Comelec declares Escario Bantayan mayor
Kristine B. Quintas (The Freeman) - May 6, 2017 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Barely a year after the May 9, 2016 elections, the Commission on Elections En Banc declared Ian Christopher Escario as the duly elected mayor of Bantayan town in northern Cebu.

Escario will replace his political nemesis, Arthur Despi, whose certificate of candidacy (COC) was revoked by both En Banc and First Division and affirmed by the Supreme Court.

Escario’s proclamation is scheduled for Monday, May 8, in Intramuros in Manila City, according to the poll body.

“…to proclaim Escario who garnered the highest number of votes of 12,423, as the duly elected Mayor of Bantayan, Cebu,” reads the En Banc’s writ of execution.

Escario said he was not surprised by the decision because he was certain of the crime committed by Despi.

“I was confident in winning the case kay klaro kaayo iyang (Despi) pagpanikas. Nalipay ta kay naa na gyuy desisyon,” he told The FREEMAN in a phone interview last night.

The order was received last week by Escario’s lawyer based in Manila.

In a message to The Freeman, Despi said, "I will discuss the matter with my lawyer. Thank you!"

Escario filed a petition to cancel Despi’s COC on the ground that he committed “material misrepresentation” in his COC by attaching a “falsified” certificate of nomination and acceptance (CONA) on December 11, 2015.

Escario alleged that Despi’s COC for substitution was invalid based on the affidavit of Promdi General Secretary Oscar Canton.

He said Despi made it appear that Canton nominated him as mayor.

According to Comelec-Cebu provincial supervisor Lionel Castillano, Canton did not endorse Despi as the party’s substitute candidate for mayor.

Canton also denied affixing his signature on Despi’s CONA and that he was not in Bantayan when the certificate was notarized by a judge there, Castillano added.

 In a letter dated December 2015, Canton disowned Despi’s CONA. He questioned the candidacy of Despi who substituted Jose Caracena as the party’s candidate for mayor of Bantayan.

Rulings

 The Comelec First Division ruled in favor of Escario, cancelling the COC of Despi as substitute candidate of Abag-PROMDI for mayor of Bantayan on May 7, 2016.

 The division held that Despi’s substitution was not valid, citing three reasons: 1) the records show that Despi was not nominated by Abag-PROMDI; 2) An examination of the CONA reveals that it was supposedly signed by Canton and subscribed and sworn to before Presiding Judge Romeo Bulatano on December 8, 2015; 3) However, the evidentiary value of CONA was seriously undermined when Despi admitted that Canton did not appear before the presiding judge to take an oath.

On June 6, 2016, Despi filed a motion for reconsideration before the Comelec En Banc to review and reverse the division’s decision, but the same was denied.

 On September 15, 2016, the En Banc denied Despi’s motion for lack of merit, and affirmed the resolution of the First Division.

 Despi sought the SC’s intervention on the cancellation of his COC, appealing SC to overturn En Banc’s decision.

However, the high tribunal denied with finality its decision to cancel Despi’s COC.

Rule 64 of the Rules of Court provides that all decisions of the Commission are only appealable and/or reversible before/by the SC.

 The SC decision was forwarded to Comelec En Banc, which issued a certificate of finality on February 15.

 The En Banc also issued the three-page writ of execution on April 24 signed by Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista.

 The writ of execution provides that the Comelec special board of canvassers will proclaim Escario as mayor on Monday, May 8, at 10 a.m. at the Comelec Session Hall, Palacio del Gobernador Building, in Intramuros, Manila.

 Castillano said the proclamation would now be the basis for Escario to take his oath of office and for the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to implement the order of the Commission En Banc.

 “The SC decision is already final and executory. Since the beginning, Despi was not a candidate due to the cancellation of his COC. His garnered votes were also null and void,” he said.

 Castillano advised the aggrieved party to respect the decisions of the Commission and the SC.

 “Atong huna-hunaon niagi ni sa sakto nga proceso. Gi-desisyonan sa Comelec and the SC has spoken also. We must respect the decision,” he said.

 The camp of Despi is reportedly planning to stage a rally next week.

"Mo-stage kuno sila og rally kay nag-power grabbing ko. I-respeto nalang unta ang decision," Escario said.

Political dynasty

It was in the May 2016 elections when the dominance of Escario’s family in the political scene in Bantayan ended with Despi’s win.

Despi won over Escario with 16,494 votes to Escario's 12,043.

 The Escarios have ruled Bantayan since 1898 when the first Republic of the Philippines was established under General Emilio Aguinaldo. Back then, town executives were called hefe militar.

 Gregorio Escario became the first hefe militar of the municipality of Bantayan. The mayor is his great-grandchild.

 Despi started his political career at 23 years old, serving as town councilor for two straight terms from 1992 to 1998.

 He first ran for mayor in 2001 but lost to Geralyn Escario-Cañares by 700 votes. He ran again in 2004 but was defeated by Cañares anew.

 In 2013, Despi didn't run for any position as he was chosen to be one of the mayor's consultants. In October 2015, he resigned with the intent to run in the 2016 elections. (FREEMAN)

ESCARIO BANTAYAN
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