April 24, 2024

The better Molintas, Pura Suanding, should be a shoo-in for representative for the lone district of Benguet, vacated by the early demise of our good friend, Nestor Fongwan, Sr.
Republic Act 6645 enacted on Dec. 28, 1987 prescribes the manner of filling a vacancy in Congress. It states that where vacancy arises in the House of Representatives at least year before the next regular election for members of Congress, the Commission on Elections, upon receipt of a resolution of the House of Representatives, as the case may be, certifying to the existence of such vacancy and calling for a special election, shall hold a special election to fill such vacancy.
If Congress is in recess, an official communication on the existence of the vacancy and call for a special election by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as the case may be, shall be sufficient for such purpose. The member of the House of Representatives thus elected shall serve only for the unexpired term. The Comelec shall fix the date of the special election, which shall not be earlier than 45 days but not later than 90 days from the date of such resolution or communication, stating among other things the office or offices to be voted for.
If Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano does not act on the matter, Benguet Gov. Melchor D. Diclas and/or the provincial board must initiate action via a resolution addressed to the Speaker or even to President Rodrigo Duterte to declare the vacancy, although it is of public knowledge that the elective post is vacant. Without a formal declaration, nothing moves and they may soon expect a legislative caretaker to take the reins and dispense of all the Priority Development Assistance Fund not to the liking of the constituency of Benguet.
The matter should also be followed up as funds for a special election must be appropriated either from the General Appropriations Act, Comelec, House or even from the President’s social fund.
The advantage of a special election is that tabulation of votes is done manually, not using the vote counting machine, which would ensure the electorate that the victor has a clear mandate from the people, not from a machine.
If vacancy is formally declared, a special election can he held by April or May. The candidates have 30 days to campaign. By June 30, the winning candidate should have assumed post to serve the remaining two years of the term.
Who then (should fill in Fongwan’s unexpired term)? Former Rep. Ronald Cosalan, whom I worked with in the 10th Congress is mum about a possible comeback. Having served three full terms and capping the same with his chairmanship of the powerful and “enriching” Public Works Committee, he opted not to run anymore for public office in 2019 which drew the admiration of Baguio people, unlike you know who. If he continues enjoying the fruits of his labor in retirement, he will probably endorse his alter ego, Erickson Felipe.
Erickson served as his chief of staff and “go fer” guy. He was my former student at the Saint Louis University School of Law. His forte is working “outside of the law,” he, he, he. He is easy to deal with and his public relations is superb although nowadays he spends a lot of time in BCC instead of Komiles.
Former Mankayan mayor Materno Luspian, who also ran for Congress in 2019, does not seem interested but he might pour in his energy and resources if given a chance.
Nestor’s son, Board Member Bobot, may throw in the towel, relying on the sympathy votes for his father who has made a good mark in Benguet politics, if only he can reign in his temper, according to pundits.
Former Benguet governor Crescencio Pacalso can come in but the contractors might once again band together and do him in, unless of course a peace pact of sorts can be held and matters threshed out.
Pura is a refreshing alternative. The time is ripe for her to lead her people, a legacy from her father former governor Bantas Suanding and late husband Rocky. I met her when we were Scouts under the late Rev. Fr. Jean Marie Tchang at the Our Lady of Lourdes Scouting Family, years ago. We used to go to their ancestral home in Malvar Street where there were plenty of food to practice scout songs and skits for our campfires. Then she shifted to CAT where she became corps commander honing her leadership skills. Her brother, former Fiscal Ferdinand, was a classmate in Law school and siblings Deanna and Jeanette grew up as decent citizens.
Of course, I am ninong to Charmaine and Baron Ralph who inherited the traits of her dad – simple and respectable. A leader in her own right, she has a Bachelor of Laws degree, Louisian of course tucked in her belt and a good record in public service having served as regional director of the Department of Tourism as an Erap appointee. As Tourism attaché in San Francisco, U.S.A. she helped organize events connecting the Fil-Am community to tourism stakeholders in the Philippines with plenty of help from manong Joel Aliping and the Bibak in the Bay area. As regional director, she led the development of several festivals across the Cordillera and was instrumental in the development of tourism plans of various local governments.
She does not drink or gamble so that would be a plus for women empowerment in Benguet.If only she stops speaking in Tagalog so that she would not be tagged as “the lady from Makati.” Sigh.