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MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is making final and executory its decision to disqualify Mayor Geraldine Rosal of Legazpi, Albay, from the 2022 race she had won.
The embattled female local chief executive was being kicked out of office on the grounds of vote-buying during the 2022 campaign, but Rosal had hoped the Supreme Court would intervene and stop the Comelec order from taking effect.
But Rosal, as of writing, had yet to obtain from the High Court a temporary restraining order.
The certificate of finality issued by the poll body means Rosal is ordered to vacate city hall in favor of her successor, former congressman Alfredo Garbin Jr.
Garbin was the second placer in the 2022 Legazpi mayoral election, losing to Rosal by only around 500 votes.
Traditionally, candidates disqualified after the elections are replaced with the second-in-command – in this case, Vice Mayor Bobby Cristobal – but the Comelec cited multiple Supreme Court rulings to justify its decision to designate the race’s second placer as Rosal’s successor.
Comelec Chairman George Garcia said that the poll body’s writ of execution on Rosal’s case would be issued on Thursday, May 11.
“In case there is a TRO, then no writ of execution will be issued. In case, however, that the resolution was already executed and there is already the assumption of the proclaimed new mayor, but the Supreme Court issues a status quo ante order, then the removed mayor shall reassume,” he told reporters.
Hours before the Comelec issued the certificate of finality on the case, Geraldine and husband Noel – a former governor who was also unseated months after the election due to a Comelec disqualification order – traveled to Manila to hold a press conference asserting they did not violate the election code.
The couple were separately kicked out of their elective posts after the Comelec punished them for conducting a cash distribution event during the 2022 campaign period.
Noel was found liable for violating the campaign spending ban, while Geraldine was sanctioned for giving money with the alleged purpose of corrupting voters.
“The cash assistance was due them because it was a program of the local government. I was just invited, but I can’t say that just because I was there, they would vote for me,” she said. “Our tricycle drivers have their own minds.”
“We can’t think of any other reason but that we are being singled out [by Comelec] and we don’t know why,” Mayor Rosal added.
In Legazpi, protests erupted outside city hall in support of Rosal, as demonstrators called on the Supreme Court to grant her reprieve.
But will she voluntarily step down once she has exhausted all options?
“We can’t say,” she said. “We can tell demonstrators to hold a peaceful protest, but sometimes emotions run high because they know their right to vote has been trampled with.” – with reports from Rhaydz Barcia/Rappler.com