NAGA CITY—The names of actor Aga Muhlach and his wife, Charlene Gonzales, will remain in the list of voters of San Jose, Camarines Sur, until the Regional Trial Court’s (RTC) exclusion ruling over his lack of residency in the town is decided with finality, an election official here said on Friday.
Lawyer Noriel Badiola, Camarines Sur provincial election supervisor, said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said the decision of the RTC in San Jose has to become final and executory before the Comelec can strike out the names of the Muhlach couple from San Jose’s voters list.
“Aga and Charlene are still qualified voters of San Jose” pending appeal, stressed Badiola.
He also said that the ruling of the voter’s disqualification of the Muhlach couple has nothing to do with the candidacy of Muhlach for a congressional seat in Camarines Sur.
This means that Muhlach, who is running for the congressional seat in Camarines Sur’s fourth district, would remain an official candidate unless there is a final court ruling that would say otherwise, said Badiola.
Muhlach’s name is also in the list of candidates for the congressional seat in the Partido (fourth) district of Camarines Sur that is now being readied for the printing of the official ballots to be used for the automated elections in May next year, Badiola said.
Badiola said they have yet to receive an official copy of the decision of Judge Noel Paulite, the presiding judge of RTC Branch 30 in San Jose, Camarines Sur, who ruled to strike out the Muhlach couple from the town’s list of voters for failing to comply with the six-months residency requirement for registered voters.
In fact, he said he learned about Paulite’s decision only when this reporter ask him how the Comelec would respond to the RTC decision that was reported in the Inquirer on Friday.
Badiola said that after reading the news in the Inquirer, he immediately sent his staff to San Jose to secure a copy of the ruling.
The decision was penned by Paulite on Dec. 17, based on the copy of the ruling shown to the Inquirer on Friday by a source identified with the camp of Deputy House Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella, the patriarch of the clan that has been ruling the Partido district for over a century.
Muhlach, a candidate of the Liberal Party, is running against Felix William “Wimpy” Fuentebella, a son of Arnulfo.
The source, who asked not to be named for lack of authority to speak on the matter, declined to say how they got hold of a copy of the ruling ahead of the Comelec in Camarines Sur.
Badiola said based on existing rules of court, the Muhlach couple still had 15 days to file their appeal and failing to do so would make Paulite decision final and executory.
Lawyer Romulo Macalintal, Muhlach’s legal counsel, yesterday said by phone that they have yet to get hold of a copy of the ruling of Paulite and would need to receive it officially before filing their appeal at the Court of Appeals within the 15 days reglementary period.
The RTC decision regarding the disqualification of the Muhlach couple was a ruling on an appeal filed by the Muhlach camp after Judge Ricky Beigno of the San Jose-Presentacion Camarines Sur Municipal Circuit Trial Court on Oct. 17 ordered the Comelec to strike out the names of the show biz couple from the list of new registered voters of San Jose, Camarines Sur, for lack of residency.
The Muhlach couple filed their voter’s application on March 19 but a group led by former San Jose Mayor Gilmar Pacamara, a known Fuentebella ally, filed a petition before the Comelec to disqualify the couple on the allegation that they are not residents of San Jose, the place of residence they listed in their application.
The resolution of the petition for disqualification against the couple dragged on for six months after two previous chairpersons of the Election Registration Board (ERB) in San Jose failed to hear and deliberate on the case.
On Sept. 28, the ERB of San Jose approved the voter’s application of the Muhlach couple. The ERB ruling was then questioned in court by Pacamera and his group.