SC: Lucy Torres-Gomez out as Leyte rep

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) - Leyte 4th district Rep Lucy Torres-Gomez will have to vacate her post less than two months before the elections.

With a vote of 7-4-4, the Supreme Court on Tuesday, March 19, declared that her substitution for her husband Richard Gomez in the 2010 elections was invalid.

The 7 who voted to invalidate Torres's candidacy were Chief Justice Maria. Lourdes Sereno, justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Antonio Carpio, Matin Villarama Jr, Jose Perez, Bienvenido Reyes, and Marvic Leonen.

The 4 who dissented were justices Teresita de Castro, Mariano del Castillo, Roberto Abad, and Jose Mendoza.

Four other magistrates did not take part in the deliberations because they are with the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, which first heard the caset: Presbitero Velasco Jr, Arturo Brion, Disodado Peralta, and Lucas Bersamin.

Torres will file for a motion for reconsideration, according to her lawyer Alex Avisado. Husband Richard Gomez, who was in Ormoc when the news broke, relayed a statement released by Torres' counsel. 

“We are surprised but not worried about this recent decision in the case filed by Silverio Tagolino against Cong. Lucy Torres-Gomez. In a similar case, the Supreme Court had already previously upheld the decision of the HRET in our favor and dismissed the petition of her rival Eufrocino Codilla Jr. The issue of residency of Cong. Lucy Torres-Gomez had long been settled with finality for which an Entry of Judgment had already been issued by the SC. We humbly believe this is a serious but reversible error. In the meantime, Cong. Lucy shall continue to discharge her duties as the duly elected representative of the 4th district of Leyte. We are confident that in the end, justice shall be served just to those deserving.”

'Politics, a game of the devils'

In a press conference, Torres said she will not back out of politics even if it was "a game of the devils."

Ganito talaga ang pulitika... laro ng mga demonyo (This is politics... a game of the devils),” she told reporters. 

For the 2010 elections, Gomez originally filed for congressman of Leyte's 4th district, which includes his wife's home city of Ormoc. Former barangay chair Buenaventura Juntilla went to the Commission on Elections to seek Gomez's disqualification, citing his failure to meet the residency requirement of at least one year before filing his candidacy.

Torres substituted for her husband before the December 14, 2009, deadline. Two months later, in February 2010, the Comelec disqualified Gomez.

Torres, running under the Liberal Party, got 101,250 votes and was declared winner. Her opponents Eufrocino Codilla Jr. of Lakas-Kampi and independent candidate Silverio Tagolino got 76,549 votes and 493 votes, respectively.

Codilla filed a protest with the HRET, but the electoral court decided in favor of Gomez. While Gomez was disqualified due to residency issues, it said, Comelec Resolution 8890 still considered his certificate of candidacy valid, so Torres's substitution for him was legal and valid.

"The disqualification of a candidate does not automatically cancel one's Certificate of Candidacy, especially, when it is nominated by a political party. In effect, the political party is still allowed to substitute for the candidate whose candidacy was declared disqualified," the HRET decision read.

In 2012, the Supreme Court denied Codilla's petition to have the HRET decision reversed.

The March 19 order of the High Court, however, stems from a separate quo warranto petition filed by Silverio Tagolino, which questioned the eligibility of Torres to run for lack of valid substitution. The case is entirely separate from the Codilla petition that the High Court had previously ruled upon. (Editor's note: We earlier reported that March 19 verdict reversed the Court's earlier verdict on Codilla; we regret the error.)

The Gomez couple are both running in 2013: Torres for re-election, and Gomez for mayor of Ormoc City. Torres is being challenged by Eric Codilla, while Gomez is running against 3 others, including Edward Codilla. The Codillas belong to an old political clan in Leyte. - with reports from Reynaldo Santos Jr, Purple Romero, Eastern Visayas Mail/Rappler.com