The position of vice-mayor or vice-governor and presiding officer of the sanggunian is somewhat controversial at times. In our system of separation of powers, no one is quite sure whether said position is executive of legislative. Sure the position is vice-mayor means that the occupant is the automatic successor in case of death, inability, dismissal or disqualification of the sitting mayor, but the function is largely legislative. He is the presiding officer of the sanggunian which makes him necessarily a member that is why the position must be largely considered legislative rather than executive. If I were to be followed, the “vice-mayor” should be deleted and the name should only be “presiding officer of the Sanggunian”. If it becomes so, there would be less confusion as to the nature of the position and it will be clear that it is a legislative position. As has been mentioned in earlier articles, the position was copied from the American government where the vice-president presides over the senate. Unfortunately, the 1987 Constitution fell short in copying the American system and did not make the vice-president as presiding officer of the senate. As the new vice-mayor and presiding officer of the Municipality of Bokod, I was asked whether I can still chair a standing committee of the sanggunian since according to the Supreme Court, the vice mayor is a “member” of the sanggunian.
The Vice-Mayor May Not
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the department in charge of supervising the operation of the local government units gave an opinion regarding the matter. It said that the Local Government Code provides for the powers, duties and responsibilities of the officials of the LGU including that of the vice-mayor but unfortunately with respect to chairmanship or even membership in any standing committees, it is silent. It should now be the Internal Rules of Procedure (IRP) that should govern the matter. If the IRP allows it then it may be so but if it is also silent or even does not allow it then the vice-mayor should not chair a committee. In our IRP which we adopted on our first session, there is a section that prohibits it. But what if the IRP is silent? The DILG said that the next authority is the “settled parliamentary practice”. In its January 21, 2020 opinion it said: “Under settled Parliamentary Practice, a Presiding Officer is not allowed to hold or chair a regular but may be allowed to hold or chair a special or Ad Hoc committee for special purpose”.
Indeed, a presiding officer under parliamentary rules has to be neutral in order to effectively preside over the body or assembly. If he chairs a standing committee which will eventually give committee reports or recommendations, it will be difficult for him to be impartial on a matter or subject where his view or stand was made manifest by a committee report he chaired or participated in. It will be plainly absurd and his impartiality or neutrality will always be in doubt. The most important consideration should be prudence. Even if allowed by the IRP, the vice-mayor, in order to be an effective presiding officer better not chair or hold a standing committee to preserve his integrity and the respect by the members of the sanggunian.