Ousted Laguna gov may run again, Comelec rules
The Commission on Elections has denied a petition to disqualify ousted Laguna Gov. Emilio Ramon “ER” Ejercito from running in the next elections, saying his conviction for the offense of overspending during the 2013 elections was not yet final.
In a resolution dated Feb. 10 but received Monday by Ejercito’s lawyers, Romulo Macalintal and Antonio Bautista, the Comelec First Division dismissed the petition filed by media man and former police officer Abner Afuang who had sought Ejercito’s disqualification on the grounds he was a nuisance candidate.
Afuang said Ejercito, a movie actor known by his screen name George Estregan Jr., should not be allowed to run again after his ouster by the Comelec for overspending during the 2013 campaign and because he lied in his recent certificate of candidacy where he stated that he was eligible to run in the May 2016 polls.
The lawyers had argued that Afuang’s petition should be dismissed because Ejercito’s disqualification applied only to the 2013 election and did not extend to the 2016 election or subsequent polls.
The lawyers also said that Afuang had no legal personality to file a case since he was not a candidate for governor in the next elections.
The Comelec agreed, ruling that Afuang’s petition was “procedurally infirm” and should be summarily dismissed since Afuang was not authorized by law to file a petition, he not being a candidate in the 2016 elections, as required under the Comelec rules of procedure.
The Comelec ruled that the disqualification of Ejercito in 2013 “removed him from office only for the term covering the period 2013-2016 and does not prevent him from filing a certificate of candidacy for the same office, absent a final and executory judgment convicting him of violating the Omnibus Election Code.”
“Disqualification from future elections can only be imposed upon conviction of an offense that carries the accessory penalty of disqualification to hold public office,” the Comelec said.
The Comelec relied on the doctrine enunciated by the Supreme Court in the 2008 case of Blanco versus Comelec that the disqualification of Ejercito in 2013 involved only the “electoral aspect of his disqualification case” and not its criminal aspect.
The Comelec also denied Afuang’s move to disqualify Ejercito’s son, Jorge Antonio Ejercito, who is also running for governor as an independent. Afuang claimed Ejercito’s son was a “fallback candidate” should his father be disqualified.
Ejercito is running under the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) banner. Both he and Afuang were previously the mayor of Pagsanjan, Laguna.
The incumbent town mayor is Ejercito’s wife, Girlie Ejercito.
The resolution was signed by First Division Presiding Commissioner Christian Robert Lim with the note: “Even after determining the true nature of the case, this case is dismissed on the merits,” and concurred in by Commissioners Luie Tito Guia and Ma. Rowena Guanzon.
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