MANILA, Philippines — Actor Aga Muhlach and his wife, Charlene Gonzales, on Thursday asked the Court of Appeals to nullify a lower court’s decision removing them from the voters’ list in San Jose, Camarines Sur.
In a 50-page petition, Aga and Charlene, through their lawyer Romulo Macalintal, also asked the CA to issue a temporary restraining order against the implementation of the decision.
In a decision issued last December, the San Jose Regional Trial Court directed the Election Registration Board (ERB) in the area to remove the couple’s names from the voters’ list.
Aga is running for Congress representing the fourth district of Camarines Sur which covers the town of San Jose.
In their petition, Aga and Charlene said there is an urgent need to issue a TRO against the lower court’s decision “in order to prevent the grave and irreparable injury on the part of the petitioners of being disenfranchised and disallowed to vote in the said precinct…’’
Records show that the Muhlachs filed their application for registration as voters of San Jose on March 19, 2012. The ERB approved their application on Sept. 28, 2012. But a few days later, on Oct. 5, some registered voters in San Jose filed a petition for their exclusion, citing their alleged failure to comply with the residency requirement for a voter.
On Oct. 25, 2012, the Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of San Jose reversed the decision of the ERB. The Muhlachs appealed the MCTC decision to the RTC which the latter denied on Dec. 17, 2012 and directed the ERB to exclude the Muhlachs to its list of voters.
Petitioners told the appeals court that the petition for their exclusion was premature and precipitately filed because the 6-month period of residency before the May 13, 2013 election will begin on November 14, 2012.
The petition cited the case of Rep. Romeo Jalosjos Jr., where the Court of Appeals, on June 2, 2010, granted Jalosjos’ appeal reversing the decision of the Pagadian City RTC excluding him from the list of voters on the ground that the reckoning 6-month period before the election was yet to come when the petition for exclusion was precipitately and prematurely filed.
The petition pointed out that both the MCTC and RTC admitted that the Muhlachs established their residency in San Jose as early as Feb. 17, 2012 but both courts disqualified them for failure to comply with the 6-month requirement when they filed their registration on March 19, 2012.
“This is clear abuse of discretion because the law is very clear in that a voter must be a resident of the place for at least six months before the election and not before registration. Since the courts found that the Muhlachs have been residing in San Jose as of February 17, 2012 then it is as clear as the sunlight that they have more than complied with the 6-month residency before the May 13, 2013 elections, or a period of one year and 3 months from February 17, 2012 to May 13, 2013”, Macalintal said.
The petitioners added that it was an error for the court to reckon the 6-month residency period before registration when the law provides that it should be counted 6 months immediately before or preceding the elections on May 13.
The RTC compounded its errors and grave abuse of discretion when it made an absurd interpretation of Comelec Resolution No. 9149 which provides, among others, that new registrants ‘may register not earlier than May 12, 2012’ when the use of the word ‘may’ clearly shows that this provision is not mandatory. While the Muhlachs applied for registration on March 19, 2012, the same is not a violation of the “May 12, 2012” date provided for by the Comelec because even the poll body urged new voters to register early,” Macalintal said.