Aquino cousin still mayor of Paniqui, Tarlac

MANILA, Philippines – Miguel Rivilla, a cousin of President Benigno Aquino III, will remain as mayor of Paniqui, Tarlac, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has ruled.

In a resolution dated Wednesday, November 12, the Comelec's First Division dismissed all orders by a trial court in Paniqui leading to the installation as mayor of Rommel David, Rivilla's opponent in the 2013 midterm elections.

The First Division also said that David missed the allowable period to appeal the junking of his electoral protest by the Paniqui Regional Trial Court Branch 67.

In the May 2013 polls, independent candidate Rivilla received 22,909 votes, while David of the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) garnered 19,676 votes.

An election protest filed by David on June 6, 2013, was dismissed by Paniqui RTC Branch 67 Judge Serafin Cruz for insuffiency of form and content. His motion for reconsideration filed on July 8 was likewise denied.

However, on December 23, 2013, Assisting Judge Agapito Laoagan granted David's plea to file another motion for reconsideration, and issued an order "effectively reversing" Judge Cruz's June 6 decision by granting David's motion and setting the case for pre-trial.

Due process

Laoagan reasoned that David was denied due process when his electoral protest was dismissed on questionable grounds.

Rivilla then filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition before the Comelec in June, saying that Laoagan acted with grave abuse of discretion.

Then, on August 28, 2014, Laoagan proclaimed David as the victor in the mayoralty race after invalidating disputed votes. The recount showed that David won with 19,617 votes versus Rivilla's 19,010 votes.

On September 24, 2014, Judge Laoagan directed Rivilla to cease and desist from occupying the mayor's office. Rivilla refused. He then filed a second petition for certiorari and prohibition before the Comelec.

The Comelec's First Division, in its ruling, said that David missed a 5-day period upon receipt of a copy of the original June 6 decision to file an appeal, as mandated by the 2010 Rules of Procedure for Municipal Election Contests. Therefore, the June 6 decision "automatically became final and immutable."

"[David], instead of filing an appeal within the reglementary period of 5 days from receipt thereof [or until June 26], filed a motion for reconsideration on July 8, which is a prohibited pleading," the decision said.

As a result, both of Rivilla's petitions were granted, and all the court decisions since December 23, 2013 were nullified.

The Comelec's First Division is composed of Commissioners Lucenito Tagle, Christian Robert Lim, and Al Parreño. –

Michael Bueza

Michael is a data curator under Rappler's Tech Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.