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PAMPLONA MAYORAL ELECTION: Court declares Cruz winner

NAGA CITY --- The Regional Trial Court here yesterday (Sept. 4) rendered its decision annulling the election and proclamation of Pamplona, Camarines Sur Municipal Mayor Gemino A. Imperial in the May 13, 2019 local election.

At the same time, the same decision declared former and re-electionist Mayor Augustus Caesar ‘Ace’ M. Cruz, III, being next in rank (the second of only two candidates for mayor per canvass report) as the duly electyed mayor of the said town.

Per municipal canvass in the last local election in the town, Imperial garnered the highest number of votes at 8,536 votes as against Cruz’s 8,130 votes. Imperial was instantly proclaimed Mayor Elect by the Municipal Board of Canvasser[s] despite his alleged existing incompetence.

In his 17 page decision, Judge Soliman M. Santos resolved the issue of whether or not the proclamation of Municipal Mayor of Pamplona, Camarines Sur is valid by virtue of the Decision of the Office of the Ombudsman in OMB-L-A-16-0551 dated 25 August 2017 and approved on 23 November 2017 imposing upon him, among others, an accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

In that case, Imperial as former municipal official of Pamplona had been found guilty of Grave Misconduct by a final judgment, and punished with dismissal from service with all its accessory penalties, including perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

Verily, Santos stated that perpetual disqualification to bold public office is a material fact involving eligibility which rendered petitioner’s Certificate of Candidadcy when he filed to run as mayor against then incumbent Cruz void from the start since he was not eligible to run for any public office at the time he filed the same.

Imperial’s perpetual disqualification to hold public office, according to the decision penned by Judge Santos is a material fact involving ineligibility. He wrote: “xx xx -----. To be “eligible” relates to the capacity of holding, as well as that of being elected to an office. Conversely, “inelib ility” has been defined as a “disqualification or legal incapacity to be elected to an office or appointed to a particular position.” In this relation, a person intending to run for public office must not only possess the required qualifications for the position for which he or she intends to run, but must also possess none of the grounds for disqualification under the law.”

He gurther argued that a consequence of the finality of the OMB-L-A-16-0551 Decision imposing upon Imperial the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification to hold public office, he ought to be unseated from his elected office as the Municipal Mayor of Pamplona, Camarines Sur. “ In the Quo Warranto case at bar, the only matter put in issue is his ineligibility due to disqualification, not his qualifications, not the qualifications and disqualifications of the Petitioner as his rival candidate for Mayor. Those matters not put in issue are presumed to be regular,” Judge Santos wrote.

Santos further cited an en banc decision by the Supreme Court (Maquiling vs. COMELEC, et al), to wit:. “As in any contest, elections are governed by rules that determine the qualifications and disqualifications of those who are allowed to participate as players. When there are participants who turn out to be ineligible, their victory is voided and the laurel is awarded to the next in rank who does not possess any of the disqualifications nor lacks any of the qualifications set in the rules to be eligible as candidates. “

Such Maquiling Decision also cited the important relevant ruling in the Sorsogon provincial governership case of Frivaldo vs. COMELEC: “… The qualifications for elective prescribed elective office cannot be erased by the electorate alone. The will of the people as expressed through the ballot cannot cure the vice of ineligibility, especially if they mistakenly believed, as in this case, that the candidate was qualified…”

The good people of Pamplona, according to Judge Santos, will understand and accept this [wisdom of the above statement, coming as it does from a Supreme Court decision].

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