JAEN, Nueva Ecija – The legal tussle between two contending mayors in this town turned ugly on Monday, January 25, after erstwhile mayor Sylvia Austria tried to reclaim her post from Antonio Prospero Esquivel here.


Austria, who had voluntarily stepped down as mayor last December 21 on orders of a regional trial court, was accompanied by eight town councilors when she tried to present Esquivel a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Monday afternoon.

The town councilors earlier withdrew their support from Esquivel, who assumed his post as mayor on the strength of a decision rendered by Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Angelo Perez based on a recount of the votes.

According to the court, where Esquivel lodged an electoral protest, Esquivel won over Austria by over 4,000 votes in the recount of ballots. In the 2019 election, Austria prevailed with a total of 20,815 votes over Esquivel’s 18,461.

So after she left her post last December 20, Austria sought the intervention of the Comelec central office, asking for a TRO, which was granted on January 12.

In the three-page decision penned by Comelec Commissioner Socorro Inting of the Second Division, she issued a 60-day TRO, and enjoined the RTC judge “to cease and desist from enforcing and implementing” the decision to install Esquivel as Jaen mayor.

     The ruling also said that “in the event that Esquivel has already assumed office and performed the functions of municipal mayor, a [status quo ante order] is hereby issued”, as it directed Esquivel to “peacefully turn over the subject post to petitioner Sylvia Austria”.

This was the TRO that Austria was seeking to enforce when she and the councilors marched to the municipal hall on Monday.

However, Esquivel’s supporters locked the gate, only for Austria’s followers to force it open using a bolt cutter.

     Police Civil Disturbance Management led by Lt. Col. Gerald Licyayo from Nueva Ecija Provincial Office prevented supporters from both camps from coming to blows with each other.

It was then that this contributor tried to record the incident through cellphone video, as Esquivel and Austria’s lawyer Dominic Garin discussed the details of the TRO.

However, just a few seconds into the video recording, a supporter of Esquivel suddenly tried to grab his cellphone, and struck him with a blow to the nape.

This contributor sought the help of Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Undersecretary Joel Egco, who immediately intervened.

He said Esquivel has already apologized for the incident, saying that he had already castigated an overzealous supporter for the harassment.

“Hindi po tayo papayag na abusuhin ng kahit sino ang hanay ng mamamahayag,” Egco said.

Source: Manila Bulletin (https://mb.com.ph/2021/01/26/tension-erupts-in-nueva-ecija-town-mb-contributor-manhandled-by-losing-mayors-aide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tension-erupts-in-nueva-ecija-town-mb-contributor-manhandled-by-losing-mayors-aide)