Comelec order ousting Legazpi mayor final
LEGAZPI CITY—Clad in red shirts and carrying placards declaring their support, hundreds of followers of Carmen Geraldine Rosal staged a protest rally at the City Hall just a few hours after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) released its final decision to unseat her on Wednesday.
They gathered at 4:20 p.m. in front of the main gate of the City Hall compound which had been locked since Wednesday morning.
Lt. Col. Dennis Balla, Legazpi City police chief, in an interview, assured city residents that the police would maintain peace and order amid the movement of Rosal’s supporters.
“We are here to protect everybody’s rights and maintain peace and order. Whatever lawful order is issued, that is the one we should obey,” Balla said.
In issuing a certificate of finality on Wednesday, Comelec Chair George Garcia tasked a special city board of canvassers to formally annul on May 19 Rosal’s proclamation as winner in the May 9, 2022, mayoral election.
The special panel would at the same time declare Alfredo Garbin Jr., a former Ako Bicol party list representative who placed second in the race, as the new mayor of Legazpi City.
On May 4, the seven-member Comelec policy-making body disqualified Rosal as a candidate due to vote buying. It found Rosal liable for “giving money to influence, induce or corrupt” voters during the cash assistance payout for tricycle drivers in the city on March 31, 2022.
In his latest order, Garcia said the May 4 decision on Rosal’s disqualification became final since there was no restraining order from the Supreme Court five days after the decision was received by the parties.
In a message to reporters, Garcia admitted that the certificate of finality was not enough to remove Rosal from her post.
He said he would issue the writ of execution on Thursday “to give (Rosal) an opportunity to reiterate the prayer for injunctive writ in the Supreme Court.”
“To my mind, as a former (election law) practitioner, this is part of due process. Our resolution should be subject to the full scrutiny of the Supreme Court,” said Garcia.
Rosal’s husband, ousted Albay Gov. Noel Rosal, was first linked to the same vote-buying case where he allegedly violated a provision of the Omnibus Election Code against the release of public funds during the election period.
The Comelec found Noel Rosal liable and was ordered to vacate his post late last year.
Carmen Geraldine could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
But the Rosal couple, through their counsel, earlier filed a petition for temporary restraining order to stop the implementation of the previous Comelec order disqualifying the mayor and declaring Garbin as winner in the mayoral race.
Carmen Geraldine met with her supporters on Monday and told them: “My townmates, don’t be sad. It is not the end of the world for us.”