Bulan SK Federation Elects Over-Age Prexy Amid Protest

by Adan Silangan

      In what observers see as an “obvious attempt” to favor the election of a De Castro-sponsored Sangguniang Kabataan municipal federation president, local governments officer Rico Gaurino ignored bids to disqualify Annika Sherryn Guelas on grounds of misrepresentation about her real age.

      Annika Guelas, daughter of rabid De Castro supporter and incumbent SORECO director Tito Guelas, declared her age to be below 18 years old in her certificate of candidacy claiming her birthday to be October 31, 1989 while her baptismal certificate showed otherwise.

      The fact of her birth, however, is reflected as October 23, 1989 in the baptismal certificate issued by the Parish of the Immaculate Conception of Bulan. Emboldened by this discovery, two of Guelas’ contenders for SK federation president, Lemuel Gerero of Zone 2 and Fernan Fruto of San isidro of the municipality of Bulan, questioned Guelas’ qualifications to run for any position in the SK federation. For his part, Gerero presented to local government officer Gaurino a letter-protest and a copy of Guelas’ baptismal certificate while Fruto filed a formal and sworn (verified) “petition for disqualification” before the said local government officer.

      Instead, however, of giving due course to the disqualification contests brought before him, Gaurino completely ignored the two SK chairmen’s protest and proceeded with the election of Guelas.

      Sinubukan ko po’ng ipa-alala sa kanya (Gaurino) na mayron akong protesta sa edad ni Annika (Guelas) ngunit dali-dali po niya akong pinaupo sabay sabi sa akin na, ‘Bakit ka lumapit dito, hindi naman kita tinatawag?’”, Fruto narrated to Sorsogonnews.

       A municipal employee present during the SK elections but who requested anomymity said, Gaurino based his decision on Guelas’ photocopy of her birth certificate saying she was born on October 31, 1989 and therefore Guelas was below 18 years old when she was elected SK chairman of San Juan Bag’o. Gaurino reportedly confided to this employee that he can not do anything but give credence to the representation of Guelas as to her real age.

      While perusing the petition for disqualification, Gaurino was reportedly overheard consulting someone over the phone saying, “Sir, may petition for disqualification po kasi dito”, followed by “Okay, sir.. okay, sir!”. After the phone conversation, Gaurino carried-on with his business without even informing the SK delegates of the pendency of a disqualification protest against Guelas or even “lifting a finger” to try to resolve the question before proceeding with the election.

      A former SK official who requested anonymity, expressed surprise with the dispatch Gaurino dismissed Gerero and Fruto’s petition for disqualification. He said the local governments officer owe it to the Sangguniang Kabataan delegates to apprise them of the qualifications of those running for SK Federation officers so that they would be guided properly in making their choices. Gaurino should have informed the SK delegates that Guelas’ age qualification is put in question and that there are legal steps that will be followed in settling this dispute. But the more important thing is to let the SK delegates decide whether it is in the best interest of the Federation to elect Guelas.

      “I read the petition and Fruto’s proposed manner of ‘temporarily’ resolving the controversy by requesting the Election Committee to consider votes for Guelas as ‘stray votes’ or at least defer counting votes for Guelas until her true age is settled with finality. The way I understood it”, the ex-SK official continued, “the DILG officer need not resolve it (the disqualification bid) right away. But that the counting of all votes in favor of Guelas be set-aside temporarily and be appreciated only after the disqualification proceedings is terminated. But worse than that, Gaurino did not even inform the SK delegates that Gerero and Fruto are seeking Guelas’ disqualification which unnecessarily revealed Gaurino’s bias in favor of Guelas by keeping mum about the petition to disqualify her.”

      “The DILG officer has no business suppressing the disqualification of Guelas”, another observer said, “he is bound by his oath to obey and execute the laws and all other legal orders without fear or favor. He should have been more circumspect in his actions so as to allay any suspicion of favoritism especially that the SK candidate benefited by his “suppression” of her disqualification is closely identified as a De Castro supporter.”

      Meanwhile, about 20 SK chairmen who learned of DILG’s alleged suppression of the disqualification case against Guelas are planning to call for her resignation to preserve, according to them, the integrity of the Sangguninag Kabataan.

      The SK chairmen elected municipal federation president will sit as ex officio member of Bulan’s Sangguniang Bayan which explains why any incumbent mayor would be interested in electing his ally to the post to fortify his influence over the municipal legislative body. And if the mayor is ambitious enough, he may even sponsor his SK municipal federation president to bid for the provincial federation post and have his representative in the provincial board or the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

      After he or she has qualified as an SK provincial federation president, he or she may again run for the National Federation and be elected national president. 

     Sorsogonnews tried to get the side of local government operations officer Gaurino but his cellphone “could not be reached”.