Local officials of Bayombong are guilty of gross ignorance of the law for declaring the closure of the national highway for 45 days, supposedly for the town fiesta which will run from Aug. 2 to 4. The law is very clear:
Rule VIII of Administrative Order 270, the Implementing Rules of the Local Government Code, states:
Article 45. Temporary closure. — (a) Any national or local road, alley, park, or square may be temporarily closed during actual emergency or fiesta celebrations, public rallies, agricultural or industrial fairs, or undertaking of public works and highways, telecommunications, and waterworks projects, the duration of which shall be specified by the local chief executive concerned in a written order, as follows:
(1) During fiesta celebrations — for a period not exceeding nine (9) days;
It is public knowledge that unscrupulous local officials authorize the closure of public roads and other open spaces to make way for flea market stalls, subject to a lease by so-called ambulant vendors. However, these contracts of lease are usually unwritten, because these politicians avoid the use of formal agreements, perhaps aware that any document to cover the said leases may be used as evidence against them. Consistent with other previous decisions, the Supreme Court has ruled:
“A public street is property for public use, hence outside the commerce of man (Arts. 420, 424, Civil Code). Being outside the commerce of man, it may not be the subject of lease or other contract.” (Dacanay Jr. v. Asistio Jr. 208 SCRA 404)
Perhaps to spare themselves from possible prosecution for any wrongdoing, local officials, instead, make use of dummies–private persons who are commonly not connected with government service. Thus, if these leases are not official acts of the local government, and proceeds therefrom are not duly officially receipted to be remitted and form part of public funds, where does the money (collected from stall owners) go?