Bulacan mayor ousted for vote-buying
MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday disqualified Norzagaray, Bulacan, Mayor Alfredo Germar and Councilor Rogelio Santos Jr., both of the Liberal Party, over allegations of vote-buying during the recent midterm elections.
In a 15-page resolution, the Comelec First Division said there is “substantial evidence” warranting the disqualification of the two officials as part of the poll body’s administrative sanction.
The poll body’s ruling was based on the complaint filed by losing mayoral candidate Feliciano Legaspi.
Legaspi accused Germar, Santos and losing vice mayoral candidate Roberto Esquivel of vote-buying when their political leaders allegedly handed out envelopes containing P500 each and sample ballots to residents of Barangay (village) Bitungol on May 11.
The respondents’ camp also engaged in another act of vote-buying when they promised voters the amount of P500 to P1,000 and stained ink on their fingers to prevent them from voting, Legaspi said.
The poll body did not accept the respondents’ alibi that they were all in attendance at the party’s miting de avance on the night of May 11, saying that their presence need not be proved in the place where the vote-buying took place.
“It is enough that there can be established a direct link to the vote-buying activities that transpired and performed even by the respondents’ leaders or sympathizers,” the decision said.
The affidavits of voters and other witnesses “were corroborated by object evidence, including boxes containing P500 bills and sample ballots for the respondents, which upon inventory, totaled to P692,000,” the decision added.
The Comelec clarified, however, that it is not holding the respondents guilty of vote-buying, saying it is to be adjudged in the criminal aspect of the case after trial on the merits and requires proof beyond reasonable doubt.
“We only resolve the electoral aspect of the disqualification case, which is summary in character and necessitates substantial evidence,” the poll body said.
With the disqualification of Germar and Santos, the Comelec said the rule of succession shall apply.
Germar should be replaced by the vice mayor, while Santos’ replacement will be named by the provincial governor as provided by the Local Government Code.
The Comelec said it will be pursuing criminal charges against the respondents and those people identified by witnesses as the ones who offered money or were involved in vote-buying activities of the respondents.
“The Commission resolves to refer the criminal aspect of this case against Germar, Esquivel, Santos, Dale Soliba, Dominador Rayo, Marivic Nunez, Adelaida Auza, Amelia Cruz, and Leonardo Ignacio to the law department for preliminary investigation,” said the resolution.
The disqualification of Germar and Santos came a week after the disqualification of Laguna Gov. Emilio Ramon “E.R.” Ejercito for supposedly overspending in the May 13 elections.