It had been over a year since the latest elections and thus it came as no surprise that followers of Compostela Mayor-elect Joel Quiño held a rally to denounce the delayed resolution of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on the election protest case against him and his council.
What was disconcerting were reports that Quiño and his followers forced themselves into the Compostela municipal hall in a takeover attempt, thus further aggravating the already-problematic political situation in this northern Cebu town.
For starters, one can understand on a personal level Quiño’s frustration over the initial Comelec ruling that not only denied him but also his winning slate of councilors from occupying their posts based on a sweeping election protest filed by his rival Ritchie Wagas.
How the Comelec came out with the decision—virtually reducing the Compostela municipal government into an also-ran manpower and social welfare agency filled with officers in charge (OIC)—is subject to unfavorable speculation.
We don’t know how many pending election dispute cases are being handled by the Comelec, but so far we haven’t known of any that involved not only the local chief executive but also his elected legislators.
But there it was, and Compostela has been hobbling ever since, as the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) had to take over the reins of the municipal government to keep a semblance of stable governance there.
Last thing we heard is that the provincial DILG officer assigned as caretaker mayor of Compostela town signified his intention to step down from the post to the DILG central office for him to return to his day job only to be told to stay put.
Worst-case scenario would be an outbreak of violence between the police and Quiño’s followers that would result in a forcible removal from office but if one were to cite the Tudela town case in which two local officials slugged it out in court until last year’s elections, it appears quite unlikely.
What may happen is the DILG transferring office and notifying all agencies doing business with the Compostela municipal hall not to honor transactions with Quiño and his camp.
What happens next is up to Quiño and his followers. If they decide to force the issue, march down and keep the DILG local executives holed up in their offices, operations will grind to a halt to the inconvenience and gross disadvantage of Compostela residents. We could only hope Quiño and his followers won’t go down this path.
Can we expect Comelec to swiftly resolve this election dispute? Based on their record, it’s a big fat NO. Thus it’s up to the DILG, the Capitol and the law enforcement agencies to make sure that services and peace and order won’t break down in Compostela. That’s what the public and anyone with a stake in this crisis can hope for at this stage.
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