POSTSCRIPT / July 26, 2012 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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The secret of Boking’s vaunted staying power

MABALACAT CITY — Whenever I bump into Mayor Marino “Boking” Morales, I compliment the 62-year-old executive of this brand-new city for his “staying power” (wink).

Boking knows what I mean, which is his uncanny ability to stay as mayor beyond the legal limit of three consecutive three-year terms or a maximum of nine successive years in office.

He just laughs over the issue, and sometimes kids me, “Baka isulat mo pa yan!” (Don’t tell me you’d write that!).

Now and then, of course I do write about his prolonged hold on the mayorship that has kept his critics and political foes confounded, and his fans and followers comforted.

* * *

STAYING POWER: The debate over five-termer Morales’ being able to run again next year, and possibly for another term after that, was revived again with this town having gained cityhood last July 21 by an act of the Congress.

The simplistic logic of his supporters in barbershops and coffee shops here and in neighboring Clark Freeport and SM Clark is that since this is his very first term as city mayor he is good for another two terms as city executive.

The local Commission on Elections does not buy that line, at the moment, but if Morales plays his cards right, especially with a favorable Supreme Court decision in his pocket, he might just be able to demonstrate again his vaunted “staying power.”

“Vaunted” is not quite accurate, because Boking will tell you he is no longer running. But you know how the excitement of running a new city assured of bigger revenues and ambitious projects can affect people’s imagination.

* * *

BACKGROUND: PhilSTAR reporter Ding Cervantes told us while composing his report in the “Bale Balita” (House of News) barnhouse near the parade ground of the old Fort Stotsenberg area of Clark Field:

“Morales was first elected Mabalacat mayor in 1995. Except for brief interruptions, he is now virtually on his fifth term and is entitled to run for reelection in the polls next year and even in 2016.

“If he would be entitled to a fresh three successive reelections as city mayor, he could run even in the 2019 polls.

“Morales’ peculiar fortune was triggered by electoral protests by his political opponent in the series of local elections starting 1995 when he first became mayor.

* * *

BELATED RULING: Ding continued: “After three terms that he served in full, Morales ran anew for mayor in 2004 in what could be regarded as a fourth term. He took advantage of a Comelec ruling, rendered rather belatedly, that his opponent was the true winner in the 2001 elections.

“Morales argued that his three-successive-terms privilege was interrupted because his supposed third term was not his, pala, but that of his opponent – never mind that the ruling came just a month before the disputed term was to end.

“When Morales won again in 2004, a supporter of his opponent filed a protest insisting that the mayor was on his fourth term in violation of law.

“Again in a belated move, the Comelec ordered Morales on May 9, 2007, to turn over his post to his vice mayor (who was able to sit only from May 9 to June 30).

“Unfazed, Morales ran again in the next election in 2010 and won, but his election was challenged.”

* * *

S.C. RULING: The poll case reached the Supreme Court, which handed down in 2009 a unanimous verdict saying Morales “was not the duly elected mayor of Mabalacat for the 2004-2007 term” and that he did not serve his full term for that period.

The High Court said: “Morales cannot be deemed to have served the full term of2004-2007, because he was ordered to vacate his post before the expiration of the term. Morales’ occupancy of the position of mayor of Mabalacat from July 1, 2004, to May 16, 2007, cannot be counted as a term for purposes of computing the three-term limit,”

The tribunal concluded that the mayorship of Morales from July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2010, was “effectively his first term for purposes of the three-term limit rule” for local elective officials.

* * *

BOKING LESSONS: The implication is that since the 2004-2007 term was not truly his, although he served most it, Morales was serving a first fresh term as mayor from 2007 to 2010 and is entitled to reelection for two more terms.

While, per SC ruling, Morales could still run for mayor in the 2013 and 2016 elections, another question has arisen: Can his current term be construed as his very first term, this time as city mayor, after which he may run for two more successive terms?

It seems the finish line of this political marathon would heave into view only when Boking’s “staying power” (wink!) wanes.

Other local executives held back by the three-term limit may want to take a tutorial from him and his lawyer whose identity we are withholding in the meantime.

* * *

JBC NOTES: Watching in the past two days the televised Judicial and Bar Council interviews of nominees for the vacant position of Chief Justice, we note:

* It will do the Supreme Court much good if an outsider with gravitas, preferably from among the law school deans nominated, is chosen to head it.

* Such jokers as Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. should not be allowed to debase the JBC proceedings by presuming to interrogate nominees as if in a legislative inquiry.

* The Supreme Court not only needs new blood and fresh air, but also a quick binding of its wounds inflicted by the two other coequal branches of government.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 26, 2012)

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