By Arnell Ozaeta, ABS-CBN News Southern Tagalog
BATANGAS CITY, Philippines – A few days before the May 10 election, a disqualification case against a mayoralty candidate here was affirmed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) following a petition filed against the candidate by a local radio commentator.
However, since the decision is still not final, the local Comelec officer said the candidate can still run in Monday’s election because he still has 15 days to file a motion for reconsideration.
In a 10-page resolution released by the Comelec First Division signed by Commissioners Rene Sarmiento, Armando Velasco and Gregorio Larazzabal, the petition for the disqualification of Batangas City mayoralty candidate Dr. Emilio “Jun” Berberabe of the Nationalista Party was upheld.
The Comelec decision stemmed from a disqualification case filed by radio commentator Rommel Arguelles claiming that Dr. Berberabe lacks the residency requirement as required in Section 39 of the Local Government Code.
Arguelles cited in his petition that Berberabe failed to comply with the Code’s one year residency requirement since the respondent waived his permanent resident status or “green card” only on September 14, 2009.
The petitioner likewise said, through his verification at the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation, Berberabe stated in his affidavit that he is the holder of US Permanent Resident Visa with alien number A#038-558-558 and live in 1712 Valley Drive, Las Vegas, Nevada .
“Since Dr. Berberabe is deemed to have abandoned his residence in the Philippines when he acquired his greencard, conversely, he also deemed to have re-acquired his residence in the Philippines on the date that he surrenders his green card.” Arguelles said.
Based on Comelec records, Berberabe filed his Certificate of Candidacy (COC) on November 28, 2009, thus failing to meet the one-year residency requirement as Arguelles claimed.
“This year’s election will be on May 10, per his own affidavit, Berberabe lost his permanent US residence and regained his Philippine residency only last September 14, 2009, therefore he only resided here for only 8 months more or less before the election date” Arguelles argued.
On the other hand, Berberabe countered that his residence reverted to Batangas City as early as May 22, 2007 when he, his wife and children relocated to Barangay Bolbok in Batangas City.
Berberabe submitted pieces of evidence which, according to him, established his clear intent of permanently reviving his domicile of origin in Batangas City and abandoning his residency in the United States.
Included in his evidences were affidavits from his neighbors, fellow churchgoers, family friends and employees of Berberabe stating the he resides in Bolbok, Batangas City since 2007.
He likewise presented the closure and sale of his Las Vegas property, the shipment of his personal belongings from US to the Philippines and the school transfer of his children from their Las Vegas school to Batangas City.
Berberabe presented also his acquisitions of a vehicle here and the application and renewal of business permits, medical license and membership and payment of taxes in the Philippines.
He contended that his surrender of his green card on September 14, 2009 is meant merely as a formal confirmation of his abandonment of his domicile in the US and is “intended to iron the lingering doubt on his status.”
“Talagang mukhang isang maduming taktika ito upang ibagsak ang tropa ng pagbabago” Berberabe said.
Atty. Sixto Brillantes, Jr., Berberabe’s lawyer said: “It (disqualification case) is just being used by the opponent of Dr. Jun Berberabe to remove votes from my client.”
However, the Batangas Comelec office finds no reason for Dr. Berberabe’s camp to worry because the Comelec 1st Division’s order in not yet final and executory.
“We will wait for the finality of the decision, although he has been declared disqualified, he still has 15 days to file his motion for reconsideration and appeal. Technically, he still can run this coming election” Atty. Percival Mendoza, Batangas City Election Officer said.
Berberabe, through his mobile public announcement system roving in the city, assured his supporters that he remains as the official mayoralty candidate for Batangas and appealed to people not to believe the black propaganda hurled against him.