Comelec unseats Batangas town mayor

by Arnell Ozaeta, ABS-CBN News Southern Tagalog

Posted at Dec 29 2011 05:36 PM | Updated as of Dec 30 2011 01:36 AM

BATANGAS, Philippines – The Commission on Election (Comelec) en banc has annulled the proclamation of Renato Federico as mayor of Sto. Tomas town due to an invalid substitution during the May 10, 2010 national and local elections.

In a 20-page resolution, the Comelec en banc granted the motion for consideration of petitioner Osmundo Maligaya against Federico when the latter took the place of Edna Sanchez, the original candidate for mayor in Sto. Tomas town.

The substitution happened when Nacionalista gubernatorial candidate Armando Sanchez, husband of Edna Sanchez, died on April 27, 2010 due to cardiopulmonary arrest.

On April 30, Edna Sanchez withdrew her Certificate of Candidacy for mayor and filed a new Certificate of Candidacy for governor as substitute candidate for her deceased husband.

Respondent Renato Federico, on the other hand, filed with the Office of the Election Officer of Sto. Tomas his certificate of candidacy and certificate of nomination and acceptance as substitute candidate for mayor, in view of the withdrawal of Edna Sanchez.

Maligaya then questioned the validity of the substitution of deceased Armando Sanchez by his wife Edna as gubernatorial candidate in the province of Batangas and the substitution of Edna Sanchez by respondent Renato Federico as mayoralty candidate of Sto. Tomas town.

The matter was referred to the Comelec’s law department for study, which subsequently submitted the recommendations to the Commission’s en banc.

Among the recommendations of the law department include giving due course to the withdrawal of Edna Sanchez and direct the election officer of Sto. Tomas to delete the name of Sanchez from the certified list of candidate for mayor of Sto. Tomas.

The law department likewise recommended the denial of the certificate of candidacy and nomination of Edna as substitute candidate for governor of Batangas and substitution of Federico as candidate for mayor in Sto. Tomas.

However, the Commission en banc resolution no. 8889 dated May 8, 2010 reversed the recommendations of the law department and gave due course instead to the certificate of candidacy of Edna Sanchez as substitute candidate for governor and Federico as substitute candidate for mayor of Sto. Tomas.

May 10 elections

On May 10, 2011, elections in the entire province of Batangas proceeded with the name of Edna Sanchez being retained in the list of candidates for mayor in Sto. Tomas, where she obtained the highest number of votes with Maligaya trailing in second.

The Municipal Board of Canvasser proclaimed Federico as winner in the mayoralty race after considering Sanchez’s votes in favor of Federico. This prompted Maligaya to file a petition to annul the proclamation of Federico, which the Comelec en banc concurred.

Lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, counsel for Federico, however, insisted in his manifestation that “on a mere technicality that supposedly Edna Sanchez was proclaimed (winner) when in truth and in fact it was Federico’s hands who was raised, there was a certificate of proclamation in his name.”

Topacio added that because of the automated nature of the election, the name of the candidate as programmed in the computer, which will subsequently print the certificate of proclamation, cannot be readily changed.

“ We must note that the promulgation of 8889 which allowed the substitution was made only on May 8, 2010, two days after the election and there was no time to change,” Topacio said adding that the Board of Canvassers, after realizing the clerical error, remedied it by printing another with Federico’s name on it.

Certificate of Canvass

The Comelec en banc, however, concluded that only Certificate of Canvass of Votes and Proclamation of winning candidates generated on May 11, 2011 was issued in the name of Edna Sanchez and not of Federico, which was generated on another date.

“The Municipal Board of Canvasser does not possess any authority to print another COCP to correct what they tagged as a mere “clerical error”, the en banc resolution stated.

Topacio, in a press conference in Sto. Tomas municipal hall, said they already filed a motion at the Supreme Court seeking for a temporary restraining order to stop the Comelec en banc’s order removing Federico as the mayor of Sto. Tomas town.

The Comelec en banc consists of Sixto Brillantes, Jr. as Chairman with commissioners Rene Sarmiento, Lucenito Tagle, Armando Velasco, Elias Yusoph, Christian Robert Lim and Augusto Lagman.