MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has upheld an earlier ruling that disqualified Legazpi City Mayor Carmen Geraldine Rosal from the local race she had won in Albay in May 2022.
The seven-member en banc, in a resolution dated Thursday, May 4, unanimously ruled to nulify Rosal’s election win, on the grounds of election code violation, particularly the provision that prohibits candidates from giving money to influence voters.
The latest Comelec ruling marked a double whammy for the Rosal household, after the poll body disqualified Geraldine’s husband Noel from the 2022 Albay gubernatorial race back in November.
What the ruling said
The en banc resolution set aside the 2nd division ruling in November, which argued that Geraldine benefited from the illegal disbursement of public funds when her husband was the outgoing mayor of Legazpi City.
The event in question was the controversial cash assistance payout to tricycle drivers and senior citizens in March to April, coinciding with the 45-day ban on the release of public funds.
At the time, Noel was still only a gubernatorial candidate who approved the financial aid rollout in Legazpi City in his capacity as its incumbent mayor.
But the en banc said Geraldine should not be disqualified based on this ground “for the simple reason that she is not a public official at the time the supposed offense was committed.”
The same en banc, however, found her guilty of violating Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code, which disqualifies candidates who have “given money or other material consideration to influence, induce or corrupt the voters or public officials performing electoral functions.”
“The cash assistance payout was an activity intended to induce the voters to vote for herein respondent likewise became more manifest with the display of election paraphernalia during the said event,” the ruling read.
“Based on the representation of the respondent, she is not intent on disclaiming her supposed presence in the subject activity,” it added.
Who will replace Mayor Rosal?
Rosal could still ask the Supreme Court to intervene and stop the Comelec order from taking effect.
She has until May 9 to secure a temporary restraining order from the High Court, Comelec spokesman Rex Laudiangco said on Friday, May 5.
Mayoral race second placer Alfredo Garbin Jr. is set to succeed Rosal, the Comelec ruled, citing Supreme Court decisions that favored second placers instead of the second-in-command in such a scenario.
Rosal defeated Garbin by a narrow margin – less than 1,000 votes – in the 2022 race.
In Albay, some groups have raised concerns on the rule of succession used by the Comelec.
“The incumbent vice mayor should be the legitimate successor when a vacancy in the mayoral seat is deemed to be vacated, not the losing candidate who even lost the recount. That is the rule,” said Irene Solmirano of women’s organization Entrepinay. – With reports from Rhaydz Barcia/Rappler.com
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