Bukidnon politics 2014: 3 mayoral successions

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 01 January) — An ambush, an ailment, and a case conviction forced three successions among Bukidnon mayors in 2014.

In Maramag, ailing Mayor Alicia Resus was succeeded by vice Mayor Jose Obedencio, a former three-term mayor.

Citing poor health, Resus, 56, resigned effective March 8.  She passed away on March 11.

Resus, who had a Master’s degree in Agricultural Engineering from Araneta University Foundation, was elected mayor in 2010 and reelected in 2013. She was vice mayor from 2001 to 2010.

By rule of succession, Obedencio, a partymate of Resus and Zubiri at the Bukidnon Paglaum Party (BPP) assumed the post of mayor. Obedencio was mayor from 2001 to 2010 when Resus was vice mayor.

Maramag’s number 1 municipal councilor Jose Joel Doromal, a lawyer who belongs to the Aksyon Demokratiko party, assumed the post of vice mayor.

In Impasug-ong, Mayor Mario Okinlay, killed in an ambush by the New People’s Army (NPA) on July 2 was succeeded by vice mayor Anthony Uy, who belongs to a rival party.

Okinlay and other officials were in Bontongon and were scheduled to return to the town proper that day. He had police and military escorts but was driving his motorcycle when attacked in Barangay Kinapuntan.

The NPA admitted responsibility for the ambush of Okinlay who died while being treated for gunshot wounds.

Police said the assailants fired at the convoy hitting Okinlay on the stomach and left arm at around 8 a.m. Okinlay’s police and military escorts reportedly gave the mayor first aid before bringing him to the Malaybalay Polymedic General Hospital. He was pronounced dead at 11:23 a.m. that same day.

Okinlay, a graduate of Xavier University, was first elected mayor in 1998. When he completed three terms in 2007, he fielded his wife Julia to run for mayor, but returned to the mayoralty in 2010.

Okinlay was the first mayor killed in an ambush by the NPA in Bukidnon. Valencia Mayor Absalon Catarata, elected in 1980 and 1988, was killed by an unknown assailant in front of his residence on April 21, 1988 while waiting for his service vehicle to fetch him.

In June 2014, Valencia mayor Jose M. Galario Jr. was also succeeded by his vice mayor, Azucena Huervas, after he was convicted by the Sandiganbayan for violation of Section 3f of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Galario, a former police chief, has been declared a fugitive. The police could not serve the warrant of arrest issued by the Sandiganbayan that found him guilty of graft.

The anti-graft court declared Galario guilty for refusing to comply with a Civil Service Commission (CSC) order to reinstate now retired city budget officer Ruth Piano whom he repeatedly relieved and transferred to other positions in City Hall.

In 2001, Galario relieved Piano and transferred her to different offices. She filed constructive dismissal complaints against Galario before the CSC regional office in Cagayan de Oro City and won, resulting in the issuance of a reinstatement order on May 5, 2003.

Three months later, however, Galario again relieved her.

The Sandiganbayan First Division, in a decision handed down in 2012 sentenced Galario to a maximum of seven years and barred him from holding any public office.

“It is clear from the previously quoted Civil Service Rules that a decision of the Commission attains finality upon the lapse of 15 days without the filing of an appeal with the Court of Appeals or a certiorari petition with the Supreme Court,” it said.

Galario lost in 2007 and 2010 to archrival Leandro Jose Catarata, but regained his post in 2013. He made history in 2001 when he won as mayor against Carlos O. Fortich, Bukidnon’s longest serving governor who had never lost in previous elections.

Huervas, who assumed as city mayor on June 11, vowed to pursue transparent and accountable governance in her administration. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)

Huervas, who assumed as city mayor on June 11, vowed to pursue transparent and accountable governance in her administration. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)