ER Ejercito can still ask SC to reverse ouster as Laguna governor
MANILA, Philippines — In a unanimous vote, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) affirmed on Wednesday the disqualification and the removal of Laguna Gov. Emilio Ramon “ER” Ejercito from his post for overspending in the 2013 balloting.
In a 21-page resolution, the Comelec en banc upheld the ruling of the election body’s First Division issued on Sept. 26, 2013, which found Ejercito guilty of spending beyond the limit of P4.5 million or P3 each of the more than 1.5 million registered voters in Laguna.
In a press briefing on Wednesday, Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. said the en banc voted 7-0, affirming the First Division’s decision, which mentioned that the governor spent P6 million in TV advertisements alone.
Under Comelec Resolution No. 9615, candidates may only spend P3 for every voter registered in the jurisdiction where the candidate lodged his certificate of candidacy.
“This morning, we arrived at a decision affirming the [ruling] of the First Division to unseat Ejercito as governor of Laguna, having overspent above and beyond what is allowed by law,” said Brillantes.
The Comelec chief noted that it was the first time that a high level government official was being removed from his post due to overspending in the elections.
“The voting was unanimous—7-0. So, there is no doubt with our decision since there is no dissenting opinion,” Brillantes told reporters, noting that Ejercito’s disqualification was just the administrative aspect of the case against him.
“The criminal aspect has to go to our law department for further investigation. That is separate [from this case],” he pointed out.
Under the Omnibus Election Code, an election offense, which includes overspending, carries a penalty of one to six years imprisonment aside from disqualification to hold public office and removal of the right to suffrage.
According to the en banc resolution, Ejercito spent a total of P23.5 million for his campaign in last year’s elections.
“These findings support the conclusion that Ejercito should be disqualified to continue as a candidate in the May 13 elections and from holding office…we see no reason to depart from the foregoing ruling of the Comelec First Division,” stated the en banc decision.
Brillantes said Ejercito could run to the Supreme Court within five days, upon receipt of the decision, to get a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the ruling.
But should the governor fail to secure one, the ruling would be considered final and executory and that Vice Governor Ramil Hernandez of the Nacionalista Party (NP) would take his place, said the Comelec chief.
“We are giving him five days within which to run to the SC and secure a TRO. Otherwise, we shall be constrained to implement the decision after the lapse of five days,” he said.
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