ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Go Yap

BAGUIO CITY-- The House of Representatives, via Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, has appointed ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Go Yap as caretaker of the province of Benguet in light of the death of Benguet Rep. Nestor Fongwan Sr. in December last year.

Benguet Board member Nestor Fongwan Jr., the late congressman's son, traveled to Manila on Tuesday to meet with Yap.

He posted the photo opportunity on social media to confirm Yap's appointment on Monday.

In a statement, younger Fongwan said House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano manifested the vacancy and upon motion of Deputy Majority Leader Xavier Jesus Romualdo, Yap's appointment was unanimously approved to serve as legislative caretaker of the lone district of Benguet.

Fongwan said he, together with Marie Rose Kepes, chief of staff of Benguet district, and Abra Rep. Joseph Bernos met with Yap for a coordination meeting to open communication for a smooth operation of their office. The meeting was also to assure that the bills initiated by the late congressman will be taken up before the Congress opens.

Fongwan said Yap will serve as the caretaker of Benguet until the expiration of his late father's term in 2022.

He also advised the public that the late lawmaker at the Batasan Pambansa complex in Quezon City and the Benguet Provincial Capitol will continue to operate and all correspondence for the legislative district of Benguet shall be addressed through Yap.

Benguet people’s reaction

Residents of Benguet, most of whom belong to the Ibaloi and Kankanaey tribes, have been dismayed when they learned of Yap's appointment.

They, however, are willing to give Yap a chance.

Meanwhile, Benguet Governor Melchor Diclas, who was the running mate of the late legislator, said they will work with Yap.

He added that while they wanted someone who is from the Cordillera to replace Fongwan, the wisdom of the appointment should not be questioned as it comes from a legal authority.

Vice Governor Johnny Waguis, on the other hand, congratulated Yap on his appointment.

"We hope and pray that he will represent well the province and give what is best for the people of Benguet. We maintain however our plea that a special election is held. We hope it will be acted upon by the House of Representatives," Waguis said.

Last week, the provincial board approved a resolution asking the House of Representatives to declare the position of the congressman of Benguet as vacant and to approve the holding of a special election.

Waguis said while a caretaker has been appointed, they are still hopeful that a special election will be held so that a local will seat as their representative.

Lawyer Julia Elenita Tabangin-Capuyan, Benguet election officer, said the law provides that the House Speaker shall declare the vacancy and appoint a caretaker.

She said a special election to fill up a position must be done within 45 to 90 days after the declaration of a vacancy.

A special election will require the registration of voters, printing of ballots, hiring of teachers to serve in the election and other incidental expenses which are estimated to be about PHP100 million.

The election if approved, such amount will be advanced by the local government subject to reimbursement by the Commission on Elections and will be allotted an amount by the Congress.

"We would have wanted a local to be the caretaker but we respect Congressman Cayetano's decision. We hope that he will look after the concerns of the province even if he is not from Benguet," Mayor Armando Lauro of Tublay town said in the Ilocano dialect.

For Mayor Raymundo Sarac of Atok town, a special election is vital for the good of Benguet but they are, nonetheless, supportive of Yap's appointment as a caretaker. (PNA)