ACTING CAPACITY. Vice Mayor-elect Djarma Rafael is told to sit as acting mayor of Paracelis, Mountain Province by the Department of the Interior and Local Government-Cordillera if the Commission on Elections (Comelec) En Banc will not be able to resolve the motion for reconsideration of elected Mayor Avelino Amangyen. The Comelec canceled his certificate of candidacy for material misrepresentation when he failed to declare being convicted of violating the Forestry Code, which was upheld by the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. (PNA photo by Liza T. Agoot)
BAGUIO CITY – The elected vice mayor of Paracelis, Mountain Province has been appointed to sit as acting mayor in case the Commission on Elections (Comelec) En Banc fails to resolve the disqualification case of the winning mayor before the scheduled assumption of office of local officials on June 30.

“You, as vice mayor of said municipality, shall assume the Office of the Mayor in an acting capacity without prejudice to the Comelec’s resolution of the Motion for Reconsideration,” said Araceli San Jose, Regional Director of Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Cordillera, in a letter to Elmer Manuel Sagsago, the counsel of elected Vice Mayor Djarma Rafael, who sought a legal opinion from the DILG to dispel confusion among the public.

The certificate of candidacy of elected and proclaimed mayor Avelino Amangyen was nullified by the Second Division of the Comelec on April 19, 2022, before the elections, and declared him ineligible because of misrepresentation in his certificate of candidacy for nondisclosure of a previous conviction for violation of the Forestry Code which carried a penalty of Reclusion Temporal and an accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification to hold public office.

Amangyen subsequently filed a motion for reconsideration, which has yet to be resolved by the Commission.

Amangyen won the mayoralty race against incumbent Mayor Marcos Ayangwa after garnering 9,220 votes versus the 5,185 votes of the latter in the May 9 polls.

San Jose, in her letter to Sagsago, said that considering that the issue lies in the hands of the Comelec en banc and the controversy on who should sit as mayor remains in question, Rafael shall assume the office in an acting capacity.

“In the event that no resolution on the motion for reconsideration will be issued by the Comelec on the noon of June 30, there shall exist a temporary vacancy in the position of the Mayor… the vice mayor shall then assume as the mayor in an acting capacity,” read the letter.

San Jose further wrote, “as to mayoralty candidate Ayangwa, we are of the opinion that his claim will be addressed by the Comelec once it resolves the Motion for Reconsideration.”

Amangyen was found guilty of a violation of Presidential Decree 705 or the Forestry Code in 2013. The conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeals and subsequently by the Supreme Court in 2018.

Amangyen’s case stemmed from a raid conducted by the police in his residence in Paracelis where several board feet of forest products not covered by permits were found.

He was meted the penalty of reclusion temporal that carries an imprisonment of a minimum of 12 years and one day and 20 years as maximum.

The Comelec 2nd Division in April said that Amangyen, in his COC, answered, “No,” to the question, “Have you ever been found liable for an offense which carries with it the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification to hold public office which has become final and executory” and went on to write "N/A" in the space where the candidate is required to provide information.

The Comelec said, “the material representation in his COC contradicting the existence of his conviction as well as perpetual disqualification serve as grounds for the cancellation thereof under Section 78 of the OEC (Omnibus Election Code).” (PNA)