SC overturns Comelec's dismissal of DQ petition vs Cagayan governor

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
SC overturns Comelec's dismissal of DQ petition vs Cagayan governor
This file photo shows the Commission on Elections headquarters in Manila.
Philstar.com / AJ Bolando, file

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court (SC) said that the Commission on Elections gravely abused its discretion by dismissing a petition for election disqualification against the former gubernatorial candidate and the current Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba.

In a press release on Monday, the SC said that its en banc granted the petition for review filed by Ma. Zarah Rose De Guzman-Lara, challenging the poll body's dismissal of her petition to disqualify Mamba from the May 2022 local elections.

The high court also sent the disqualification case back to the Comelec for “proper disposition”.

De Guzman-Lara, who is one of the candidates for the gubernatorial position in Cagayan, filed a petition for disqualification against Mamba on the grounds of massive vote-buying and unlawful disbursement of public funds through an email petition on May 10, 2022, at 6:21 p.m.

However, on May 11, 2022, Mamba was proclaimed the duly elected governor of Cagayan by the Provincial Board of Canvassers, having received the highest number of votes.

On Dec. 14, 2022, the Comelec's Second Division issued a resolution disqualifying Mamba after finding substantial evidence indicating the unauthorized release, disbursement, or expenditure of public funds during the campaign period, a violation prohibited under the Omnibus Election Code.

The poll body, sitting as en banc, however, dismissed De Guzman-Lara’s petition to disqualify Mamba for being “filed out of time”.

This prompted De Guzman-Lara to file the petition for certiorari before the high court.

The SC ruled that Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion in dismissing the petition for disqualification against Mamba as De Guzman-Lara’s petition for disqualification was filed on time.

Citing the Comelec rules of procedure and the civil code, the SC said that a petition for disqualification can be filed even after the exact time of the proclamation of a candidate, as long as it was filed within the same day.

“The Court found that since Mamba was proclaimed on May 11, 2022 at 1:39 a.m., petitions for disqualification against Mamba could still be filed anytime within that day,” the SC’s press release read.

The SC also noted that the timeframe for submitting pleadings via email as outlined in Section 5 of Comelec Resolution No. 10673 should have considered the specific circumstances related to disqualification petitions. This is because candidate proclamations can occur at any time, day or night.

The decision, which has yet to be released, was decided on by the SC on April 16, 2024. It was penned by Associate Justice Jhosep Lopez.

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