JAEN, Nueva Ecija – The political tug-of-war between two opposing mayors in this town continued on Monday following the passage of several resolutions by the town council recognizing Sylvia C. Austria as the legitimate mayor.
Voting 8-2, the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) chaired by Vice Mayor Luisito R. Austria approved five local legislations upholding Austria’s legitimacy during a regular session held at the barangay hall in San Josef here.
The SB passed Resolution No. 15-2021, “respecting the status quo ante order of the Commission on Elections upholding the rule of law and recognizing the assumption to office by the legitimate mayor of Jaen, Nueva Ecija, Hon. Sylvia C. Austria.”
This favored an earlier ruling by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) directing “sitting mayor Antonio Prospero Esquivel to peacefully turn over the post to her” pending the outcome of a January 28 Comelec hearing on the said mayoral issue.
The eight SB members who voted yes and signed the resolution were Councilors Sylvester C. Austria, Crisanto E. Matias, Josephine C. Angeles, Donald B. Carlos, Antonio N. Ocampo, Joseph Norman M. Velarde, Lorenzo F. Manuel, ABC president, and Roselyn B. Laureano, SK president while two councilor-allies of Esquivel who dissented were identified as Arsenia E. Javate and Clifford S. Miranda.
Also approved by the SB and immediately transmitted to the Land Bank of the Philippines-San Isidro Branch was SB Resolution No. 16 which recognizes Austria as the town’s lone authorized signatory to the said bank, including its new transfer account to the Development Bank of the Philippines.
Austria’s lawyer-son, Councilor Sylvester said this new SB resolution stripped Esquivel of his power as mayor to transact business or deposit and withdraw money with the LBP, the town’s depository bank.
Meanwhile, tension gripped the town hall when Austria’s camp led by one of their counsels, Atty. Dominic Garin and Councilor Sylvester tried to serve copies of the newly-approved SB resolutions to the department heads. They were unable to enter the compound after finding its front steel gates closed and padlocked at 2:50 p.m. Monday.
Also seen pre-positioned inside the town hall compound several meters away was the group of Esquivel, standing side by side with their arms and eyes glued upfront.
The serving of the resolutions was momentarily stalled amid a slight drizzle as Austria’s camp numbering about 200 persons waited outside as uniformed personnel deployed by provincial director Col. Marvin Joe C. Saro, including a team of civil disturbance unit came to avert the occurrence of any possible untoward incidents.
However, at about 4:15 p.m. tension ran high when a man from Austria’s camp approached the gate and destroyed its padlock using a bolt cutter despite a barrage of huge stones thrown his way by some of Esquivel’s supporters inside the compound.
As a result, Garin and members of the media, including Lt. Col. Gerald Licyayo and town police head Major Baltazar Corpuz and his men were able to enter the premises and come face-to-face with Esquivel and his group in front of the town hall.
Meanwhile, a mediaman, identified as Ariel Avendaño, of the Manila Bulletin, was allegedly harassed while videotaping the event with his mobile phone inside the town hall. A male supporter of Esquivel reportedly hit him on the nape and tried to grab his mobile phone.
This Journal Group reporter, who was also documenting the proceedings with a mobile phone alongside Avendaño, was harassed by a woman, who poked her fingers on the mobile phone and gave orders to stop recording. “Patayin mo iyan ang sabi nung babae tapos hindi niya tinigilan pindot-pindotin ang aking cellphone,” according to this reporter.
Esquivel told Garin that he does not recognize him and he would not talk to him so he can leave immediately. “Ang kausap ko lang si RD at si PD,” the mayor said, referring to Police Regional Office 3 director Brig. Gen. Valeriano T. De Leon and PD Saro.
“Dito kami, doon kayo,” he added, implying that he stays at the town hall as mayor while Austria should go elsewhere.