Comelec reaffirms finding vs Bulacan mayor, councilor
MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc ruled that there is overwhelming evidence to prove that Norzagaray, Bulacan, Mayor Alfredo Germar and Councilor Rogelio Santos committed vote-buying activities during the May 2013 polls.
In a resolution promulgated on Friday, the commission en banc denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Germar and Santos for lack of merit, and affirmed an earlier ruling of the poll body’s Special First Division.
“Based on the records, the Special First Division’s resolution has already addressed these matters thoroughly and sufficiently, which includes issues regarding sufficiency of the affidavits; the money and other seized items being the product of an illegal search and seizure; failure to establish an unbroken chain of custody; and lack of detailed inventory,” part of the Comelec resolution reads.
The Comelec en banc referred the case’s criminal aspect to the poll body’s law department for preliminary investigation.
Also facing criminal charges are losing vice mayoral candidate Roberto Esquivel, Dale Soliba, Dominador Rayo, Marivic Nunez, Adelaida Auza, Amelia Cruz and Leonardo Ignacio.
However, the commission en banc failed to resolve if they can disqualify Germar and Santos.
Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes and Commissioners Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph voted to disqualify Germar and Santos, while Commissioners Christian Lim and Luie Tito Guia dissented.
Commissioner Al Parreño did not take part in the decision, and Commissioner Grace Padaca was unable to vote after her interim appointment lapsed last June 11.
The disagreement on the decision was over the issue on whether the disqualification petition falls under the Comelec’s jurisdiction since it was filed after the respondents have already been proclaimed winners on May 14, 2013.
“In view of the foregoing, with the vote 3-2-1-1 (three members voted to grant, two members dissented, one member took no part and one member was not able to vote), the administrative aspect of the petition for disqualification failed to obtain the necessary majority,” the commission en banc said.
As a result, the Comelec en banc ordered the conduct of a rehearing and redeliberation on the administrative aspect of the case in a bid to attain the required majority vote of four.
Gravity of offense
Brillantes, in his separate concurring opinion, said that Germar and Santos should still be disqualified as ruled by the Special First Division instead of being overturned “on mere technicalities.”
“I cannot fathom the idea that sheer procedural matters will overrule the merits of this particular case considering the gravity of the offense of vote-buying committed,” he said.
On the other hand, both Guia and Lim believe that the poll body has already lost jurisdiction of the case since the respondents were already proclaimed winners and were no longer considered “candidates” at the time of the filing.
“The Comelec has not acquired the authority to entertain, much less to hear and decide the subject petition. Nevertheless, with the abundant evidence on record of this case, the immediate initiation of the criminal proceedings is warranted,” Guia said in his separate dissenting opinion.
The petition for disqualification was filed by losing mayoral candidate Feliciano Legaspi.
Legaspi accused Germar, Santos and Esquivel of vote-buying when their political leaders allegedly handed out envelopes containing P500 each and sample ballots to residents of Barangay Bitungol on May 11, 2013.
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.