The Provincial Board ruled this week to suspend Narra Mayor Gerandy Danao for 20 months, resolving a 4-month old administrative case filed by the town’s local officials led by its vice mayor, Crispin Lumba.
The ruling can be characterized as swift and decisive, even as Danao’s camp claims it to be an extreme case of political harassment. Filed in May in the midst of the current pandemic, the provincial board acting as an adjudication body handled it with dispatch. Within days of receiving the complaint, it voted 13-0 to administratively suspend the accused and set a timetable to resolve the cases before the end of September. The formal decision was announced a couple of days prior to its September 25 deadline, with a cut-and-dried 13-0 vote.
The cases were mainly administrative in nature, the complaints focusing on violations of procedures such as those involving the preparation of the annual municipal budget or the granting of cockfighting permits. In the matter of the cockfighting permits that Danao supposedly issued to parties without a franchise, Vice Governor Victorino Socrates had stated at the outset that they viewed it as one of grave nature, the law being harsh against illegal gambling. It was this, he had explained, that they decided unanimously place the respondent under a 60-day preventive suspension.
Barring a reversal of the decision via Danao’s appeal with the Office of the President, he will be effectively sidelined for the remainder of his term. Meanwhile, his main accuser, Vice Mayor Lumba, will serve as acting mayor during his entire period of absence as provided for by the rule on succession.
To view the Danao case strictly on its legal merit is to miss the broader significance of this case, because for all intents and purposes it is political thus has political repercussions. The political motive has been the assertion of the Danao camp from the very beginning, as it claims that the popular local mayor was being politically persecuted as he is not allied with the present administration.
As an independent, but more because of his peculiar profile as a political leader, Danao captures the imagination of an apparent broad base in Narra and even outside. His feat in defeating a decades-old rule of the Demaala family even caught national attention.
Danao has declared his stance against a controversial coal plant power facility project in his town, one that has already gone through a rigorous struggle of being rejected by Aborlan residents at first despite its strong backing by Capitol. With him neutralized, his successor who had already previously endorsed the project, is expected to buckle the project’s unpopularity among its constituents.
Danao’s suspension also removes the only undecided political player in the province in the wake of a forthcoming plebiscite vote on the division of Palawan into three smaller provinces, also a priority agenda of the current administration.
How the Danao story will resolve politically is still an open ended question. There are only two ways it can go – Danao’s complete defeat or political redemption that will excite an otherwise bland and monochromatic Palawan political landscape.