BULACAN Governor Joselito Mendoza on Tuesday failed to obtain a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court (SC) to stop the poll body from implementing its resolution declaring former Agrarian Reform Secretary Roberto “Obet” Pagdanganan as duly-elected governor of the province.

SC spokesman and court administrator Jose Midas Marquez said the court en banc deferred action on Mendoza’s petition for TRO, seeing no urgency in granting such relief to petitioner.

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The High Court instead ordered respondents Comelec and Pagdanganan to comment on the petition within five days.

In his petition, Mendoza asked the SC to nullify the resolution of the Comelec ordering him to vacate his post as governor of Bulacan and to prevent Pagdanganan from assuming office pending the resolution of his petition.

The Comelec earlier granted the election protest filed by Pagdanganan against Mendoza, his rival for the gubernatorial position and who had been assuming the post since 2007.

After a recount of votes, the poll body declared Pagdanganan as the real winner of the 2007 gubernatorial elections by more than 4,321 votes over his closest rival, Mendoza. The poll body claimed Pagdanganan obtained 342,295 votes while Mendoza got only 337,794 votes.

In its assailed resolution issued last Monday, the Comelec, voting 3-3-1, granted Pagdanganan’s motion for immediate execution and directed the Department of Interior and Local Government to implement its decision installing him as Bulacan’s governor.

But Mendoza said the Comelec arbitrarily invalidated 20,096 votes he got without any legal and factual basis while only 616 votes were deducted from Pagdanganan.

Out of 20,096 votes, almost 9,160 ballots were invalidated on the ground that these ballots, in pairs or in groups were written by one person

“This arbitrary invalidation of what are otherwise valid votes cast in the May 14, 2007 election resulted in the disenfranchisement of 20,096 voters whose votes were unjustifiably nullified by the public respondent in contravention of the well-settled edict that in the appreciation of ballots, the goal is to give effect and not to frustrate the intention of the voter,” he said through lawyer Roque Bello.

Mendoza further argued that the writ of execution issued by the Comelec is null and void since the desired majority was not obtained in the voting.

It noted that Rule 3, Section 5 of the Comelec Rules of Procedure mandates that when sitting en banc, “the concurrence of a majority of the members of the commission shall be necessary for the pronouncement of a decision, resolution, order or ruling.”

Since only three Commissioners concurred with the assailed Resolution – Commissioners Nicodemo Ferrer, Lucenito Tagle, and Elias Yusoph. Mendoza said the desired majority of concurring members was not attained.

Commissioner Rene Sarmiento dissented, while commissioners Jose Melo, Gregorio Larrazabal, and Armando Velasco did not take part in deciding over the case as they “have come to establish relations with the parties.”

Aside from not issuing a notice of promulgation, Mendoza noted that the Comelec resolution was made immediately executory despite the fact that the case is an ordinary election protest action which per Rule 18, Section 13 only becomes final and executory “after 30 days from its promulgation.”

Representative Mitra

In a related development, Palawan Representative Abraham Kahlil Mitra on Tuesday filed a motion for reconsideration with the Comelec seeking a reversal of its decision disqualifying him to run in the province’s gubernatorial race in the May 10 polls.

In a 40-page motion, the lawmaker said the decision of Comelec first Division was reached “via ultra-summary proceedings,” which deprives the people of Palawan of their “right of choice – effectively rendering moot the forthcoming electoral process.”

Last week, the poll body disqualified Mitra to run in the gubernatorial race in Palawan for failure to meet the residency requirement of one year, where he intends to run.

The decision granted the petition of Antonio Gonzales and Orlando Balbon Jr.

“The repercussion is dire, damning and terrible, if in error – and more so because jurisprudence even disallows substitution – thereby leaving the adversary unopposed, and the people and electoral without a choice, depriving them f their voice,” the motion added.

Mitra, who is on his last term as congressman of Puerto Princesa, had moved his residency from the city to the town of Aborlan only last March 2009.

He complained that he was deprived of his right to face the court since the Comelec did not set a hearing to effectively rule on the case.

Likewise, he questioned the motives of the petitioners, why he is only now that they have questioned his candidacy and did not file any case when he registered himself as a voter of Aborlan.

“For one month, they could have questioned my registration but they didn’t do it. Now that I filed my certificate of candidacy for governor, they wanted me disqualified,” Mitra furthered. “We were allowed to register. They did not question our registration.” (JCV/FP/Sunnex)