Mayor “Skirts” Issue on Mandamus

by Luisito Panelo

      Mayor Helen de Castro filed her “Comment“, Friday, November 9, on the petition for mandamus earlier filed before Sorsogon’s Regional Trial Court (Branch 65) against her by a mutli-sectoral group opposed to the construction of a P40M bus terminal in Bulan, Sorsogon.

      Commenting through her counsel, Provincial Legal Officer Noel Galarosa, De Castro questioned the porterage and stevedoring cooperative La Fuerza del Pobre Multi-Purpose Cooperative (registered in May 24, 1994 under Certificate of Registration No. NG-2082) alleging its dissolution in 2004 by the Cooperative Development Authority for “failure to submit reports”, as certified by Maria Luisa P. Mirasol, representing to be a “provincial cooperative development specialist” at the CDA’s Sorsogon contact office.

      De Castro further alleges that petitioners, Marilou Ong, “does not show her Community Tax Certificate to show that she is a (T)axpayer” while Abraham Gersalia “filed a faked Community Tax Certificate since the CTC Number under his signature is issued not in his name but to Rosarco Gersalia” as certified by Bulan’s municipal treasurer.

      The mayor also alleges that former vice mayor Albino Guyala III’s name “is nowhere found as signatory to the petition” and that two of the other petitioners, Vicente Ferrer Gojar and Rey Lorilla, have already “disavowed their respective capacities as petitioners”.

      The municipal mayor also labelled the petition for mandamus as “mere allegations, unsubstantiated by requisite proofs or evidence” and “designed to harass” or “embarrass” her.

      Reacting on the Comment by the local chief executive, Rodolfo Gogolin, a petitioner representing the La Fuerza del Pobre said, “How can our cooperative be a non-entity when according to the certification she (Mayor De Castro) herself appended to her comment, La Fuerza was granted a certificate of registration in May 24, 1994 under Registration No. NG-2082? Is that not evidence of our existence? An nagkapira na nag-urutang sa amo cooperatiba an testigo san samo pag-eksister. Aram ini ni Geming (De Castro). Grabe man daw kun nalimot na sira san cooperatiba na nakadanon man sa kanira. “Non-entity” an pag-imod niya sa amo? Aw nano kami, kalag?”

      Cooperatives are created and dissolved ONLY by law, Gogolin said, “For La Fuerza to be dissolved it has to be by law also and not on a mere say so or certification of a sub-office. As far as I am concerned, I am not aware of any legal proceedings made to dissolve our cooperative”, he added.

     Former vice mayor Guyala, for his part said, “The respondent (Mayor De Castro) is once again engaged in ‘squid tactic’. She muddles the real issues and blinds the people of what we (the petitioners) truly want – the truth”.

      “Rather than meet four-squares our allegations of her refusal to make public the documents and records relative to the establishment of this much criticized infrastructure project, she instead assailed our capacity to institute the court action and even took ‘pot shots’ on our counsel, reducing the legal controversy into a ‘witch-hunt’ and a political mud-slinging bonanza”, the former vice mayor concluded.

      A practicing lawyer who spoke on conditions of anonymity, however, expressed doubts (after reading a copy of De Castro’s Comment) on whether the mayor’s Comment is responsive to a petition for mandamus. Her Comment failed to address the issue why she should not be compelled to make public the documents and records petitioners requested, which is at the very core of the petition.

      The lawyer said, Philippine jurisprudence is replete with decisional rulings affirming the right of the people to information and this right is without qualifications.

      “Hindi naman kailangang patunayan pa nang nag-aassert ng right na ito ang kanyang kapasidad i-assert ang karapatan niyang malaman o makita ang mga ginagawa ng isang nanunungkulan sa pamahalaan. Sabi nga ng Supreme Court sa isang kaso, ‘access to public documents and records is a public right, and the real parties in interest are the people themselves’. The mere fact that he is a citizen satisfies the requirement of personal interest”, he said.

      “Ang ibig sabihin nyan, kailangan lang na ikaw ay Filipino”, he added.