DILG serves advisory to restore normalcy

LAOAG CITY, July 28–AFTER FOUR WEEKS of political hullabaloo about two mayors sitting at the same municipal hall in Ilocos Norte’ s Marcos town since July 1, 2013, here’s the latest news for the town folks affected by the crisis.

On Friday, July 26, 2013, an official advisory by Department of Interior and Local Government was served to the municipal government of Marcos recognizing Arsenio Agustin as the “legitimate mayor” of that town pending the final resolution of the controversial Pillos vs. Agustin case in the Supreme Court. The said advisory has attached copy of a DILG memorandum signed by DILG Undersecretary Austere Panadero and another copy of the Supreme Court’s status quo ante order.

At this juncture, the municipal hall appeared like an alleged battle ground as police troopers armed to the teeth secured the building’s indoor and outdoor areas, an observer told the Sentinel.

The troopers were deployed there ready to response in case violence may erupt among overzealous rival supporters. Augmentation troops also arrived to beef up the Marcos town cops. So far, no untoward incident occurred during the Friday tense situation, police said.

A copy of the advisory was personally served by DILG regional and provincial officials and witnessed by Comelec officers of the province. It was duly received by Agustin, all department heads under him and other officials of the municipal government of Marcos town. Pillos’ Manila-based lawyer Manolito Hidalgo who was also present at the municipal hall received his own copy of the DILG advisory with attached copies of the DILG memo and the SC status quo ante order.

Under the advisory , Agustin is duly authorized to sign official public documents and other legal transactions in the municipal government.

It may be noted that the DILG memo was issued so that “the rendition of basic services in Marcos town shall not be impeded.”

Earlier, the Supreme Court resolved the standoff allowing Arsenio Agustin to temporarily assume office as municipal mayor of that town, the latter’s lawyer reported Tuesday, July 23.

His rival, Salvador Pillos, who lost in his reelection bid in the May 13 midyear elections, still holds office at the municipal hall mayor’s office in the upper floor while Agustin at the ground floor accounting office.

Manila-based lawyer Jude Anastacio said their client, Arsenio Agustin was favored by the SC order which is “immediately executory”. There is no need for a sheriff to implement the order, Anastacio said in a morning broadcast interview.

However, Anastacio, who is the counterpart counsel of Agustin’s Laoag-based lawyer Eric Garvida told mediamen that they will give enough leeway for Pillos to vacate the mayor’s office saying “let us be law-abiding citizen and not lawbreaker.”

On July 22, 2013, a published report quoted a minute resolution signed by SC clerk of court Enriqueta Vidal which read “Acting on the urgent motion to resolve prayer for injunctive relief dated July 3, 2013 filed by counsel for petitioner (Arsenio Agustin), the Court resolved to require the parties to observe the status quo prevailing before the issuance of the Comelec en banc resolution dated April 23, 2013.”

The report said the SC granted the plea of Agustin for a halt order on the implementation of a Comelec ruling canceling his CoC in the recent polls due to a citizenship issue. In its July 16 session, the SC decided to issue a status quo ante order allowing a mayor to temporarily assume the post, the report said.

It may be recalled that on June 18, the Comelec en banc issued a writ of execution in favor of Pillos after it cancelled Agustin’s CoC due to the US citizenship issue. However, the writ was never implemented despite Pillos’ legal counsel Ferdinand Ignacio exerted all efforts and legal remedies to enforce the writ.

On the other hand, Pillos’ counsels Ignacio and Manolito Hidalgo of Manila had a different interpretation of the SC status quo ante order. They said the SC order favored their client because Pillos was the prevailing sitting mayor before the April 23, 2013 issuance of the Comelec en banc resolution.

At press time, July 28, embattled Pillos refused to vacate his post saying only a final order by the High Tribunal could force him to step down. As usual since Day One on July 1, 2013, Pillos locks himself inside the mayor’s office at the second floor of the municipal hall building where he eats and sleeps there with some loyal supporters.#