By Joseph B.A. Marzan
The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) En Banc upheld the decision of its First Division canceling the Certificate of Candidacy (COC) of former Lambunao, Iloilo town mayor Jason Gonzales in the 2016 local elections, two years after his term had already expired.
Daily Guardian was able to obtain Monday, Jan. 31, 2022, a copy of the nine-page resolution on SPA 15-161 promulgated on Oct. 23, 2021.
The resolution was signed by all six serving members of the poll body, including Chairman Sheriff Abas, Senior Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, Commissioners Socorro Inting, Marlon Casquejo, Antonio Kho, Jr., and Junior Commissioner Aimee Ferolino-Ampoloquio.
The COMELEC denied Gonzales’ motion for reconsideration for being moot due to the expiration of his mayoral term last June 30, 2019.
Gonzales now serves as Board Member for Iloilo province’s 3rd district.
While the poll body denied the motion because of mootness, it still weighed in on the merits of the petition, which was filed by the late Lambunao mayor Vicente Ramirez in 2015.
In the petition, Ramirez sought to cancel Gonzales’ COC for material misrepresentation, alleging that the latter did not meet the one-year residency requirement in Section 39(a) of Republic Act No. 7160, as amended (Local Government Code of 1991).
He cited Gonzales’ term as Iloilo City councilor from June 30, 2013 to Oct 30, 2015, which was merely 6 months prior to the 2016 polls.
The poll body’s First Division ruled in favor of Ramirez and struck down Gonzales’ argument that he had satisfied the residency requirement, alleging that his attendance of events and engagements in the town would suffice.
Gonzales indicated in his COC that he had been a resident of the town for 2 years and 5 months.
But the poll body found Gonzales for “deliberately misleading” them through his camp’s interpretation of the Supreme Court’s 2000 decision in the case of Torayno, Sr. vs. COMELEC.
COMELEC noted that Gonzales failed to prove that the evidence against him was insufficient to justify the filing of a motion for reconsideration under the 1993 COMELEC Rules of Procedure.
“Respondent [Gonzales], if not downright misguided, is deliberately misleading [the COMELEC] by tweaking the application of the [Torayno case] just to suit his position in this case,” the COMELEC resolution said.
“The pieces of evidence presented by [Gonzales] do not suffice to outweigh the inescapable fact that [he] transferred his residence from Iloilo City to Lambunao only on 30 October 2015. x x x By this yardstick, [he] clearly fails in the residency requirement,” it added.
‘HE WAS NEVER THE MAYOR’
The runner-up in the 2016 mayoral race, Victor Lacuesta, told Daily Guardian that there was no justice for him, and that his only call is for the Lambunao Municipal Election Office and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to “correct their record” to show that Gonzales was never the town mayor.
“What would I go after now since [Gonzales’ term] was already done? If that came out earlier, then I could’ve been able to say that I was able to get justice for myself. But what can I do since it’s already 2022? The only thing that the COMELEC and the DILG can do is to state on the record legally that I supposedly won for the 2016 to 2019 term and not him,” said Lacuesta, who is currently in the United States.
Daily Guardian reached out to Gonzales and his legal counsel, but they did not reply.
But in a Facebook post Monday evening, Gonzales noted that despite the denial of his Motion for Reconsideration, “the COMELEC En banc promulgated in its Resolution that the instant Petition and Motion for Reconsideration have been rendered in moot and academic: no practical or useful purpose would be served by passing on the merits of Gonzales’ contentions”.
He also noted that “the same residence issue in SPA 15-161 was brought up once again before Comelec in SPA No. 18-180 in 2018 when I ran for Board Member in the 2019 elections. In the 2019 decision, the Comelec (this time) unanimously affirmed my residence in Lambunao, Iloilo.”
“The Honorable COMELEC En banc, quoting Garcia vs. COMELEC further added: ‘this Court held that where the issues have become MOOT and ACADEMIC [emphasis mine], there is no justiciable controversy, thereby rendering the resolution of the same of no practical use or value’. I trust that this answers all questions pertaining to the resolution, and that after 6 years, this case can finally be laid to rest,” he added.