ER Ejercito to appeal Comelec ouster order

By Ed Amoroso, The Philippine Star

Posted at May 23 2014 04:55 AM | Updated as of May 23 2014 12:55 PM

LAGUNA, Philippines – Lawyers of ousted Laguna Gov. Emilio Ramon "ER" Ejercito are set to ask the Supreme Court to stop the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from removing him from office.

In a text message to The STAR, Ejercito said his lawyers will file before the SC on Thursday afternoon or in the coming days the petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO).

He is confident that the SC would uphold the mandate of the people, he added.

An information officer of Ejercito said he does not know if Ejercito’s legal counsels have already received the Comelec resolution unseating him.

“But we’re sure that they are now rushing the petition,” the information officer said.

Operations at the provincial capitol are normal while Ejercito’s supporters are holding a vigil, the information officer said.

Ejercito told The STAR politics is behind the filing of a disqualification case against him.

The Comelec singled him out over other candidates accused of overspending during the 2013 polls, he added.

However, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said politics was not involved in their decision.

Members of media have converged at the provincial capitol in Sta. Cruz, Laguna to await a press conference of Ejercito.

Brillantes said the Comelec will no longer accept any appeal from Ejercito.

“Documentary evidence showed he exceeded his campaign expenses above and beyond what is allowed by law,” he said. “There is no doubt in our decision and that’s why the voting was unanimous.”

Brillantes said Laguna Vice Gov. Ramil Hernandez will replace Ejercito.

“This is a matter of unseating him as governor,” he said.

Brillantes said Ejercito’s disqualification comprised only the administrative aspect of the case. “The criminal aspect will still have to go through the process of preliminary investigation,” he said.

Brillantes said the Comelec is now studying if it can pursue an election offense case against him.

“We now have an order to check whether there should be a criminal prosecution,” he said.

Last Wednesday, the Comelec affirmed the decision of the First Division ousting Ejercito for campaign overspending.

Comelec records showed Ejercito had spent P23.5 million during the campaign, way beyond his authorized campaign limit of P4.5 million or P3 each for 1,525,522 voters.

Brillantes said the evidence against Ejercito are all documented. “In fact, an advertisement contract with ABS-CBN (television network) was worth P6 million and that already exceeded his limit,” he said. “He signed the contract.”

The Comelec First Division found out that Ejercito exceeded his authorized campaign spending limit in the 2013 elections.

“We do not find any sufficient reason that will justify a reversal of its findings,” the Comelec said.

The Comelec gave Ejercito five days upon receipt of the order to file a petition for a TRO with the SC.

Otherwise, the Department of the Interior and Local Government will implement the poll body’s ruling.

The Comelec decision arose from a petition for disqualification that Ejercito’s political rival Edgar San Luis had filed against him.

2 mayors set for disqualification

Two town mayors in Luzon face disqualification for alleged vote buying in the 2013 polls.

Brillantes identified them as Roxas, Isabela Mayor Benedict Calderon and Norzagaray, Bulacan Mayor Alfredo Germar.

“They were both disqualified by the First Division and we can either affirm or reverse the decision,” he said.

Brillantes said the Comelec action against Calderon and Germar shows that the order to unseat Ejercito is not politically motivated.

“There are still pending cases that we will be ruling on soon,” he said.

Brillantes said it would be the first time that elected officials would be ousted for vote buying if the Comelec upholds the disqualification of Calderon and Germar.

“This is something new,” he said. “We have not removed anyone because of vote buying yet. There are other disqualification cases, but they are still pending at the division level. These are the only cases pending before the en banc.” – With Sheila Crisostomo