VOTING 9-4 with two abstentions, the High Court effectively nullified Tuesday the Commission on Elections’ (Comele) ruling declaring former Agrarian Reform Secretary Roberto Pagdanganan as duly-elected governor of Bulacan in the May 2007 elections.

Court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said the Court granted the petition of Bulacan Governor Joselito “Jon-Jon” Mendoza to stop the Comelec from implementing its resolution ordering him to vacate his post and allowing Pagdanganan to take over the reins of the provincial capitol.

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Marquez said the decision, penned by Associate Justice Jose Perez, found that the poll body acted with grave abuse of discretion when it issued a writ of execution of the Comelec Second Division’s resolution dated March 5 declaring that Pagdanganan may already assume the functions of governor.

“The Court is granting the petition of Governor Joselito Mendoza there being grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Comelec. That means Governor Mendoza stays as governor of Bulacan,” Marquez said.

However, Marquez could not answer queries on whether the Court ruled on the merits of the election protest since the copy of the decision was still being circulated as of press time for signatures of the other justices.

The two justices who did not take part in the deliberations were Associate Justices Renato Corona and Jose Catral-Mendoza.

Marquez said the Court decided to immediately make public its decision to avert threats of violence in Bulacan.

Last March 9, the High Court issued a status quo ante order in favor of Mendoza, but this was extended for another week after he filed a supplemental motion in view of the March 5 writ of execution by the Comelec.

In his petition, Mendoza also sought an order from the Court compelling Pagdanganan to cease and desist from “usurping, assuming and performing the functions of the contested position” until the election protest has been ruled with finality by the SC.

Mendoza claimed the Comelec en banc denied his motion for reconsideration, and in order to make the decision instantly executory, also granted the motion for execution pending the MR – most abnormal because there is no more pending MR.

He said under Rule 18, Section 6 of the Comelec’s rules of procedure, since no majority was reached, the election protest filed against him by Pagdanganan “should have been dismissed after no majority vote was obtained by the respondent (Pagdanganan) after rehearing.”

He added that the Comelec erred in declaring its resolution as immediately executory when the case is an ordinary election protest action and only becomes final and executory “after thirty (30) days from its promulgation.”

Last December, the SC second division ruled in favor of Pagdanganan after results of the recount and revision of the contested ballots showed that Pagdanganan garnered 342, 295 votes or 4,321 votes more than Mendoza’s. (JCV/Sunnex)