Local government units can now ask the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to fill up temporary vacancies in certain elective offices to prevent hiatus in and paralysis of local government operations.
In Administrative Order No. 15 issued on Dec. 13, 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte provided rules covering the filling up of temporary vacancies in the offices of the local chief executive, vice governor or vice mayor, and the Sanggunian.
The vacancy occurs when the governor, city or municipal mayor, and punong barangay, as well as the vice governor, vice mayor or Sanggunian member, “is temporarily incapacitated to perform his duties for physical or legal reasons such as, but not limited to, leave of absence, travel abroad, and suspension from office,” the order states.
In case of temporary vacancy in the office of the local chief executive, the vice governor, city or municipal vice mayor, or the highest ranking sangguniang barangay member, or in the case of inability of such officials, the highest ranking sanggunian member, or in the case of a barangay, the second highest ranking sangguniang barangay member, shall automatically exercise the powers and perform the duties and functions of the LCE concerned, except the power to appoint, suspend, or dismiss employees, which can only be exercised if the period of temporary incapacity exceeds thirty (30) working days, the AO said.
In case of temporary vacancies in the offices of the vice governor or vice mayor, the second highest sanggunian member shall be designated by the President, through the Secretary or Officer-in-Charge of the DILG, it added.
The same shall be done for similar vacancies in the provincial, city or municipal Sanggunian, but “only the nominee of the political party under which the sanggunian member concerned had been elected and whose elevation to the position next higher in rank created the last vacancy in the sanggunian shall be designated in the manner hereinafter provided.”
The designated person shall come from the same political party as that of the sanggunian member who caused the temporary vacancy and shall serve for the duration of the temporarily vacant office, it stressed.
In case the sanggunian member does not belong to any political party, “the President, through the SILG or the OIC-DILG, shall, upon recommendation of the sanggunian concerned, if still constituting a quorum, designate a qualified person to fill the vacancy,” the AO clarified.
For temporary vacancies in the representation of the youth and the barangays in the sanggunian, the vacancy shall be filled by designation by the President, through the SILG or OIC-DILG, of the official next in rank of the organization concerned.
In the sangguniang barangay, the President, through the SILG or the OIC-DILG, shall, upon recommendation of the sangguniang barangay, if still constituting a quorum, designate a qualified person to fill the vacancy.
The Duterte AO provides that the designated person shall exercise the powers and perform the duties and functions of the local government position concerned as provided by law, except making or participating in any decision related to the following: appointment, suspension or dismissal of local government officials and employees; creation and filling-up of positions whether regular, contractual or casual; reorganization of local government offices; solemnization of marriages; revision of duly approved local development projects; and, approval of contracts others than those needed to keep the day-to-day operations going.
However, the SILG or OIC-DILG may grant said person, when public interest so requires and when necessary to prevent disruption in the delivery of service, the authority to approve contracts, including engaging in or renewing contracts of service, provided such authority is within the duties and functions of the local government position concerned.
The AO, which took effect immediately upon issuance, gives the municipal governments of Caramoran and Virac an avenue to address existing vacancies in their respective Sanggunians.
Last December 2020, Caramoran Councilor Zaldy Idanan was meted life imprisonment and fined P400,000 by the Regional Trial Court four months after police armed with a search warrant found illegal drugs in his residence.
While the case is reportedly being appealed, Idanan remains in jail as the offense is non-bailable, leaving one seat vacant at the council.
In Virac, Councilor Ephraim Antonio Gianan has been absent from the regular sessions since March 12, 2020, as he refused to return to the island due to the community quarantine and his vulnerability to the COVID-19 disease.