Comelec drops Cataquiz from Laguna municipal race
SAN PEDRO, Laguna–The Commission on Elections has disqualified Calixto Cataquiz from seeking reelection for the mayoral post here, less than a week before the May 13 midterm elections.
In a resolution dated May 7, the Comelec first division granted the petition filed by Cataquiz’s rival, San Pedro Vice Mayor Norvic Solidum, and two others to disqualify the local chief executive, who was also recently ordered by Malacañang to step down.
The Comelec ruling, signed by Commissioners Lucenito Tagle, Elias Yusoph, and Christian Robert Lim, cited Section 40 of the Local Government Code, which bars “from running for any elective local position … those removed from office as a result of an administrative case.”
Cataquiz, a member of the Nacionalista Party, said he has yet to receive a copy of the Comelec order but vowed to seek “legal remedies” from a higher body to stop his disqualification.
“With three more days to go (before the elections), this is just a strategy of my opponents to discredit me,” he said in a phone interview Thursday.
Solidum, a member of the Liberal Party, asked the Comelec in January to disqualify Cataquiz based on the Sept. 14, 2011 ruling of the Supreme Court.
The high court found Cataquiz, who was appointed General Manager of the Laguna Lake Development Authority in 2001, guilty of graft and imposed on him a penalty of disqualification from re-employment in government service, based on the complaint filed by the workers’ union Concerned Employees of the LLDA.
In his reply to the Comelec in March, Cataquiz claimed that Section 40 was not applicable since he was already replaced as head of the lake agency, months before the Office of the President in 2003 issued a decision, dismissing him from the LLDA.
Cataquiz also claimed that “re-employment in public office” did not cover elective posts and that his reelection as San Pedro mayor in the 2007 and 2010 elections “wiped away and condoned” the administrative penalty, to which the Comelec replied that the “respondent is mistaken.”
“(The) respondent’s reliance on the doctrine of condonation is not in accordance with the law and jurisprudence (as it is) not a magic wand that automatically absolve(s) a candidate from the disqualification.”
“It must be pointed out that the respondent was removed in his post prior to the upcoming elections (on May 13),” read the Comelec resolution, of which a copy was furnished by Solidum to the INQUIRER on Wednesday evening.
In April, Malacañang ordered Cataquiz to step down in accordance with the graft conviction, but the Department of Interior and Local Government has not yet implemented the removal order due to the election ban on government appointments.
“While (Cataquiz) has all the legal remedies available to him, the question remains: does he still have the moral ascendancy to govern?” Solidum said by phone.
Joining the three-way fight, here, is independent candidate Berlene Alberto.