YEARENDER: 2 Bukidnon mayors die, 1 lose seat in 2014

MALAYBALAY CITY (BukidnonNews.Net/31 December) Two Bukidnon mayors died, one killed in an ambush, the other resigned due to illness and later died; and another one unseated due to a court conviction this year– making 2014 a shaky one for local politics.

In Maramag, ailing Mayor Alicia Resus was succeeded in March by vice Mayor Jose Obedencio, a mayor before Resus’ term.

Citing poor health, Resus, 56, has resigned effective March 8, 2014. Ronelo Alvarez, then provincial director of the Department of Interior and Local Government confirmed the report and the reason for Resus’ resignation.
She has been reported to be sick and has been on leave for several months. She died on March 11.
Resus, who has a Master’s degree in Agricultural Engineering from Araneta University Foundation, was serving her second term as mayor. She served as vice mayor from 2001 to 2010.
By rule of succession, Obedencio, a partymate of Resus and Zubiri at the Bukidnon Paglaum Party (BPP) assumed as mayor. Obedencio served as town mayor from 2001 to 2010.
Maramag’s number 1 municipal councilor Jose Joel Doromal, a lawyer who belonged to the Aksyon Demokratiko party, became vice mayor.
In Impasugong, Mayor Mario Okinlay, who was killed in an ambush, was succeeded by vice mayor Anthony Uy, from his rival party in 2013.

The New Peoples’s Army owned up the ambush slaying of Okinlay on July 2 in Kinapuntan, Brgy Bontongon, Impasug-ong. He died while being treated for gunshot wounds sustained in the ambush. Police said attackers fired at the convoy hitting Okinlay in the stomach and left arm. His police and military escorts gave the mayor first aid before bringing him to the Malaybalay Polymedic General Hospital.
The mayor sustained multiple gunshot wounds on the back and arms. He was pronounced dead at 11:23 a.m. on the same day.
Okinlay and other town officials had been in Bontongon a day before and were scheduled to return to the town proper that day. He had police and military escorts but was driving his motorcycle when the attack occurred.
Okinlay, who obtained a degree from Xavier University, was first elected mayor in 1998 and served until 2007. He was replaced by his wife, Julia Okinlay, from 2007-2010. In 2010, he regained his post and was re-elected last year.

Another mayor, Absalon P. Catarata, of the then municipality of Valencia, was killed while in office in April 1988. He was elected for two consecutive terms in 1980 and 1988.

In June 2014, Valencia City mayor-elect Jose M. Galario Jr. was also succeeded by his vice mayor Azucena Huervas after he was convicted by the Sandiganbayan for violation of Section 3f of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Section 3f refers to acts of “neglecting or refusing, after due demand or request, without sufficient justification, to act within a reasonable time on any matter pending before him for the purpose of obtaining, directly or indirectly, from any person interested in the matter some pecuniary or material benefit or advantage, or for the purpose of favoring his own interest or giving undue advantage in favor of or discriminating against any other interested party.”

Galario has been declared a fugitive after he failed to show up when police came to his office and to his residence in Barangay Bagontaas to serve the warrant of arrest issued by the Sandiganbayan that found him guilty of graft.

The anti-graft court declared Galario guilty for refusing to comply with a Civil Service Commission order to reinstate now retired city budget officer Ruth Piano whom he repeatedly relieved and transferred to other positions in city hall. In 2001, Galario relieved Piano and transferred her to different offices. She filed constructive dismissal complaints against Galario before the CSC regional office in Cagayan de Oro City. She won her case resulting in the issuance of a reinstatement order on May 5, 2003.

However, after three months, Galario again relieved her of her position.

The Sandiganbayan First Division, in a decision handed down in 2012 sentenced Galario to a maximum of seven years and barred him from holding any public office.

In its 44-page ruling, the Sandiganbayan said the mayor tried “to hide behind the excuse that he had sufficient reason to ignore” the CSC’s orders and Piano’s requests for reinstatement because the resolution ordering the reinstatement did not attain finality until May 17, 2004.

Galario lost in 2007 and 2010 to archrival Leandro Jose Catarata, but regained his post in 2013.
He garnered 30,012 votes against Catarata’s 27,752. Huervas, Catarata’s running mate, won over two other rivals with 30,099 votes.
Galario, a police chief before entering politics, made history in 2001 when he won as mayor against Carlos O. Fortich, Bukidnon’s longest serving governor who had never lost in previous elections.

Huervas, who assumed as city mayor on June 11, vowed to pursue transparent and accountable governance in her administration.
“We are looking at good governance – fair delivery of services to the people. We assure transparency …Our accountability to the people who choose us,” she added.

Huervas, who started as a village chairperson before becoming vice mayor in 2010, said others look at her assumption as mayor as destiny but she preferred to look at it as a responsibility.
Interviewed after the May 2013 polls, Huervas said she wanted to promote honesty in public office.

Section 44 of Republic Act (RA) 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991 states: “If a permanent vacancy occurs in the office of the governor or mayor, the vice-governor or vice-mayor concerned shall become the governor or mayor. If a permanent vacancy occurs in the offices of the governor, vice-governor, mayor, or vice-mayor, the highest ranking sanggunian member or, in case of his permanent inability, the second highest ranking sanggunian member shall become the governor, vice-governor, mayor or vice-mayor, as the case may be.”

Bukidnon has two cities and 20 towns. (Walter I. Balane/BukidnonNews.Net)