Comelec en banc declares ex-Ako Bicol solon as Legazpi mayor
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc has declared former Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. as the mayor of Legazpi City, Albay, after it upheld the disqualification order against Carmen Geraldine Rosal, who came in first in the 2022 mayoral race.
In a resolution promulgated on Thursday, May 4, the Comelec body partially granted Rosal’s motion for reconsideration, saying she is not guilty of violating the ban on releasing public funds but is liable for vote-buying.
In disqualifying Rosal, it declared Garbin, who scored the second-highest votes in the local polls, as the city mayor.
‘Second hard look at evidence’
Rosal was put in the hot seat for the controversial two-day cash assistance payout to tricycle drivers on March 31 last year, within the 45 days before the May 9 polls.
“Respondent cannot be held accountable for violating the prohibition against release, disbursement or expenditure of public funds during the 45 days before Election Day for the simple reason that she was not a public official at the time the supposed offense was committed,” the ruling read.
Rosal, it noted, “should still be disqualified as a candidate for Mayor of Legazpi City, Albay, for giving money to influence, induce, or corrupt the voters.”
The Comelec 2nd Division initially ruled out vote-buying in Rosal’s case, but according to the Comelec en banc, the “repeated mention of a supposed benefit inuring to the respondent” – based on Facebook posts and statements of tricycle drivers who received cash assistance in the event – made them “decide to take a second hard look at the evidence.”
A Facebook post it cited had referred to Rosal, who was then not an incumbent mayor, as “Mayor Gie Rosal.”
“There can be no other reasonable inference from this Facebook post than that herein respondent gave the cash assistance to the tricycle drivers in order to influence or induce them to support her candidacy for Mayor,” the ruling noted.
So what now?
The Comelec en banc instructed the Special City Board of Canvassers of Legazpi City to convene within 10 days from the finality of the resolution and proclaim Garbin as duly-elected mayor.
But Comelec chair George Garcia told INQUIRER.net in a message that the ruling would not immediately be enforced.
Asked if Rosal can still appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, Garcia said: “That’s possible. Not immediately executory. So she can still take this to the SC.”
Rosal still has “almost half a month” to challenge the Comelec en banc decision before the High Court, he added.
Rosal is slapped with a disqualification consequence that her husband, Albay Governor Noel Rosal, similarly faced for the same controversial event in which they had both taken part.