Nalzaro: Bad news and good news for Zafra

·4 min read

THE petition of the late Attorney Marie Velle “Amay” Abella could be bad news and at the same time good news for incumbent south district Councilor Phillip Zafra. First, on the bad news. If the votes of Amay, combined with the votes garnered by declared “nuisance candidate” Sherwin Luie Abella, could surpass Zafra’s votes, definitely, the latter would be dislodged from the number 8 position. It may even affect the standing of the other councilors occupying the fifth, sixth and seventh positions.

Amay, who ran in the 2019 elections under the Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) in the south district, landed in the ninth slot with a slight margin against Zafra, who was in the eighth position. But unfortunately, before her petition prospered, Amay died last year. Her petition to declare Sherwin as nuisance candidate has been granted by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc, which ordered the nullification of the proclamation of councilors Zafra, Eugenio Gabuya Jr., Renato “Junjun” Osmeña Jr. and Raul “Yayoy” Alcoseba.

Gabuya, Osmeña and Alcoseba have nothing to worry about because they will not be dislodged. Only their standing would be affected after the counting of Amay and Sherwin’s votes. In the case of Zafra, he can still function and need not to step down yet until the Comelec’s decision becomes final and executory, said Comelec regional attorney Ferdinand Gujilde.

The difference between Zafra and Amay’s votes is only 5,000. Sherwin garnered 20,000 votes. So, if we are going to add Sherwin’s votes to Amay’s votes, the latter would surpass the votes of Zafra, and even affect the standing of the sixth and seventh positions.

Even if he would be unseated, the good news for Zafra is that if he decides to run in the next elections, he would be entitled to three full terms, or equivalent to nine years. Why? Because if he would be dislodged by Amay before his present term expires on June 30 next year, he would be considered a losing candidate and his present term would not be counted.

The jurisprudence on this was the case of the late Cebu’s fourth district Rep. Benhur Salimbangon and Celestino “Tining” Martinez III. The duo slugged it out in their first venture in the congressional race. To make the story short, Benhur was declared winner in that election. Tining filed a petition for recounting. His petition was granted by the Comelec and the case went up to the House of Representative Electoral Tribunal (HRET) and up to the Supreme Court.

With the remaining two months before the adjournment of Congress for the elections in that year, Tining was declared winner with finality and Benhur was unseated. Tining was able to attend a few sessions in the House. I don’t know if he was able to collect his salary and pork barrel for the remaining months he served. Benhur had been enjoying the salaries and pork barrel from the start until he was unseated as he was officially proclaimed as the “legitimate winner.” There was a rematch between them in the succeeding elections and Benhur won in the succeeding three elections; he served three full terms (equivalent to nine years), making him the de facto longest serving congressman in his district by serving a total of nearly 12 years.

Section 8, Article 10 (Local Government) of the 1987 Constitution states: “The term of office of elective officials, except barangay officials, which shall be determined by law, shall be three years and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he was elected.”

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Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella is in good shape and in the “process of recovering,” contrary to rumors and speculations that the hizzoner is seriously ill and bedridden. This, according to the mayor’s son, Jaypee, who texted this columnist after my series of columns asking the mayor to divulge his real state of health.

Jaypee admitted that his father had suffered a mild stroke while being hospitalized last month and his speech has been affected. His speech is slurred and his lower extremities are weak that he can’t stand. But despite the mayor’s physical condition, his mental capability has not been affected. He is still “sharp,” Jaypee described his father. The mayor is still the one running the affairs of City Hall, even if he is on a work-from-home setup. Jaypee promised that once his father would fully recover, he would hold a press conference through virtual or even in a face-to-face setup.

Well, with Jaypee’s revelation, I hope this will stop all speculations that Mayor Edlab is already incapacitated. Let us just pray for his immediate recovery.

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