Comelec disqualifies Lipa City mayor

By Arnell Ozaeta, ABS-CBN News Southern Tagalog

Posted at Aug 26 2010 09:47 PM | Updated as of Aug 27 2010 05:47 AM

LIPA CITY, Philippines – Lipa City Mayor Maynardo Sabili may have to step down from office after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) disqualified him from the May 2010 elections for lack of residency.

The Comelec en banc made its decision in a 7-page resolution dated August 17, 2010, and signed by Commissioners Rene Sarmiento, Nicodemo Ferrer, Lucenito Tagle, Armando Velasco, Elias Yusoph, Gregorio Larrazabal, and certified by Chairman Jose Melo. 

It unanimously denied a motion for reconsideration filed by Sabili that sought to reverse a January 26 resolution made by the Comelec’s Second Division regarding the case.

Sabili’s disqualification stemmed from a petition filed by a certain Florencio Librea that was granted by Ferrer, Tagle, and Yusoph.

Librea sought the cancellation of Sabili’s certificate of candidacy, claiming that the latter is not a resident of Barangay Pinagtong-ulan and a registered voter of Precinct 407.

Librea said Sabili lives in San Juan, Batangas, and failed a 1-year residency requirement in Lipa City as required by Section 39 of Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code.

Sabili was able to run in the May elections pending the decision of his motion for reconsideration filed with the Comelec en banc.

He won by securing 55,268 votes against incumbent Mayor Oscar Gozos’ 48,815 votes.

Sabili claimed that he has been residing in Lipa City since April 2007, when he bought a house and lot in Barangay Pinagtong-ulan where he said he lived with his common-law wife, Bernadette Palomares, and their two children.

He also presented a residency certification from Barangay Pinagtong-ulan chairman Dominador Honrade. 

Sabili also showed other documents including an affidavit, certifications from the Parish of Santo Nino of Barangay Pinagtong-ulan, a membership certificate from the Guardians Brotherhood’s Lipa chapter, income tax returns for 2007-2008, and a voter’s certificate from the Comelec.

However, the Comelec en banc said gave little weight to the documents that Sabili presented, calling them “self-serving.”

The Comelec did not recognize the affidavit issued by the barangay chairman because it was not notarized.

It was also found out that the parish certification was just an acknowledgement of Sabili’s financial support and not an indication of residence.

Meanwhile, the voter’s certificate issued to him is not conclusive proof of change of domicile, the Comelec en banc said.

Sabili plans to secure a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court as soon as he receives a copy of the Comelec resolution.

“Maliwanag na ginagamit lang ng mga kalaban ko sa pulitika iyang si Librea kasi hindi ko naman kabarangay ‘yan sa Pinagtong-ulan at taga-Barangay Calamias iyan,” he claimed.