ILOILO City, Philippines—The Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) en banc decided on a 2015 cancellation petition on an Iloilo town mayoralty race two years after the respondent’s term had already expired.
In a nine-page resolution promulgated on Oct. 23, 2021 and obtained by local media on Jan. 31, 2022, the poll body unanimously junked Jason Gonzales’ motion for reconsideration for being moot and academic.
Despite junking the petition, the body still took time to judge on the merits of the case.
The central question was whether or not Gonzales satisfied the requirement of one-year residency in Lambunao town, under Section 39(a) of the Local Government Code of 1991.
The poll body resolved that Gonzales did not meet the requirement. It stated that he may have been “misguided” or may have “deliberately misleading” the Comelec in citing the 2000 Supreme Court case of Torayno Sr. vs. COMELEC.
“[Gonzales], if not downright misguided, is deliberately misleading [COMELEC] by tweaking the application of [Torayno Sr. vs. COMELEC] just to suit his position in this case,” said the poll body’s resolution.
“The pieces of evidence presented by [Gonzales] do not suffice to outweigh the inescapable fact that [he] transferred his residence from Iloilo City to Lambunao only on 30 October 2015. (sic) By this yardstick, [he] clearly fails in the residency requirement,” the en banc added.
Gonzales won the 2016 election for mayor of Lambunao and kept the post until 2019. He now serves as Board Member for the province’s 3rd district.
Prior to running for the mayorship, he was a councilor in Iloilo City from 2013 until October 30, 2015, or at least six months prior to the 2016 polls.
His service in the city government was the basis for the petition filed by the late former mayor and then vice-mayoralty candidate Vicente Ramirez in November 2015.
The COMELEC First Division in 2018 resolved to cancel Gonzales’ certificate of candidacy.
Ramirez’s running mate, Victor Lacuesta, who finished second in the polling, told Rappler that the delay deprived him of justice.
“What can I do since [Gonzales’ term] had already ended? I could’ve been able to say that I got my justice, but how can I say that when it’s already 2022? What I want to go after now is for the COMELEC and the DILG to put on their records that legally, I’m the one who won for the [2016-2019] term,” said Lacuesta in Hiligaynon.
Emil Marañon III, one of Gonzales’ current counsels, said the COMELEC En Banc decision “no longer had legal force and effect and is [at] best disregarded.”
Marañon said he “found it strange” that the COMELEC would decide on the case in 2021, citing another cancellation petition involving Gonzales in 2018, when the latter filed for the provincial board. Gonzales prevailed in that case.
“[It] is very strange that the Comelec still decided this 2015 case in 2021, when it should have been rendered moot and academic by his term’s expiration in 2019. We must also take note that the same residence issue in SPA No. 15-161 was brought up once again before Comelec in SPA No. 18-180 in 2018 when Jason Gonzales ran for Board Member of Iloilo Province in the 2019 elections. I represented him in the case and we won it. In the 2019 decision, the Comelec this time unanimously affirmed his residence in Lambunao, Iloilo,” the lawyer said in a Facebook post.
Gonzales also weighed in on the issue, echoing Marañon in his press statement, saying that with the poll body’s resolution, the case can be finally laid to rest.
“Despite the denial of my Motion for Reconsideration, the Honorable COMELEC En banc promulgated in its Resolution that the instant ‘Petition and Motion for Reconsideration have been rendered in moot and academic: no practical or useful purpose would be served by passing on the merits of Gonzales’ contentions’,” said Gonzales in his statement.
“I trust that this answers all questions pertaining to the resolution, and that after 6 years, this case can finally be laid to rest,” he added. – Rappler.com
Joseph B.A. Marzan is a Visayas-based journalist from Iloilo City and is a recipient of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.