Comelec junks petitions vs Legarda's House bid in Antique

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 07 2019 09:55 AM | Updated as of Feb 07 2019 01:00 PM

MANILA—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has cleared the way for the congressional run in May of outgoing Sen. Loren Legarda in a province where the patriarch of a dominant political clan described her as a “stranger.”

The poll body rejected the petitions against Legarda, saying she was able to transfer her residence from Malabon City to Barangay Mag-aba in Antique province more than a year prior to the May 13 elections.

Legarda is running for the province’s lone congressional seat against former Gov. Exequiel Javier, who earlier asked the Comelec to reject her certificate of candidacy (COC) over residency issues.

The Comelec’s second division on Wednesday released its decision, ruling that Legarda “did not misrepresent in her COC her period of residence in Antique.”

“No proof was introduced to effectively refute those offered by Legarda to establish her eligibility for the office to which she seeks to be elected,” according to the copy of the ruling obtained by ABS-CBN News.

Legarda’s lawyer George Garcia earlier denied that the senator was being “opportunistic” by seeking a congressional seat in a province where she supposedly had no connection whatsover.

Replying to the two petitions against her, the senator later told the election commission that she had a grandfather who used to hold public office in Antique.

Garcia also cited Legarda’s frequent travels to the province where she had also helped fund various projects.

The petitioners questioned Legarda’s residency status, noting that she was merely renting a beach house.

The Comelec ruled that the “ownership status of the property has no effect on Legarda’s residency“ there.

The senator, who is on her second and last term, also did not have to be “bodily present” in her Antique residence “24 hours a day and 7 days a week,” it said.

“Legarda is a senator whose base of work is in Metro Manila. Obviously, she cannot be in Antique all the time,” the Comelec said.

“It is enough that she has an identified residence where she intends to live and return for an indefinite period of time.”