Comelec indicts Antique governor for suspension of mayor

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ILOILO CITY—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has indicted Antique Gov. Exequiel Javier for suspending a municipal mayor during the election period in violation of the Omnibus Election Code.

In a five-page resolution promulgated on Sept. 3, the Comelec en banc found probable cause to try Javier for an election offense for ordering the suspension of Mayor Mary Joyce Roquero of Valderrama town in Antique during the election period this year.

Javier, a lawyer, said he would file a motion for reconsideration and was ready to bring the case to the Supreme Court.

“They have not resolved the legal questions related to the case,” the governor told the Inquirer.

On Jan. 23, Javier suspended Roquero for 30 days in relation to an administrative case filed by then Valderrama Vice Mayor Christopher Maguad.

The governor enforced a resolution of the provincial board that meted out the suspension on Roquero.

Maguad, an ally of Javier, had filed an administrative case against Roquero for allegedly failing to implement a municipal zoning ordinance banning the construction of gasoline and water refilling stations less than 100 meters from churches and other public buildings.

But Roquero disputed the allegations, saying that the municipal ordinance did not take effect because it was not published in a newspaper of general circulation as required by law.

Roquero, a political rival of Javier, defied the suspension order and questioned its legality. She was reelected in the May 2013 elections, defeating Maguad.

Javier, however, insisted on the legality of his order suspending Roquero. He said the suspension order was consistent with provisions of the Local Government Code, which, he said, should take precedence over “inconsistencies” in the election code.

In its resolution, the Comelec said Javier’s interpretation of the two laws was “misplaced.” The Comelec ordered its legal department to file the information against the governor for violation of Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code.

The provision prohibits the suspension of any elective official during the election period without the approval of the Comelec or unless the suspension is related to graft and corruption.

The election period for the May 2013 elections started on Jan. 13 and ended on June 12.

Election offenses are punishable with imprisonment of one to six years without probation. It also carries a penalty of disqualification from public office.

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