LEGAZPI, Philippines – More than a hundred supporters of Albay Governor Noel Rosal gathered at the provincial capitol in a prayer vigil on Friday night, November 25, as they awaited the Supreme Court’s decision on Rosal’s plea for a temporary restraining order on his disqualification from the 2022 gubernatorial race.
“Albayanos are craving for justice, for change,” former village councilor Analee Sister told Rappler after a round of prayers just past sunset on Friday. She noted that Rosal “works for the grassroots and prioritizes the basic services of the people.”
Diocese of Legazpi priest Father Bogs Alvarado, who officiated the mass when Rosal took office on July 1, joined the prayer vigil and met with the governor’s supporters at the capitol, but refused to comment on the disqualification case.
On Friday afternoon, the Comelec en banc declared the November 18 resolution final and executory, according to Clerk of the Commission Genesis Gatdula.
The en banc body had earlier upheld the Comelec 1st Division’s September ruling disqualifying Rosal due to violation of Section 261 (v) of the Omnibus Election Code, or the 45-day election spending ban.
The governor on Saturday, November 26, thanked his supporters at the capitol’s grounds, but asked them to remain calm and avoid creating a commotion.
His supporters prayed the Holy Rosary several times and lit candles as they repeatedly expressed hope that their “voice” would be heard by the High Court.
“We have a workaholic governor who is not corrupt and works for the people,” Dina Panganiban, a Rosal supporter from Sogod village in Bacacay town told Rappler
Panganiban and another supporter of the governor, Oriculo Sanchez, pointed out the improvements in Albay’s hospital and health services and facilities in Rosal’s first 100 days of office.
Sanchez came all the way from his village on Cagraray island in Bacacay to attend the vigil. He told Rappler that other supporters in all of the province’s towns will join the “prayer power” with daily gatherings until Rosal gets his TRO.
Rosal, who defeated then-governor Al Francis Bichara with a margin of over 200,000 votes, filed a petition with the Supreme Court on November 21, seeking an injunction or a status quo ante order against the Comelec en banc’s final disqualification ruling.
In its November 18 order, the Comelec noted it had not received a restraining order from the High Court within five days from the parties’ receipt of its November 18 resolution.
Once it issues a writ of execution in the absence of an SC TRO, Rosal would have to leave office. Vice Governor Edcel Greco Lagman of the Aksyon Demokratiko party will assume the province’s top post.
In upholding the September findings of the Comelec’s 1st Division, the Comelec en banc said Rosal’s appeal contained no new issues that could have established his claim of a ruling based on insufficient evidence.
The original ruling said Rosal had violated Section 261 (v) of the Omnibus Election Code, when he disbursed public funds within 45 days before a regular election without seeking exemptions from the poll body.
The governor’s followers echoed the former Legazpi mayor’s reasoning that the cash assistance distributed was part of a program that started in 2021.
The petition against Rosal was filed by Joseph San Juan Armogila, a tricycle driver and losing council candidate under the ticket of Ako Bicol mayoral candidate Alfredo Garbin.
Garbin lost the mayoral race to Rosal’s wife, Geraldine, whom the Comelec also disqualified in October. – Rappler.com