Comelec set to rule on vote-buying cases vs 2 Luzon mayors

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Thursday, May 22, 2014


A DAY after disqualifying the governor of Laguna for campaign overspending in the midterm polls, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is set to rule on the disqualification cases filed against two mayors in Luzon for alleged vote-buying activities.

The poll body's First Division in October disqualified Roxas, Isabela Mayor Benedict Calderon and Norzagaray, Bulacan Mayor Alfredo Gesmar.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said the commission en banc is set to affirm the ruling of the First Division.

"Yes we still have pending cases that we will be ruling soon. We are still deliberating the cases of that from Norzagaray and Roxas," Brillantes said.

The poll body chief said the Comelec is looking to issue the ruling by the end of the month or first week of June.

Last October, the First Division disqualified Gesmar over vote-buying claims of losing mayoral bet, Feliciano Legaspi, which involved, the alleged vote-buying activities held in North Hills Village at Barangay Bitungol on May 11, as well as the four boxes containing sealed envelopes that hold the money amounting to P800,000 caught in the hands of the bodyguards of Gesmar and Santos.

The First Division, in a separate ruling, disqualified Calderon due to vote buying based on the petition filed by his rival, Harry Soller.

The petitioner alleged that Calderon ordered the delivery of 30 sacks of rice to some 95 senior citizens at Barangay Munoz West; gave away hogs to several barangays, one of which is in Barangay San Luis; and giving away money ranging from P1,000 to P10,000 in numerous barangays in the town.

The Omnibus Election Code defines vote buying as "giving, offering or promising money or anything of value directly or indirectly, in order to induce anyone or the public in general to vote for or against any candidate".

Brillantes noted that in case the rulings are affirmed, this would mark the first two cases involving vote-buying acts that elected officials will be ousted.

"This is something new. We have not removed anyone because of vote-buying yet," he said.

On Wednesday, the Comelec had disqualified Laguna Governor Emilio Ramon "ER" Ejercito due to campaign overspending in the 2013 midterm polls. (FP/Sunnex)

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