In office 20 years, our mayor is still running!
MABALACAT CITY — Nobody beats the staying power of Mayor Marino “Boking” Morales who has been the chief executive of our hometown for the past 20 years, or six terms going on seven, despite the three-term limit for local officials.
What’s more, the 65-year-old Boking confirmed in a forum here last Friday of the Capampangan in Media Inc. (CAMI) that he will run again for mayor in May 2016 and continue breaking his record as longest-staying mayor since term limits were invented.
In what looks like a political Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not”, Boking has served continuously as Mabalacat mayor in 1995-1998; in 1998-2001, in 2001-2004; in 2004-2007; in 2007-2010; in 2010-2013; and is serving his current 2013-2016 term.
Since the municipality of Mabalacat was granted a charter in 2012 as a component city, Boking is now saying that he is actually serving his FIRST term as city mayor!
Once his detractors concede this is his first term as city mayor, they open the door to a possible second (2016-2019) and a third term (2019-2022) in a new string as city chief executive!
• Boking’s on first term as city mayor?
IN THE FORUM at the Holiday Inn at the Clark Freeport here, Boking said the term counting should start anew since Mabalacat City is a different juridical entity from the old municipality. The CAMI forum is sponsored by the Clark Development Corp. and the Social Security System.
At least 80 percent of Clark Freeport, which used to be the home base of the US 13th Air Force until 1992, is in Mabalacat. This explains its lion’s share among contiguous local governments in Clark locators’ earnings.
Boking cited the additional Clark lands as well as the substantial increase in revenues and population growth (now 250,000) as indicators of Mabalacat’s departure from the municipality that he had nourished from a third class to a first class town to a city.
He said the addition of Clark lands alone, estimated at 5,000 square kilometers, has doubled Mabalacat’s land area of 8,000 square kilometers.
There is also the potential addition of around 3,000 square kilometers in the Sacobia area whose residents vote in Mabalacat. The city’s control over it is being contested by neighboring Bamban town across the river in Tarlac.
Among the progressive programs that Boking always cites is his administration’s education system. He points to the city’s 15 new high schools augmenting the older private schools.
From just 67 students, he boasts, the community colleges he had established now have 3,800 students. Its teacher graduates in elementary education, he says, have a passing average in government examinations of 67 to 72 percent.
• How Boking dodged the 3-term limit
AFTER three terms, Boking ran anew for mayor in 2004 in what could have been his fourth term. He took advantage of a Commission on Elections ruling, rendered rather belatedly, that his opponent was the true winner in the previous 2001 elections.
The rival candidate in the 2004 elections, businessman Anthony Dee, questioned his candidacy. But the case dragged on while Boking stayed in office as mayor.
Lo and behold, a few weeks before his contested fourth term ended, the Comelec declared Boking to have lost the protest in the 2001 polls. By that time, however, he had virtually served the entire three-year term already.
The legal effect of this loss was that there was a break in the counting of Boking’s terms. Hence in the succeeding election, he was qualified to run again. He ran, won and started another winning streak.
Now Boking is using the conversion of Mabalacat into a city to argue that his current 2013-2016 term is actually his first as city mayor, which then qualifies him to run for two more consecutive terms – if his staying power holds.
He looks fit enough to fight more electoral battles. When he shook my hand last Friday, his grip was still very firm.
• SC decision affirms Boking’s poll loss
MORE of the political saga of Boking is retold by STAR reporter Ding Cervantes:
“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 again challenged.
“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 of 2004-2007, 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.
“This meant 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 was entitled to reelection for two more terms or up to the 2016 elections.”