MANILA — Sen. Loren Legarda has asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to junk a petition questioning her congressional bid in Antique province where she was described by her political rival as a “stranger who came out of nowhere.”
Legarda, who is on her second and final 6-year term in the Senate, is up against 72-year-old Exequiel Javier, a former governor whose family has been a fixture in Antique politics for more than 3 decades.
In his petition, Javier said it was “common knowledge” that Legarda “has never been a resident” of the Visayan province.
Javier described Legarda’s candidacy was an attempt “to disregard the people of Antique’s right to elect only those who can best serve the community because of their knowledge and sensitivity to their needs because he or she is only of them and came from them.”
In her response, filed on Nov. 16, Legarda said she “traces her roots” in the Visayan province whose “first pharmacist” was said to have been her grandfather.
Legarda also cited “various financial assistance” she had extended to Antique residents under her term as senator, and “several projects to preserve and promote the environment, tourism and rich culture” of the province.
Her lawyers attached a list of her trips to the province to show her “physical presence” there since 1998.
Legarda said she had moved her residence from Malabon City to Barangay Mag-aba in Pandan town on Jan. 1 this year. She said her residency would run for 1 year and 4 months by election day in May 2019.
But Javier said the property was in fact a “beach house” rented for P5,000 monthly for 5 years.
Legarda admitted leasing the beach house, but said “property ownership is not among the qualifications” required of congressional candidates.
“There is overwhelming evidence to show that Legarda, aside from tracing her roots to the province of Antique, has been and still is a resident of Mag-aba, Pandan, Antique since Jan. 1, 2018 and has made it her domicile of choice,” according to a reply filed by his lawyer.
The local election board earlier allowed Legarda to transfer her voter registration from Malabon City to Pandan, Antique. Legarda said she last voted in Malabon during the 2016 elections.