MANILA (UPDATE) - The Court of Appeals (CA) has ordered the reinstatement of actor and Liberal Party congressional bet Aga Muhlach and wife, Charlene Gonzales, in the list of registered voters in Camarines Sur, a move that will bolster his election bid.
In a 19-page Decision penned by Associate Justice Vicente Veloso, the appellate court's 12th Division annulled and set aside the ruling of the San Jose, Camarines Sur Regional Trial Court (RTC) which excluded the Muhlachs from the voters' list.
Judge Noel Paulite of San Jose Branch 30 and Judge Ricky Begino of San Jose, Presentacion, Camarines Sur issued the rulings that removed the Muhlachs' names from the voters' list.
"Wherefore, the petition is Granted. The assailed decision dated December 17, 2012 and December 21, 2012 Entry of Judgment of the Regional Trial Court of San Jose Camarines Sur, Branch 30, as well as the Decision dated October 25, 2012 of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of San Jose-Presentacion, Camarines Sur are Annulled and Set Aside. The petition for Exclusion is hereby Dismissed for lack of merit," the CA decision read.
The CA ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to include the Muhlachs in the voters list and "annotate them on the Voters Registration Record."
"The Election Registration Board (ERB) is consequently ordered to permanently Reinstate and Reactivate the names of petitioners Ariel A. Muhlach and Charlene Mae B. Muhlach in the list of Voters of Precinct No. 10A, Barangay San Juan, San Jose, Camarines Sur and Annotate them on the Voters Registration Record (VRR) of the Office of the Election Officer of San Jose, Camarines Sur, as well as in the computer records of the Office of the Provincial Elections Supervisor of the Office of the Director for Election and Barangay Affairs Department of Camarines Sur," the decision read.
The Muhlachs have maintained that they have complied with the minimum requirement for residency.
"[T]he Muhlachs have been residing in San Jose as of February 17, 2012 then it is as clear as the sunlight that they have more than complied with the 6-month residency before the May 13, 2013 elections, or a period of one year and 3 months from February 17, 2012 to May 13, 2013," their 50-page petition with the CA read.
The appellate court stressed that the right to vote is a vital right and duty of every Filipino, and that a citizen willing to exercise this right should not be disenfranchised for as long as he complies with what is required under the law.
"[T]he right to vote is a most precious political right, as well as a bounden duty of every citizen, enabling and requiring him to participate in the process of government to ensure that it can truly be said to derive its power solely from the consent of its constituents. Time and again, it has been said that every Filipino's right to vote shall be respected, upheld, and given full effect.
"A citizen cannot be disenfranchised for the flimsiest of reasons. Only on the most serious grounds, and upon clear and convincing proof, may a citizen be deemed to have forfeited this precious heritage of freedom," the decision read.
Before the decision was handed down, the Muhlachs were able to secure a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO).
The decision was concurred in by Associate Justices Jane Aurora Lantion and Eduardo Peralta Jr.