Comelec disqualifies Legazpi mayor

MANILA, Philippines — Carmen Geraldine Rosal has been disqualified by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as mayor of Legazpi City for violating a provision of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC) against the release of public funds.

In a 21-page resolution, the Comelec Second Division upheld the petition against Rosal that Joseph San Juan Armogila had submitted on the grounds of alleged vote-buying and improper distribution of public funds.

According to Armogila in his petition, Rosal participated in a two-day cash assistance payout for tricycle drivers and senior citizens of her husband and then-incumbent mayor Noel Rosal during the 45-day campaign spending ban.

He said her involvement violated Section 261 (a) vote-buying and vote-selling selling and (v) the prohibition against release, disbursement, or expenditure of public funds of the OEC, which prompted the Comelec to investigate the allegations on two separate grounds: 1) vote buying and 2) the illegal disbursement of public funds.

Comelec said in the resolution that they have ruled out vote-buying as grounds for disqualification as the evidence to support the claim “falls short of satisfying the quantum of evidence.”

However, Comelec determined that Rosal “appears to have benefitted from the LGU’s project where public funds were released, disbursed, and sought to sponsor the cash payout or assistance to the tricycle drivers and senior citizens.”

It explained that it “cannot help but conclude” that “there is direct attribution to the Respondent of the cash payout masked as a social welfare project.”

“In this case, Respondent performed an overt act to make it appear that she is one with the Local Government Unit; worse, with her husband, who was then the incumbent mayor at the time of the ‘cash payout’ event,” the resolution read.

“Her mere presence during the distribution of the cash assistance rendered moral assistance to the Local Government Unit. Lest it be forgotten, she is a candidate at that time, along with her husband,” it added.

The Comelec Second Division concluded that Rosal has “committed acts which violate the law — sufficient to disqualify her from running as a candidate in the 2022 elections.”

The poll body’s First Division also disqualified her husband, Albay Gov. Noel Rosal, less than a month ago for violating the spending ban during the cash assistance payout.

Meanwhile, Comelec chair George had previously explained that disqualification resolutions are not final and executory as they can still be subject to a motion for reconsideration.

The Comelec En Banc will then tackle these motions, wherein, regardless of the results, may still be elevated to the Supreme Court.


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