THE Supreme Court (SC) en banc dismissed for lack of merit the efforts by former Mabalacat City mayor Marino Morales and incumbent Vice Mayor Christian Halili to unseat Mayor Crisostomo C. Garbo.
In a 21-page decision penned by Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, the High Tribunal dismissed the petitions for certiorari filed separately by Morales and Halili.
They were filed a few days before Garbo, who was proclaimed as winner in the 2016 elections, assumed as mayor.
The SC affirmed Resolution of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) First Division issued on August 3, 2016 and the subsequent resolution of Comelec en banc issued on May 26, 2017. Both were the subject of the petitions of Morales and Halili.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc issued a writ of execution on June 8, 2017.
Garbo welcomed the SC decision and urged his political rivals to help him serve the people of Mabalacat City.
"I am elated with the recent Supreme Court decision as this lay to rest the issue on the legitimacy of my leadership as City Mayor of Mabalacat City. I extend my hand of conciliation to the parties and for them to to help me achieve my dream of transforming Mabalacat City into a world-class City in the Philippines,” said Garbo.
Garbo stated that divine intervention will always find its way despite attempts to circumvent laws on terms of offices.
“This is a victory for the people of Mabalacat City and not for me only. I hope that this will be alesson for us all that we cannot circumvent the law particularly terms of offices. But the greater consideration here is a message for the Bible that leaders are given the seat by God,” Garbo said.
On June 2, 2017, Halili filed with the SC a petition for certiorari and prohibition with application for temporary restraining order and/or status ante order.
Three days later, Morales also filed before the SC a petition for certiorari with urgent prayer for temporary restraining order and/or status ante order and/or writ of preliminary injunction.
The nature of the petitions assailed Comelec’s August 3, 2016 and May 26, 2017 decisions.
The Comelec First Division on August 3, 2016 ordered the cancellation of the certificate of candidacy (COC) of Morales and votes cast in his favor be declared astray.
The same ruling ordered the City Board of Canvassers to reconvene and annul the proclamation of Morales and proclaim the qualified candidate with the next highest number of votes.
The Comelec en banc on May 26, 2017 affirmed the decision of the First Division as it denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Morales for lack of merit.
“The primordial issue to be resolved is whether or not the Comelec gravely abused its discretion amounting in the lack or excess of jurisdiction: (1) in finding that Morales committed a false misrepresentation in his COC when he declared that he was eligible to run as Mayor of Mabalacat City in the 2016 elections despite his violations of the three-term limit rule; and (2) in proclaiming Garbo as the duly elected mayor of Mabalacat City for being the qualified candidate with the highest number of votes,” the SC decision states.
In affirming the decisions of the poll body, the SC also stated: “We do not find merit in both petitions."
Halili questioned the discretion of the poll body in declaring Garbo as the qualified mayoral candidate with the highest number of votes.
He also raised issue of discretion in not declaring a permanent vacancy in the office of the mayor of Mabalacat City after the Certificate of Candidacy of Morales was cancelled.
The vice mayor also questioned the reconvening of the 2016 Elections City Board of Canvassers of Mabalacat City to proclaim the candidate with the next higher number of votes.