Inquirer, Aug. 30, 2006

Aurora mayor defies suspension order
By Tonette Orejas

SAN FERNANDO CITY -- For almost a month now, Mayor Marilyn Marquez of Dinalungan, Aurora, has continued to defy a 60-day preventive suspension over a road user's fee ordinance.

She remained camped inside her office for what she called a fight for the rule of law and environment.

"Hindi ako bumababa (I have not stepped down)," Marquez told the Inquirer in a phone interview on Tuesday.

She said the decision of the provincial board and Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo to suspend her and Vice Mayor Virgie Vallejo following the filing of an administrative complaint by the Industries Development Corp. (IDC), a logging firm, was "very erroneous."

For one, she said, Resolution No. 73, which recommended the suspension on July 18, referred to Ordinance No. 2004-017 which is about coastal resources management. The local law on road user's fee is contained in Ordinance No. 2004-019, she said.

The board, she said, should not find fault in her and Vallejo for not furnishing a copy of the ordinance. That, she said, was the job of the town council's secretary.

She said the ordinance should also have been questioned by the IDC in court, not before the board.

Michael Ong, IDC vice president, said the company filed a criminal case against Marquez at the Office of the Ombudsman.

"The board rushed. It took them only five days [to decide]," Marquez said.

She said the "pre-requisite of having a strong evidence of guilt has not been met because the board did not study the case well."

Marquez and Vallejo filed a motion to dismiss Resolution No. 73 on Aug. 7, saying the Ombudsman had jurisdiction of the case because that was where it was filed first on May 9.

Marquez said the ordinance covered a municipal road and the local government has authority to collect charges to maintain that public infrastructure.

"Every week, five to eight trucks of IDC loaded with timber pass through that road. We've been charging 100 pesos for every loaded truck and every collection is duly covered by receipts. We have collected 50,000 pesos. We plan to use the money to buy a land to expand a narrow road that is accident-prone," she said.

The bottom line, according to Marquez, was the IDC was getting back at her for her antilogging and antimining campaign.

"I am supported by the people," she said.

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