comelec issues “2nd order” for DILG to implement reinstating Austria

JAEN, Nueva Ecija – The Commission on Elections’ Second Division on Monday (March 1) issued a “second order” deputizing the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), through Sec. Eduardo M. Año or his officer-in-charge (OIC) to implement and execute with dispatch the poll body’s January 12, 2021 status quo ante order reinstating ousted Mayor Sylvia C. Austria and removing sitting mayor Antonio Prospero Esquivel from his post.

This latest directive from the poll body was a “follow-up” to its Feb.3 order directing the Central Luzon DILG office through regional director Julie J. Daquiaog to enforce the said SQAO.

However, the Feb. 3 order from the poll body’s Second Division remains unimplemented by the DILG until now, thus, forcing the Comelec to issue a second “clarificatory” order.

The March 1 order by the poll body’s Second Division answered a clarificatory letter from Usec. Bernardo C. Florece Jr., DILG officer-in-charge, who sought guidance on the aforesaid issue in the said case.

Magandang development po ito, kaso hindi po namin alam sa DILG. Waiting pa din kami sa magiging action ng DILG,” said Atty. Silvestre Austria, councilor-son of ousted mayor Sylvia C. Austria, in reaction to the latest Comelec order.

In its five-page order, Presiding Commissioner Soccoro B. Inting and Commissioner Antonio T. Kho Jr., both of the Second Division, cited that “as a matter of fact, the DILG itself, in its Circular No. 2010-09 (Delegation of Authority-DILG-LG Sector) recognizes its role in the implementation of the orders emanating from the Commission.

It is within this umbrella of authority that the Commission (Second Division) directed the DILG to implement the January 12, 2021 Status Quo Ante Order, as “it is the Department’s very function to assist the President in the exercise of general supervision over local governments, including public elective officials in the local government units. Thus, the Commission finds it highly unusual for Usec. Florece Jr. to question such authority,” it said.

It is inexcusable for the DILG to ignore the said order simply because it was coursed through the regional director despite the fact that the DILG itself is being directed,” it also stressed.

Last month, Gov. Aurelio M. Umali also appealed to the DILG to implement without delay the said SQAO “to avert any untoward incidents from happening again” amid the occurrence of two IED blasts and grenade-throwing incidents that occurred as a result of heightened political tension between the two opposing camps.

The governor, who is a lawyer, earlier explained that this SQAO by the poll body was an “interlocutory order” which seeks to preserve the sanctity of the legal process by reverting back to the previous status before Esquivel was installed and Austria was removed.