Claims of residency in Cebu City for her and showbiz children stir questions but Annabelle won’t quit
Annabelle Rama was annoyed yesterday.
The feisty showbiz talent manager who is adding new heat in the Cebu City congressional election said her critics had no basis to question her family’s transfer as voters to Cebu City last Oct. 30 and 31, the end of a nationwide deadline.
“Back off,” she said.
“Ngano mag reklamo man sila? Dili ba way batasan ang akong mga anak ug dili sila mo supporta sa ilang inahan? (Why are they complaining about the transfer of my children’s voters registration here)? Wouldn’t my children be considered disrespectful if they didn’t support the election plans of their mother?)” she told Cebu Daily News.
Annabelle said she was aware of residency requirements for voters, which is at least six months before the May 2013 election. She listed her late parents ancestral house on Rahman Street in barangay Zapatera when she trasnferred her own voter’s registration last May.
She said she “cleared” the matter with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) before transferring her voters status and that of her spouse and children, who are popular movie and TV actors in Manila.
“Hindi ako tanga. Kahibaw ko sa balaud bisan wala ko naka tiwas ug eskwela. Ako na gi clear sa Comelec Manila ug sa Comelec Cebu bago sila nag transfer (I’m not stupid. I know the law even though I didn’t finish formal schooling. I cleared this with the Comelec Manila and Cebu office before they transferred.),” she said.
Her husband Eddie and children Ruffa, Richard, Richie Paul and Elvis – including their girlfriends had their voter’s registration transferred from Manila to Cebu City at the close of a nationwide deadline.
Their appearance on Oct. 30 and 31 took place as throngs of last-minute applicants formed long waiting lines outside the Cebu City Comelec office.
Comments of outrage about the “special treatment” for celebrities erupted when the Gutierrez children and two girlfriends were escorted directly into the office to have their forms processed and photos taken ahead of those in queue.
Annabelle said she had made a prior appointment for her family with Comelec north district election officer Marchel Sarno, who in turn said there was no election law broken by accommodating her request.
Sarno said it would have been chaotic if he let the celebrities fall in line and excited fans would crowd them.
The interest in Annabelle’s candidacy and residency requirements comes at a time when controversy also surrounds the campaign bid of Wakee Salud, a well-connected boxing promoter over a similar issue.
His application to sign up as a voter of Cordova town in Mactan where he wants to run for mayor was rejected by the Municipal Trial Court and the Cebu Regional Trial Court because Salud couldn’t prove he actually lived in Cordova.
A rented house that Salud seldom visited, and the lack of personal effects inside were noted by two judges.
“Domicile requires not only such bodily presence in that place but also a declared and probable intent to make it one’s fixed and permanent place of abode, one’s home,” said RTC Judge Raphael Yrastorza Sr. in his October decision.
Salud, however, went ahead and filed his ceritificate of candidacy as Cordova mayoralty candidate last Oct 4. The Comelec has not yet ruled on the disqualificaton case.
Like Salud, Annabelle said critics won’t stop her from pursung her candidacy for Cebu City’s north district against former congresman Raul del Mar of Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BO-PK).
Annabelle and Gutierrez family members visited the Cebu Memorial Park last Nov. 1, All Saints’ Day where her parents – Laurente and Feliciana – are buried.
They later had dinner with other members of the Rama family who were visiting the mausoleum of the late Don Vicente Rama. (Daughter Ruffa left Cebu earlier on Oct. 31 because of prior commitments.)
They stayed for almost two hours at Cempark to mingle with relatives and had their photos taken with fans, said Annabelle’s brother George Rama, barangay captain of Basak.The Gutierrez family was scheduled to leave for Manila tonight.
“Since they are already registered in Cebu City, they can now be considered Cebu residents but their work is still in Manila,” said George.
Annabelle has been making almost-weekly visits to Cebu since she announced plans to run this year. She would stay for a day or two then fly back to Manila.
George said she would come back at anytime to start campaigning.
Section 9 of Republic Act 8189 or an Act Providing for the General Registration of Voters says that “all citizens of the Philippines not otherwise disqualified by law and who are at least 18 years of age, and who shall have resided in the Philippines for at least one year and in the place wherein they propose to vote, for at least six months immediately preceding the election, may register as a voter.”
It also says that with temporary residency in a city or municipality by reason of occupation of employment, education, confinement or detention in government institutions a voter “shall not be deemed to have lost his original residence.”
Her opponents aren’t keen on raising formal objections in court or the Comelec.
“It doesn’t really matter. We are not even threatened. Questioning it will only be a waste of time,” said Vice Mayor Joy Augustus Young, a BO-PK candidate.
Young said it was obvious that entertainment celebrities in the family would be used to win votes but that Cebu City voters are intelligent and would vote only for the qualified candidates.
George Rama said any one challenging his sister’s qualifications should go to court or the Comelec Cebu City office.
He said the issue is already irritating his sister, whose temper and reputation of carrying out long-running feuds with those who cross her in the entertainment industry is well known.
“Ni reklamo na siya (Annabelle) nga unsa na man ni. Wala na lang di ay tay privacy ani?” George told Cebu Daily News.
Annabelle , in a separate interview, said the voter’s status of her family and her qualification as a candidate were non-issues.
She said critics were only “insecure” because she and her cousin Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama were leading in at least three surveys athough she didn’t say who conducted the survey, and how it was made.
George said it was natural for Annabelle’s family to transfer their voter’s registration to Cebu City to show their support for her.
He pointed out that Imelda Marcos was from Ilocos Norte but ran and won as congresswoman in Tacloban City in Leyte province.
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