Aga Mulach cleared to run vs Camarines Sur clanBy Juan Escandor Jr.
Inquirer Southern Luzon
SAN JOSE, Camarines Sur—The Election Registration Board (ERB) of this town approved on Friday the voters’ application of couple Aga Muhlach and Charlene Gonzales, removing an obstacle to the actor’s plan to run for a seat in the House of Representatives in the fourth district of Camarines Sur.
Muhlach and Gonzales filed their application in March but a petition questioning the couple’s registration here was filed soon after the actor announced his decision to run for a House seat representing the Partido area, or fourth district, of Camarines Sur.
Muhlach, who joined the ruling Liberal Party in August, will face Felix William “Wimpy” Fuentebella, son of last-term Deputy Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella.
The actor, a neophyte in politics, is facing a clan that has ruled the district for decades. The elder Fuentebella is one of the main proponents of a bill that will convert the Partido area into a province to be known as Nueva Camarines, which the bill’s critics said was simply a move to allow the deputy speaker to skirt his term limit and run for another position in the new province.
The elder Fuentebella had repeatedly denied Nueva Camarines was designed to benefit him or his clan, saying that creating another province out of Camarines Sur would help reduce poverty levels as the area to be governed would be reduced and easier to handle.
The show-business couple registered on March 19 in San Jose and listed a leased house on Rizal Street in Barangay San Juan as their place of residence since August last year.
On April 16, a group of political allies of Fuentebella, led by former San Jose Mayor Gil Pacamara and 14 others, questioned Muhlach’s residency at the municipal ERB. The group said the actor failed to meet the six-month residency requirement to register as a voter, which is a requirement for candidacy.
The case dragged on for six months after two previous ERB chairpersons failed to hear and deliberate on the case.
On Sept. 17, the Commission on Elections appointed Rosendo Vales as the third ERB chair of San Jose. On Friday, the case was finally settled after a 10-hour hearing at the municipal council building.
The group that tried to block the actor’s registration presented the sworn statements of 400 town residents who claimed the actor was neither a resident nor was even seen in San Jose. Vales, with two other ERB members representing the Department of Education and the local government, validated the names of the 400 residents. The board also went to check the couple’s leased house.
In its decision, the ERB said it found “substantial compliance” of the couple with the requirement of the law to reside within the place where one seeks to be registered as a voter for six months immediately preceding the election.
Muhlach told the Inquirer he was happy because “the truth was heard” and he would now have greater confidence to go around the fourth district of Camarines Sur and “pursue his dream to render public service.”