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MANILA, Philippines – A Commission on Elections (Comelec) division disqualified a mayor and councilor in Bulacan on Thursday, October 3, for alleged vote buying during the 2013 midterm elections.
Norzagaray, Bulacan, Mayor Alfredo Gemera, who ran under the Liberal Party (LP) banner, was disqualified by the Comelec First Division, favoring the complaint filed by his opponent, Feliciano Legaspi Sr of the National Unity Party (NUP).
In a closely-fought mayoral race, Gemera received 20,969 votes, while re-electionist Legaspi garnered 20,000 votes.
Also disqualified was Councilor Rogelio Santos Jr, also an LP member. He was Norzagaray's top 2 councilor in the 2013 polls, and the town's outgoing vice mayor in the lead-up to the polls.
According to a tweet by Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez, 4 juice boxes containing a total of P692,000 were presented as evidence to prove Gemera and Santos' involvement in vote buying.
PHP 692,000, contained in four juice boxes. #votebuying in Norzagaray leads to the disqualification of Mayor Germar and Councilor Santos Jr.— James Jimenez (@jabjimenez) October 3, 2013
According to the Omnibus Election Code, vote buying – an election offense – carries a penalty of imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than 6 years, and shall not be subject to probation. The offender will also be perpetually disqualified from voting and holding public office.
Last week, the same Comelec division disqualified Laguna Gov Emilio Ramon "ER" Ejercito – nephew of Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada – for campaign overspending. He defeated LP bet Edgar Luis by a huge 100,000-vote lead.
Reacting to criticisms that the poll body was targeting opposition members, Jimenez said in a TV talk show that the next disqualification to be announced would involve an LP member.
When a proclaimed mayor is disqualified, his post is assumed by the vice mayor, not by the opponent he or she defeated in the mayoral race.
Gemera and Santos can still file an appeal with the Comelec en banc. – Michael Bueza/Rappler.com
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