City Hall on lockdown, Bayron supporters man barricades

Bayron supporters continue to vigil outside city hall

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) failed this week to serve the dismissal order handed down by the Ombudsman against Mayor Lucilo Bayron, as hundreds of his supporters continued their vigil at City Hall to block department officials from serving the order.

Bayron on Thursday vowed to his supporters he will not receive the dismissal order, claiming that it contravened with the latest ruling of the Court of Appeals that already absolved him from the allegation of “serious dishonesty”.

As the week drew to a close, Bayron called for more supporters to continue the vigil for the coming week. As the embattled local chief executive continued to defy the DILG, there has been no indication of any immediate resolution of the case and easing of the tension gripping City Hall.

A Palawan News source privy to the case claimed that the City DILG headed by Director Rey Maranan was supposed to serve the dismissal order to Bayron on Wednesday afternoon under instructions from the DILG regional office “but he backed out.”

The source, who asked not to be identified, said the DILG was still finding a way to serve the dismissal order without instigating trouble from Bayron’s supporters who have continued their barricade of City Hall.

“There’s no definite day when will this activity stop. But our primary goal here is to really block whatever order the DILG may serve anytime this week,” Elizabeth Maclang, a department head, told reporters on Monday.

Bayron’s executive assistants have mobilized supporters from across the city after hearing reports last week that the DILG was set to serve an Ombudsman order dismissing the embattled city mayor from office.

Ombudsman directs DILG

In a memorandum addressed to DILG Secretary Catalino Cuy the other week, the Ombudsman instructed the DILG to serve Bayron’s suspension order in connection with his pending case for “serious dishonesty.”

Bayron vowed he will not receive or acknowledge any dismissal order from the DILG. He issued a memorandum instructing City Hall personnel to “disregard” any dismissal order on him unless authorized by the Court of Appeals, which dismissed his case and reversed the anti-graft body’s decision.

“Hindi ko tatanggapin ang order na yan. Dahil ‘yan ay binasura na ng Court of Appeals,” he said, addressing his supporters Tuesday.

City Hall under tight watch

The DILG representatives, however, has so far delayed the serving of the Ombudsman’s order, as the City’s security group have warned them to stay away from the building, adding that violence may ensue if they forcibly try to get in.

“Kapag nagpumilit sila, hindi namin masasabi na secured sila. Pag pumasok sila na hindi sila kasama rito, siguradong magkakaduguan ‘yan,” Col. David Martinez, City Public Order and Safety Office (CPOSO) head, told Palawan News Tuesday.

Aside from human barricade, dump trucks have blocked the different access roads leading to the City Hall, which has been placed under tight security since Sunday.

The CPOSO personnel have been searching the bags and even folders and envelops being carried by employees and non-employees entering the building to ensure the order would not sneak in.

“Syempre, para sa safety ‘yan ng mga personnel sa loob. Baka mamaya mayrong magdadala ng kung anumang mga gamit diyan, hindi natin alam kung anong iniisip nila. So part ‘yon ng security SOP (standard operating procedures),” Martinez added.

Supporters flock ‘voluntarily’

Rallyists have massed up and camped out for days at City Hall to keep watch. The City administration even installed a karaoke, served meals and held parlor games to keep them entertained.

Maclang denied claims by Bayron’s detractors posted on social media that the crowd were paid to stay at the City Hall. “It’s not true that they got paid just to come over here,” she said.

Bayron’s lawyers warn DILG

Bayron’s camp was confident that serving the dismissal order during the election period for synchronized Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan polls was prohibited, with the removal of any public official considered an election offense. However, a bill postponing the said elections was signed into law on Wednesday.

His lawyers, on one hand, have issued a terse warning to DILG, in a memorandum addressed to DILG Regional Director Florida M. Dijan, to “cease and desist” from serving the order.

“You are hereby formally warned to cease and desist from serving and carrying out any directive for the re-implementation of the OMB Judgment of dismissal dated November 18, 2016 unless sanctioned by the Court of Appeals which has clear and exclusive jurisdiction over the administrative case,” the memo stated.

The memo, a copy of which was received by the City DILG staff Wednesday, said Bayron has instituted the filing of administrative case against Cuy for the order, saying it was done in violation of a Court of Appeals ruling exonerating him from the case.

“We have already commenced the filing of an administrative complaint against Sec. Cuy and other DILG officials, with an application for a cease and desist order to prevent continuing abuse of authority,” the memo stated.

“It appears that the DILG – without seeking any clearance or clarification from the CA – has completely capitulated to the OMB’s unwarranted resolve to re-implement the November 16 judgment of dismissal.”

City DILG, VM offices shutdown

Meanwhile, Martinez denied accusation that the City administration had shut down the offices of Vice Mayor Luis Marcaida III and the City DILG, saying the occupants of both offices voluntarily fled and locked their work places for security reasons.

“Ang alam ko diyan, inabandona nila ang opisina nila. Kusang umalis sila, siguro baka iniiisip din nila yung safety saka security nila. Walang nagpaalis sa kanila,” Martinez told Palawan News on Tuesday.

Marcaida’s spokesperson, Elmer Zita, decried the office shutdown, arguing that “no one can deny access to public office” and doing so was “a show and display of utter arrogance in violation of ethical standard of public officials and civil service law.”

Maclang, in a Monday interview, contradicted Martinez statement, saying it was the City General Services (CGSO) which decided to close down the Vice Mayor’s Office for holding activities and using power and water beyond supposed office hours.

CGSO Chief Tiburcio Magay also denied the act, saying it’s better to ask its respective occupants as to why the two offices are locked.

“Di ako ang nagpa-lock niyan kasi wala akong susi niyan. Syempre, kung sino ang may susi no’n sila ang hanapin niyo. Kasi walang susi na ni-turnover sa akin,” Magay told Palawan News Wednesday.

The City DILG staff did not give any statement to the media, when asked whether the office has been locked by the City administration. Reportedly, they are holding office at the Provincial DILG at the PEO compound in Bgy. Bancao-Bancao.

Zita said they are currently negotiating with barangay officials of Bgy. Santa Monica, concerning the use of the barangay gymnasium where Marcaida’s staff can hold office.

By Keith Anthony Fabro and Hanna Camella Talabucon

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