Acting Mayor Eleuterio Mabao (left) and elected Mayor Arnold Abalos of San Sebastian, Samar (PNA photo)

San Sebastian, Samar Mayor Arnold Abalos and Vice Mayor Eleuterio Mabao have been fighting for the mayoralty post since last week.

A local court granted the plea of Abalos to set aside the order of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in 2014 prohibiting him from holding any public office. Abalos resumed his position as mayor on Oct. 7.

On the other side, the DILG appointed Vice Mayor Eleuterio Mabao to serve as acting mayor since July 3, 2019.

The Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas issued the dismissal of Abalos and two other local officials from government service in 2014. They allegedly failed to remit PHP7.63 million worth of insurance premiums of employees to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) from 2008 to 2012.

Abalos countered it by filing a quo warranto petition with a prayer for preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order (TRO) before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Catbalogan City on July 12, 2019.

The TRO plea was granted by Judge Cicero Lampasa last week and allowed him to reclaim his position as the mayor of San Sebastian.

The dismissal issued by DILG Secretary Eduardo Año was in compliance to the memorandum addressed to regional directors advising them that the department shall not acknowledge any public official dismissed from public service or still serving suspension orders, despite winning in the May 13, 2019 polls.

Furthermore, DILG Regional Director Artemio Caneja released a memorandum to Mabao last July 3 where he is tasked to take over as acting mayor of the town until Mayor Abalos is cleared from the charges he is facing.

Mabao revealed that he’s not planning to hold on to the position since he was never elected as the town mayor, but according to him, it is only right to await the DILG’s order for him to vacate the position.

“I’m only honoring the DILG. I have not seen the court order, which granted him to reassume as mayor,” Mabao added. 

“If there is already a final decision, I have nothing against it. If there is an order from the court, I will confirm it with the DILG,” he further stated.

Abalos, on the other hand, asked Mabao to step down as the mayor of San Sebastian because it might trigger a conflict in managing their town.

“The memorandum from DILG was never an order, but only an advice, giving me an option to step down or not. I am the duly elected mayor of this town,” Abalos said.

The conflict continued when Mabao countered Abalos’ directive recalling all approved travel authority and special permits issued by the acting mayor since the DILG’s order is still in effect.

Both Mabao and Mabalos are using the town’s hall second floor as their offices.

San Sebastian, a 6th class town in Samar province has a population of over 8,000. It is located 63 kilometers north of Tacloban City. (RJ Espartinez)