Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ecija court unseats mayor, installs rival as winner in polls

ALIAGA, Nueva Ecija – A Regional Trial Court (RTC) unseated here on Monday incumbent Mayor Elizabeth Vargas and installed her rival, businessman Reynaldo Ordanes  as the duly elected winner in the May 2013 elections, ending the Vargas’ 22-year stranglehold in this town amid the former’s alleged refusal to vacate her post in the municipal hall.

          Ordanes,  an ally of the Joson’s Nationalist People’s Coalition,  was installed after Cabanatuan City RTC  Branch 30 deputy sheriff Victoria Roque served the writ of execution issued by Judge Virgilio  Caballero to Vargas at the town hall where she  holed herself since last week.

               Ordanes is the brother of Quezon City assessor Rodolfo Ordanes.

              Vargas, a four-term mayor and wife of former three-term mayor Marcial Vargas, was proclaimed winner by the municipal board of canvassers last year, garnering 11,477 votes to Ordanes’ 11,413, or a scant margin of 64 votes.
         However, Ordanes  filed an election protest before the RTC which examined the votes.

Last May 28, the court voided 72 of Vargas’ votes. It also ruled that three of Ordanes’ votes, which were rejected by the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines , were valid, bringing his vote total to 11,416 while Vargas’ votes were reduced to 11,405 votes after the 72 votes were deducted from her tally, prompting the court to declare Ordanes winner by a plurality of  11 votes.

On June 19, the court issued a writ of execution of its decision pending appeal but it was withheld on July 15 after the Commission on Elections issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining it to cease and desist from enforcing its order for a 60-day period.

The TRO expired last September 16, prompting the court to issue another order dated September 17 implementing the writ.

“To date, no restraining order is issued by the higher authority and therefore the writ of execution pending appeal to enforce the said decision on June 19, 2014  is now effective,” the court said.  

In its September 17 order, the court said Vargas has not produced any evidence to defend her position.

Ordanes, who took his oath last Friday before Quezon City RTC Judge Jose Paneda, said  he will temporarily hold office in his house near the town hall while Vargas is still occupying the mayor’s office to avert any untoward incident.  

He was accompanied by his running mate, Vice Mayor Alfredo Domingo and throngs of wildly cheering, loyal supporters.

“We don’t want any trouble. What we want is peace in Aliaga because I love our townmates,” Ordanes said as he appealed to Vargas to peacefully step down from her post to effect a smooth transition. 

          He said he believed in the rule of law and would await for the Department of the Interior and Local Governments to step in.

          Vargas has refused to come out of the mayor’s office. Reporters trying to gain entry in her office were barred from doing so.

            But municipal administrator Emmanuel San Juan said they will abide by the legal processes and will respect the DILG directive. (Manny Galvez)

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