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Supreme Court Lambasts Comelec for Grave Abuse of Discretion
« on: February 14, 2011, 01:08:24 AM »
By the Bohol Standard

It’s now final. The Supreme Court, sitting en banc, had rendered a decision granting the petition of Candijay Mayor Sergio G. Amora, Jr., seeking to annul and set aside the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) two assailed Resolutions (dated April 29, 2010 and May 17, 2010, respectively), that disqualified him as mayoralty candidate in the Automated National and Local Elections last May 2010.

The SC decision, promulgated January 25, 2011, also chided the Comelec for entertaining such “outlandish” petition, which according to the High Court, should have been outrightly dismissed.

It may be recalled that when Mayor Amora was seeking for his third term as Mayor of Candijay, SB Member Arnulfo Olandria, a known ally of Trygve Olaivar, who ran against Amora, filed before the COMELEC a petition for disqualification against on the grounds that Amora’s Certificate of Candidacy (COC) was not properly sworn contrary to the requirements of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC). Amora allegedly, merely presented his Community Tax Certificate (CTC) to the notary public Atty. Oriculo Granada, instead of presenting a competent evidence of his identity.

Subsequently, the Second Division of the COMELEC granted the Olandria petition and disqualified Amora from running for Mayor of Candijay. Amora filed a Motion for Reconsideration before the COMELEC en banc.

Meanwhile, the May 10, 2010 elections result showed Amora obtaining a majority vote of 8,688 or equivalent to 58.94% of the votes cast, as against Olaivar’s 6,053 votes (41.06%). Consequently, The Municipal Board of Canvassers of Candijay, Bohol proclaimed Amora as the winner for Mayor.

A week thereafter, on May 17, 2010, in another absurd decision, the COMELEC en banc, denied Amora’s Motion for Reconsideration and affirmed the first COMELEC Second Division Resolution. However, this time, notably, three (3) of the seven (7) commissioners dissented from the majority ruling. Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal wrote a dissenting opinion, which was concurred in by then Chairman Jose A.R. Melo and Commissioner Rene V. Sarmiento.

On June 15, 2010, the Supreme Court issued a Status Quo Ante Order, regarding Amora’s Petition and the COMELEC’s resolutions. Mayor Amora through counsels Atty. Bienvenido Amora, Jr. based in Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa City and his wife Atty. Valerie del Valle Amora, together with Dimiao SB Member Atty. Nicodemus Tago, insisted that the Petition for Disqualification filed by Olandria is actually a petition to Deny Due Course since the purported ground for disqualification simply refers to the defective notarization of the COC.

Amora maintained that his COC is properly notarized and not defective, and the presentation of his COC to the notary public to whom he was personally known sufficiently complied with the requirements that the COC be under oath.

The notary public, Atty. Granada, a former Mayor of the neighboring town of Guindulman, Bohol, is, in fact, a close acquaintance of Amora, since they have been members of the League of Municipal Mayors – Bohol Chapter for several years, and that they consider each other as distant relatives, as Mayor Amora’s middle name is Granada. Amora further alleges that Olaivar, his opponent in the mayoralty post, is purportedly a fraternity brother and close associate of Commissioner Nicodemo T. Ferrer, member of the COMELEC Second Division that disqualified him and that Olaivar served as Consultant for the COMELEC assigned to the Office of Commissioner Ferrer.

The Supreme Court has found Amora’s petition as meritorious. It finds that the COMELEC ruling “smacks of grave abuse of discretion and whimsical exercise of judgment equivalent to lack of jurisdiction”.

“For as a court or any tribunal board, or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions, the Comelec has acted without or in excess or jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion,” the SC said.

First, the High Court found out that it was a grave abuse of discretion on the part of the COMELEC to uphold Olandria’s claim that an improperly sworn COC is equivalent to possession of a ground for disqualification, which the Supreme Court term as “not by any stretch of the imagination can we infer this as an additional ground for disqualification from the specific wording of the Omnibus Election Code” and termed Olandria’s claim as “outlandish”.

“The absurd interpretation of Olandria, respondent herein, is not controlling; the COMELEC should have dismissed his petition outright”, the Supreme Court said.

The decision further emphasized that apart from the qualifications provided in the Constitution, the power to prescribe additional qualifications for elective office and grounds for disqualification therefrom, consistent the constitutional provision is vested only in Congress.

“We cannot overemphasize the principle that where a candidate has received popular mandate, all possible doubts should be resolved in favor of the candidate’s eligibility, for to rule otherwise is to defeat the will of the people”, the SC decision affirmed.

The High Court noted this as COMELEC allowed and confirmed the disqualification of Amora, even when the latter has already won and was duly proclaimed as Mayor of Candijay town.

With that, Amora’s Petition was granted and that of the COMELEC’s Second Division and En Banc aforementioned resolutions were “ANNULED and SET ASIDE”.

The Supreme Court En Banc decision was unanimous, with Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura signing the order and Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, heading the concurrence of the 14 members of the Supreme Court. One Associate Justice inhibited due to a relationship to a party involved in the case and another was on leave.

Mayor Amora said that since the issues are now finally resolved, it is now time to work, unify its people in an era of cooperation for the continued progress of his town.

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