House names non-Cordilleran as Benguet caretaker congressman

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – The House of Representatives has appointed party list congressman Eric Go Yap of ACT-CIS as caretaker of Benguet after the death of Representative Nestor Fongwan Sr.

This was announced by Benguet Governor Melchor Diclas on Monday, January 20, but many residents are not having any of it — they want special elections to be held to find a replacement for Fongwan. 

At the very least, they would have wanted either Baguio Representative Marques Go or Mountain Province Representative Maximo Dalog Jr as caretaker congressman since they are Benguet's neighbors.

When the father of Mountain Province's Dalog, Maximo Sr, died in June 2017, it was Kalinga Representative Allen Jesse Mangaoang who was named caretaker of the province. 

Yap is not a Cordilleran and staunch supporter of President Duterte. His party-list organization is associated with the Tulfo siblings.

The designation of Yap as caretaker representative – if it becomes permanent – will go against the law. Republic Act No. 6645, which provides for the filling of vacancies in the legislature, states that when a district representative's seat becomes vacant a year or more before the term ends, a special election will be held for a new representative. 

Fongwan won in the May 2019 election, and died in December, so Yap's appointment was made barely 40 days after the seat was vacated. 

Judging from the reactions on Facebook, Benguet supporters are either surprised, disgusted, or open to the choice. Many are in favor of holding a special election.

Benguet Provincial Board has passed a resolution asking Congress to initiate a special election to fill Fongwan’s vacant post.

Vice Governor Johnny Waguis said they had informed House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano about their resolution as early as January 13.

During Fongwan's wake in December, however, Cayetano hinted at caretakership as the solution.

Caretakers designated by past Speakers had met criticism as well – such as when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appointed Pangasinan's Rose Marie Arenas as caretaker of Batanes, and Feliciano Belmonte Jr appointed Akbayan's Kaka Bag-ao as Dinagat caretaker. They all cited tradition. –