This town in Camarines Sur has three mayors
This small town in Camarines Sur has not one, not two, but three mayors.
Residents of Bato, a third class municipality with only 107 square kilometres in land area, are still confused as to which of these three is the lawful mayor.
First there’s Jeanette Bernaldez, who was the elected mayor in the 2013 election.
The Ombudsman, however, recently suspended her for six months and one day without pay for abuse of authority.
Automatically, she was replaced by Vice Mayor Alvin Sacueza in acting capacity. But he was also suspended for six months by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan due to administrative charges that several members of the Municipal Council filed against him.
In Sacueza’s absence, topnotcher municipal councilor Domingo Zorilla, Jr. was sworn into office as acting mayor on June 22.
Then things got out of hand.
Despite Zorilla’s assumption into office, however, locals remain puzzled as to who should legally occupy the seat of the local chief executive.
Despite her suspension, Bernaldez never yielded her office to Sacueza.
She earlier said she was waiting for the decision of the Court of Appeals, which had since dismissed the former mayor’s petition for certiorari.
On the other hand, Sacueza has already filed an appeal to the Office of the President to have his suspension lifted.
Neither of these three has since stepped down as the town’s chief executive.
But plain confusion on the part of the constituents seems to be the least of their worries.
This early, the battle for the mayoralty seat has resulted in delays in salaries and utilities since because of these three “mayors”
As the standoff continues, the question as to whose signature must be recognized by depository banks, when withdrawals for the salaries and other financial obligations of the municipality are needed, remains sorely unanswered.
This has left the third class municipality in chaos, as many are dependent on the local government’s services.
With a 2010 population of less than 50,000, Bato residents rely mainly on agriculture, fishery, and poultry for livelihood.
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