EXPLAINER: Election of barangay captain ordered dismissed in 2020 by Ombudsman for P50,000 ‘illegal’ spending raises questions on (1) her right to assume as town mayor and (b) wisdom of Malabuyoc voters’

WHAT HAPPENED. Erlinda Q. Piedad, former barangay captain of Barangay Sto. Nino in Malabuyoc, Cebu, loomed Wednesday, May 11 as the winner in the election for mayor in that town. Edang Piedad, her name in the ballot, beat by 1,408 votes Daya Creus: 7,507 against 5,099.Edang Piedad trounced Councilor Daisy Lim-Creus, ballot-name Daya Creus, for the mayor’s seat and Ann Allosada defeated Mayor Lito Creus, 6,635 over 5,532, for the vice mayor’s slot.POINTS OF INTEREST. (1) The two independents took down the Creuses, both of the powerful One Cebu party: Daya, wife of incumbent mayor, Lito Creus, who slid to the VM post for the 2022 election. The Creus couple, with son Jigjig, has reportedly been playing political chairs to rule the town for several years already.Take a peek at current family power: until this June 30, father Lito Narciso E. Creus is mayor; son Lito Narciso L. Creus III is vice mayor; and mother Daisy Lim-Creus is councilor.(2) Edang Pieda, who appears to have tackled Daya Creus this election, was found in 2020 by the Ombudsman guilty of grave misconduct as a barangay captain, for which she was ordered dismissed, along with two brgy. councilors. The three Brgy. Sto. Nino officials were found guilty of “illegally disbursing” in 2014 barangay funds totaling P50,000 for “supposed socio-cultural activities” such as games, dancing and singing contests.The first interesting point shows a major breach of an alleged small-town dynastic fortress. The second shows questionable choice by the town’s voters: electing a mayor already found guilty of grave misconduct.ORDER TO FIRE: TIMING. The order to dismiss – set off last March 28, running up to first week of April – came all the way from Local Government Undersecretary for Barangay Affairs Martin Dino, down to DILG Regional Director Leocadio Trovela, then to province chief Jhoaden Lucero. SunStar broke the story by Justin K. Vestil last April 13, in the campaign’s sweltering heat.The Ombudsman ruling against Edang Piedad and two councilors was issued on August 20, 2020. Yet DILG issued the ombudsman order firing the three barangay officials almost two years later. It’s not shown which office, Ombudsman or DILG, dropped the ball somewhere, when and why.Timing is relevant here because the implementing order came during the campaign’s homestretch, thus rousing suspicion of political machination. Still, it may be argued that the town’s voters must have known already about the 2020 ombudsman ruling and the order to Edang Piedad and companions was only a reminder of the damning information about a mayor-wannabe. Edang Piedad in fact seized the timing issue and accused her rivals of “orchestrating” her dismissal.PIEDAD’S DELAYING DEFENSE. Edang Piedad told voters the decision was not yet final as she filed an appeal (motion for reconsideration) from the ombudsman ruling. She and her two councilors were ordered dismissed from the barangay council, with their eligibility cancelled and their retirement benefits forfeited. They were also ordered to pay P50,000 to the Ombudsman and “perpetually disqualified from being re-employed in government service.”It’s not known if she quibbled over the wording of the penalty on disqualification. The ombudsman ruling didn’t say “perpetual disqualification from public office.” That phrase covers both elective and appointive offices while the ban on re-employment apparently applies only to prohibition against being rehired. Semantics? The law is strictly construed, a boost to the respondent or accused.CREUSES’ RECOURSE. The Creuses are expected to exhaust all legal remedies to bar Edang Piedad from assuming as mayor: from being proclaimed or taking her oath of office or, failing in that, from enjoying her full term.Yet, probably not missed by the protagonists is the fact that Daya Creus cannot succeed a disqualified Piedad once she is proclaimed and assumes office. The elected vice mayor, Ann Allosada, moves up to the mayor’s seat.TOWNSPEOPLE’S DECISION. Why did Malabuyoc voters pick Piedad, a barangay captain thrown out of her post by suspected stealing of public funds, over Councilor Creus of the long-serving Creus clan?Maybe the voters wanted to give Piedad benefit of the doubt, presumption of innocence before the “final and executory” decision. Maybe Piedad did a better campaign, pulled shrewder tricks in snagging the town’s precious few votes.Or maybe they just got fed up with having the same politicians winning election year after election year and ruling the town for decades.