Comelec ousts Javier as Antique governor
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has retroactively disqualified Antique Governor Exequiel Javier and annulled his proclamation in 2013.
The Comelec en banc voted 4-2-1 on Monday, January 12, to grant the petition for disqualification against Javier on the basis of "coercion of subordinates."
Javier issued a 30-day suspension order against Valderrama Mayor Mary Joyce Roquero on January 23, 2013, which was within the election period (January 13 to June 12) for the 2013 midterm elections.
Suspending any elective official during the election period without prior approval of the Comelec is prohibited under the Omnibus Election Code (OEC).
A report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer said Roquero's suspension was based on an administrative case filed against her by then Vice Mayor Christopher Maguad for not implementing a municipal zoning ordinance. Roquero was re-elected in the 2013 midterm polls, defeating Maguad.
The Comelec Second Division first tackled the petition for Javier's disqualification, but it was elevated to the en banc on October 14, 2014, after the Second Division failed to obtain a majority vote.
At the center of the petition, said Comelec's January 12 order, is the issue of whether coercion of subordinates under the OEC can still serve as a ground for disqualification, despite the repeal of that provision by Republic Act 7890.
In his separate opinion, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr found the petition for Javier's disqualification tenable.
"I am of the opinion that the repeal of Section 261 (d) does not ipso facto remove coercion as a ground for disqualification under Section 68 [of the OEC]," said Brillantes.
He argued that the petition for disqualification on the ground of coercion "shall be taken differently and distinctly from coercion punishable under the RPC [Revised Penal Code]."
"One, different standards of proof are required to prosecute an offense committed" under the two provisions, Brillantes said.
He added, "the intention of Article 268 [of the RPC] is to penalize coercion as a criminal offense, while Section 68 [of the OEC] is intended to serve as a ground to disqualify a candidate in an administrative proceeding."
A separate criminal case was filed against Javier on the same issue, said a Comelec official.
Elevated to en banc
A resolution penned by Commissioner Elias Yusoph of the Comelec Second Division on October 3, 2014, said Javier's act of preventively suspending Mayor Roquero "falls within the contemplation of Section 261 (d) of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC), which is a ground for disqualification."
"That is, Gov. Javier issued Executive Order No. 003 suspending Mayor Roquero to coerce, intimidate, compel, or influence the latter to collaborate with or campaign for the former, or to punish the latter for having manifested political opposition against the former. For that, he must be disqualified," said Yusoph.
Commissioner Tito Luie Guia expressed dissent, questioning the legality of citing coercion as a ground for disqualification.
The other Second Division member, Commissioner Arthur Lim, could not break the tie because he was not part of the deliberation. The petition was then elevated to the Comelec en banc for proper disposition.
On Monday, Brillantes and commissioners Lucenito Tagle and Arthur Lim concurred with Yusoph's opinion, while Commissioner Christian Robert Lim sided with Guia's dissent. Commissioner Al Parreño was on leave for official business.
The petition to disqualify Javier was filed by former Valderrama Mayor Raymundo Roquero and 2013 gubernatorial candidate Cornelio Aldon.
They initially petitioned to disqualify Javier, then Vice Governor Rosie Dimamay, 6 provincial board members, Valderrama Vice Mayor Maguad, and Councilor Maryvic Near.
However, the Comelec Second Division granted the petition for disqualification only against Javier.
Vice Governor Rhodora Cadiao will replace Javier, following the rules on vacancies and succession under the Local Government Code. – Rappler.com