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Comelec division disqualifies Legazpi Mayor Geraldine Rosal

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The Commission on Elections second division has disqualified winning Legazpi City Mayor Geraldine Rosal for violating the rule on disbursement of public funds during the campaign period.

In a 19-page resolution promulgated on October 4, the Comelec granted the petition of Joseph San Juan Armogila, who ran for Legazpi councilor but lost, to disqualify Rosal from the mayoralty race.

Armogila alleged that Rosal released cash assistance amounting to P2,000 to tricycle drivers and senior citizens during the campaign period.

The Comelec ruled that Rosal did not engage in vote buying.

“Although what we deal in this case is the electoral aspect of vote-buying where mere substantive evidence is required, still, if the evidence presented to support the claim falls short to satisfy the quantum of evidence, the court, tribunal or quasi-judicial body has no resort but to dismiss the same. M,” it said

“All told, We do not see it fit to hold Respondent accountable for vote-buying, punishable under Section 261 (a) of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC) as a ground to have her disqualified,” the poll body added.

But the Second Division held that Rosal should be held liable in violating the OEC even as she was only a candidate at that time noting that she also appeared to have benefitted from the distribution of cash assistance to tricycle drivers.

“Again, it is the mindset culminated in the minds of the Petitioner, his witnesses, and the public in general that became the turning point. There is the presence of vital components in this case: (1) the project; (2) individual cash pay-outs were distributed; (3) the project was attributed not only to the local government unit but to Respondent as well; and most importantly-she won,” it said.

“Again, whether this activity and Facebook shoutout made a huge contribution to her number of votes, there will always be material assumption. We cannot help but conclude that as far as the public in general is concerned, there is direct attribution to the Respondent of the cash pay-out masked as social welfare project,” the poll body added.

“In this case, Respondent performed an overt act to make it appear that she is one with the Local Government Unit; worse, with her husband, who was then the incumbent mayor at the time of the “cash pay-out” event. Her mere presence during the distribution of the cash assistance rendered moral assistance to the Local Government Unit. Lest it be forgotten, she is a candidate at that time, along with her husband.”

The decision of the division is not yet final and Rosal may still file a motion for reconsideration before the Comelec En Banc.

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