Davao City vice mayor says council secretary “impertinent”

DEMANDS A PUBLIC APOLOGY

By ROGER M. BALANZA

Lawyer Zuleika Lopez is the “Davao City Council Secretary but does not behave like one.”

Worse, she is also “impertinent” and her behavior “appalling.”

These ugly descriptions were dished out by councilor Mabel Acosta in a strongly-worded letter to Lopez, in the latest twist to the worsening relations between the two which had been hidden from public view for weeks now.

Acosta accused Lopez of dumping down her orders contained in memoranda she issued while she was the Acting Vice Mayor and demanded she apologize for her actions that “not only undermined my leadership and belittled my position.”
The letter dated March 10, 2008, copies of which were furnished to city councilors comes on the heels of a series of incidents with Acosta and Lopez clashing over council proceedings and procedures.

Lopez’s sins

The row started with Acosta questioning Lopez, a personal friend of Vice Mayor Sara Duterte, affixing Acting Presiding Officer below the title Acting City Mayor in resolutions and ordinances approved by the city council with Acosta presiding sessions at the time when Vice Mayor Duterte was the acting Mayor.

In her two-page letter, Acosta detailed Lopez’ other sins committed in previous sessions: the omission of councilor Nilo Abellera’s name during roll call; the appearance of the name of former SK representative councilor April Marie Dayap instead of the new SK chairman councilor Halila Sudagar in the agenda; non-inclusion of amendments introduced at plenary by councilor Angela Librado-Trinidad to a proposed ordinance authored by councilor Edgar Ibuyan; and councilor Victorio Advincula’s lament about late distribution to councilors of the minutes of previous sessions.

Tit-for-tat

Acosta said she had earlier dispatched memos to point out the lapses as a reminder, but Lopez apparently had answered the letter to explain her side.

In her letter, Acosta slammed Lopez for the letter reply, where she quoted Lopez saying that the issues she (Acosta) raised were “petty or trivial matters” and “simple nitpicking.”

“The memos I issued as Acting Vice Mayor did not require either a reply or explanation, only compliance. Your letter was unnecessary, impertinent and your tenor, uncalled for,” said Acosta. Her take was that “being the Acting Vice Mayor, which is the position of higher rank and designation,’ Lopez should follow her directive.

Bypassed

But the main bone of contention between the two protagonists centered on the title Acting Presiding Officer affixed in Acosta’s name in the resolutions and ordinances.

She said Lopez refused to discuss the issue with her, and instead went to City Legal Officer Melchor Quitain and City Local Government Officer Merilo Limbaro for opinion.

Acosta claimed Quitain and Limbaro and even Vice Mayor Duterte, in a memorandum to Lopez, agreed with her position that the title Acting Vice Mayor would suffice. She said she had ordered Lopez to make the corrections which she refused.

“Stubborn Lika”

In the letter, Acosta said: It is unfortunate that…the SP Secretary—insisted on her “stubbornness” that things be done her way.

“The SP Secretary’s actions and tirades are totally unfair and uncalled for, causing undue embarrassment on my person and discourtesy to my position as an elected official. I demand an apology for this totally unacceptable behavior,” said Acosta.

It is not intelligence alone that makes or breaks a person but one’s humanity, she said in a broadside that was supposed to hit Lopez’s credentials. Lawyer Lopez, the personal choice of Vice Mayor Sara, was an Ombudsman graft investigator before she was named to her post after the death of Secretary Lolita Garcia.

“In my close to eight years in service as a public servant and elected official, this is the first time that I have encountered such appalling behavior from an employee who holds the position of Secretary of the City Council but does not behave like,” said Acosta, who earned the post of First Councilor to sit as acting vice mayor in the absence of Vice Duterte by garnering the biggest percentage of votes in the last elections.

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