SUGAR planter Benito Montinola Jr. on Monday said businessman Alfredo Abelardo “Albee” Benitez is an American citizen and thus must be disqualified from running in a congressional race.

Benitez, who is seeking a congressional seat in the third district of Negros Occidental, also filed perjury charge against Montinola, a mayoral candidate.

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Earlier, Felizardo Lira filed disqualification case against Benitez but it was later dismissed by the Commission on Election (Comelec).

The Second Division of the Comelec dismissed Lira’s petition on Feb. 17.

Lira is a farm worker at Hacienda Teresita, Talisay City, owned by the family of Ted Victor Jimenez, also a candidate for congressman in the province’s third district.

But Montinola said the dismissal was not judged on the merit of the case but on faulty filing of supposedly original documents to the Comelec.

“Why I insist on filing because we can not allow somebody to be in Congress who doesn’t even know how to follow the law. You will be creating or making laws in the House and yet how can that be for an American citizen? People in our country would not believe to that person. It would only create confusion,” he said.

Sun.Star Bacolod tried to contact Benitez but could not be reached for comment as of this posting Monday.

“Let’s just show the people that politics will only come to pass but for a candidate he should learn how to follow and obey the Constitution…We should set a good example,” Montinola said.

Benitez earlier said in a local daily that filing of perjury against Montinola is the proper thing to do, “considering that Boy Montinola is making a mockery of our election process, he thinks he can just manipulate petitions, disqualifications and make some sort of political harassment and get away with it. I think we have to put people in their proper place and make them realize that these are serious offenses”.

But Montinola stressed that Benitez’s citizenship remains questionable considering that “when he filed his candidacy it was only one month before when he (Benitez) renounced his citizenship”.

He said that Benitez residency since the time of his filing and in renouncing his citizenship fell short of that the 1987 Constitution requires.

“He’s only six months in Negros especially in the third district. He could not deny it because it’s in his COC (Certificate of Candidacy),” said Montinola.

Montinola said he filed the disqualification case against Benitez not only because he is the latter’s political opponent but also because he is a concerned citizen of the third district.

“He (Benitez) should know the fundamental law of the land. I am not preventing him to run. But my conscience is bothering me that as a local citizen of my district, I am just exercising my right,” said Montinola.

He also denied participation of Jimenez, his known political ally, in the disqualification case against Benitez.

Montinola said his lawyer Joe Max Ortiz has asked Comelec for an extension of time to file his counter affidavit on his perjury case. (George M. De La Cruz)