Legazpi councilor too: Comelec disqualifies Rosals’ ally over ayuda rollout

Dwight de Leon

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Legazpi councilor too: Comelec disqualifies Rosals’ ally over ayuda rollout

ELECTION CASE. A Comelec division moves to kick out Legazpi Councilor Al Barizo out of office for violating the campaign spending ban.

Photo from Legazpi city government website

The Comelec 2nd Division rules that Legazpi Councilor Al Barizo should be disqualified due to his involvement in a cash assistance distribution event during the 2022 campaign period – the same event that turned the Rosal couple's world upside down

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is not finished going after 2022 election candidates in Albay who participated in the infamous cash assistance or ayuda distribution event for tricycle drivers during the campaign period.

After ruling to unseat Albay Governor Noel Rosal and Legazpi Mayor Geraldine Rosal, the Comelec also moved to disqualify the couple’s party mate, Legazpi Councilor Al Barizo.

In a decision penned by the Comelec’s three-member 2nd Division, the election body concluded that Barizo violated the election code prohibition against the release of public funds during the 2022 campaign period.

The ruling said that Barizo, at the time a councilor who either headed or was a member of the city government’s public utilities committee, had a role in the push to disburse the public funds.

It added that Barizo was mistaken in believing that the two-day ayuda rollout event for tricycle drivers was exempted from the election code prohibition just because it was a continuing program that began prior to the period of the campaign spending ban.

“With the present of respondent (Barizo) and spouses Rosal, who are all candidates in the 2022 elections, during the said payout activity of tricycle drivers, it cannot be denied that the program was used for partisan political activity – the very evil that the law itself seeks to prevent,” the Comelec 2nd Division said in its ruling promulgated on May 5, but released to the media only on Tuesday, May 16.

“Even if he is not proven to have had a hand in the illegal release or disbursement of public funds during the prohibited period, he surely was a prominent figure in the expenditure of the said funds when those were handed out to the tricycle driver-beneficiaries,” it added.

The Comelec division’s decision is not final and executory. Barizo can file an appeal with the Comelec en banc.

Legazpi councilor too: Comelec disqualifies Rosals’ ally over ayuda rollout
Cleared of vote-buying

The petitioner – defeated councilor candidate Joseph San Juan Armogila – had alleged that Barizo committed vote-buying when the latter posted about the cash distribution event on his social media page, and contacted tricycle drivers about the activity.

The Comelec’s 2nd Division, however, said it is insufficient to prove that Barizo committed vote-buying.

“Although the text message and the FB post contains words of gratitude for supporting respondent (Barizo) and spouses Rosal, they are not sufficient to link the respondent to the illegal act of vote-buying,” the poll body wrote.

That ill-fated cash rollout event on March 29 and April 2, 2022 has been a cause of headache for the Katipunan ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino, the local party of Barizo and the Rosals.

But the most recent ruling that cleared Barizo of vote-buying yet again opens the Comelec to scrutiny for potential inconsistencies on how it viewed the conduct of the cash assistance rollout.

The election body dismissed vote-buying allegations against Barizo and then-governor Noel – and disqualified them only on the ground of campaign spending ban violation – yet it disqualified Legazpi Mayor Geraldine Rosal due to vote-buying.

Rappler previously wrote an in-depth piece raising questions on how the Comelec arrived at its decision against Mayor Geraldine.

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Comelec ruling on Legazpi mayor’s disqualification raises questions

Mayor Rosal remains in office after the Supreme Court formally prevented the Comelec’s disqualification order against her from taking effect. The High Court did not block a separate Comelec disqualification order against her husband. –

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers the House of Representatives and the Commission on Elections for Rappler. Previously, he wrote stories on local government units.