Lunch with Wakee ‘chance encounter’-A A +A
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
CEBU Provincial Election Supervisor Lionel Castillano said the lunch between an election officer and a political candidate should have been done inside the Comelec office to avoid “negative perception.”
Cordova mayoralty candidate Rex “Wakee” Salud was photographed eating with Cebu City North Election Officer Michael Sarno inside a mall restaurant in Mandaue City.
But Sarno clarified he did not have a luncheon appointment with Cordova mayoral candidate Rex “Wakee” Salud when a photo of them together was snapped on Sept. 22.
The photo showed Sarno, Salud and lawyer Fillmore Gomos eating together in a restaurant. Gomos is Salud’s lawyer.
Sarno clarified he did not have a luncheon appointment with Salud on that day.
Earlier, incumbent Mayor Adelino Sitoy said Salud cannot run for mayor as he filed his COC despite a court decision that he cannot be included in the list of voters.
Commission on Election (Comelec) 7 Director Temie Lambino said he will initiate a formal inquiry on the lunch and find out what they talked about and why they met.
Castillano and Lambino, who are both in Manila, will meet Sarno upon their return to
“It’s more on ethical considerations, which is why I have to look at the extent of the allegation,” said Lambino in a dyLA interview.
Comelec 7 Director Lambino will meet all election officers and supervisors to tell them to be careful and prevent similar incidents.
Salud said in a dyLA interview that the meeting of his lawyer Gomos and basketball buddy Sarno was a chance encounter.
Sarno explained he and Gomos play basketball together for the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP). On Sept. 22, he and Gomos decided to have lunch together at a Chinese restaurant.
Not a candidate
Shortly after the two lawyers arrived, Salud came and they had lunch.
“Technically, he wasn’t even a candidate at that time,” explained Sarno, brushing aside innuendos over the luncheon meeting.
It was the Municipal Trial Court that handed a ruling that Salud is not a voter of Cordova and it was affirmed by the Regional Trial Court.
“Honestly, I could not remember what we talked about because it was done in passing,” Sarno told reporters yesterday.
He admitted, though, that he could have talked to Salud about the latter’s disqualification as a voter of Cordova and whether the latter should file his certificate of candidacy or not.
“Pero unsa may labot nako nga (But I have nothing to do with it because) the case is already in court,” said Sarno.
Besides, said Sarno, if he did not answer Salud’s questions, as an election officer he may also be legally liable because politicians and registered voters are Comelec stakeholders.
Since he was there, Salud asked Sarno if he can file his certificate of candidacy (COC) in Cordova despite the court ruling.
“Ingon siya pwede ra man kay ministerial man na. Mao ray iyang gisulti (He said it’s okay because it’s just ministerial. That’s all he said),” said Wakee in a dyLA interview.
The boxing promoter added that he earlier sought the opinion of other lawyers and they all said he is not prohibited from filing his COC.
Castillano said if anyone finds something irregular with the encounter, they may file their complaint in their office or in the Office of the Ombudsman.
“It should have been done inside the office, kay lain ang perception sa makakita,” said Castillano in an interview, citing “delicadeza.”
He said Comelec does not condone irregularity and illegality in the performance of duty.
Lambino said Sarno’s authority is only limited to Cebu City North.
“Hindi naman sa Cordova yan, but tingnan natin kung ano pa ang mga allegations (He’s nothing to do with Cordova, but let’s wait for the other allegations,” Lambino said.
He agrees with Castillano that encounters like these should be done in Comelec offices where officers can easily refer to logs and records.
“And we can avoid perception of the people that we are biased,” Lambino said.
The regional director added that their duty as Commission on Election officers is very sensitive, “that we need to preserve the integrity and impartiality of election officers.”
“We have to be vigilant and be careful,” Lambino said.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 09, 2012.