Lagman to step down sans resistance under status quo ante order from SC
By Manly M. Ugalde
LEGAZPI CITY --- Newly-installed Albay Gov. Greco Lagman said he will step down as governor minus resistance should the status quo ante order filed by the dismissed governor is granted by the Supreme Court, as followers close to the evicted elected Gov. Noel Rosal expects the favorable ruling sooner.
As this developed, rumors flew thick in Legazpi City that Mayor Geraldine Rosal, wife of the ousted governor, would be the next to step down, with the Comelec en banc decision expected to come out concurring in toto the Comelec 2nd division order that disqualifies her as the elected mayor, in violation of the Omnibus Election Code.
It will be recalled that Gov. Rosal disqualification order from the Comelec 1st Division came out on September 19. Two weeks later, the Comelec 2nd Division issued its order disqualifying Mrs. Rosal as the elected Legazpi mayor. Barely two months on November 19, the Comelec en banc promulgated its final and executory decision followed by a writ of execution to evict Rosal as Albay governor.
Should the Comelec en banc promulgate its decision in favor of its 2nd division disqualification order against Mayor Rosal, the vice mayor elect, Bobby Cristobal, would be installed as mayor by operation of law. Cristobal, the running tandem of Mrs. Rosal during the last May 9 election, said he was prepared to succeed as city mayor. A case for recount of votes, however, is also pending with the Comelec filed by defeated mayoral bet Ako Bicol Party list Congressman Alfredo Garbin.
The Rosal couple were both charged for violating the Omnibus Election Code involving the release and distribution of charity funds for the senior citizens and tricycle drivers during the 45-day election ban. The case was filed by one Joseph San Juan Armogila, a tricycle driver and defeated city councilor bet. His complaint was covered by photos and videos showing the couple distributing the “ayuda” funds when the disqualified governor was city mayor and his wife was running for the city post.
On December 1, Lagman took his oath as governor, however, not at the capitol building but at the nearby annex provincial tourism office, after Rosal followers blocked the entry of DILG regional director Reynaldo Escober tapped to serve the writ of execution from the Comelec. Rosal was in Manila when the eviction order was served.
According to Lagman, his oath of office and installation as Rosal successor should have been done right at the capitol governor’s office saying he was a vice governor-elect and not a party to the case against Rosal. “I am taking over as governor by operation of law,” declared Lagman, a former congressman. Nevertheless, “I was thankful the eviction notice on December 1 was served peaceful even as he denies any role in the deployment of more than 300 uniformed policemen that barricaded the Capitol site on November 25 allegedly to give way for the serving of the writ of execution and his installation, while Rosal was in Manila hotly working for a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court.
Failing to secure a TRO, Rosal was banking on the status quo ante order he filed with the high court.
“Should Rosal successfully obtained the Status Quo Ante Order, I will immediately vacate my post and return back as vice governor,” said Lagman.
Rosal followers had expressed strong dismay over his disqualification as governor involving a minor case that released a budgeted charity funds for the poor, minus corruption scandal. The former city mayor was voted as governor by reason of his great performance, who fought corruption in the controversial Mayon quarry, they said. Some said Lagman as vice governor, however, was silent when the corruption scandalized May0n quarry was exposed and probed by the Presidential Anti Corruption Commission. He was re-elected vice governor as running tandem of the sitting governor Al Francis Bichara.