MJ appeals disqualification from House seat
- Paolo Romero () - March 19, 2003 - 12:00am
Lawyers of Manila Rep. Mark Jimenez have appealed a ruling of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) removing him as congressman of Manila’s sixth district.

On March 6, the HRET ordered Jimenez to vacate his post for failing to prove that he is a resident of the city.

The ruling stemmed from a complaint filed by Beinvenido Abante and Rosenda Ocampo, who both lost to Jimenez in the 2001 election. They said Jimenez was not qualified to run, claiming he did not satisfy a one-year residency requirement prior to the polls because he resided at the posh Forbes Park in Makati City.

In their appeal, Jimenez’s lawyers argued that the House panel had no jurisdiction to nullify an earlier ruling of the Commission on Elections on a similar complaint against Jimenez that said he satisfied the residency requirement.

They cited a Supreme Court ruling that the HRET had no jurisdiction to overrule or even review Comelec decisions. "Respondents submit that what has been finally decided by the Comelec cannot be reviewed by the HRET, not even by the Supreme Court," they said in their appeal.

The complainants also had the burden of proving that Jimenez was not qualified, they said, adding that public documents, including a census and a barangay clearance, showed that Jimenez was a Manila resident.

Jimenez left for the United States on Dec. 26 under FBI escort to face criminal charges in Florida. After being detained for several days, a Florida court allowed him to post bail on certain conditions to prevent him from again fleeing justice.

The US government in April 1999 handed down a 47-count indictment against Jimenez for fraud, tax evasion and illegal campaign contributions to the Democratic Party, and asked Manila to hand him over.

Jimenez fought a US extradition request in court for more than three years until the Supreme Court ruled with finality on Dec. 17 that he must be placed under arrest during the duration of an extradition case being heard by a lower court.

The landmark ruling stated that anyone sought for extradition should be detained to prevent the Philippines from becoming a haven of fugitives.

It gave Jimenez the option of avoiding Philippine detention by voluntarily traveling to the United States and posting bail there.

Jimenez faces five years in jail for each of the fraud and tax cases, US officials said.

Jimenez built up a fortune running a computer components distribution business in the United States and Latin America after emigrating from the Philippines.

He returned to the country of his birth in May 1998 and befriended Joseph Estrada who was later elected president.

Estrada later made him an economic adviser and described him as a "corporate genius" for his advice in the sale of government shareholdings in a number of Filipino corporations.

In 2001, Jimenez ran for and won a seat in the House of Representatives while Estrada was arrested and put on trial for corruption.

Jimenez’s case was seen as a crucial test of an extradition treaty signed by US and Philippine officials in 1996 to help the two countries fight terrorism, drug trafficking and other cross-border crimes.

BEINVENIDO ABANTE AND ROSENDA OCAMPO COMELEC DEMOCRATIC PARTY FORBES PARK HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL JIMENEZ JOSEPH ESTRADA LAWYERS OF MANILA REP SUPREME COURT UNITED STATES
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