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Comelec junks petition to disqualify Bacolod mayor Leonardia

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BACOLOD CITY — The Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) 2nd Division has denied the petition filed by a resident of this city to disqualify reelected Mayor Evelio Leonardia from running in the May 13 elections.

A copy of the poll body’s resolution on the case was furnished by City Legal Officer Joselito Bayatan to reporters on Thursday after receiving it the day before.

“The respondent did not make any material misrepresentation when he filed his Certificate of Candidacy (COC). Neither does he possess a ground for disqualification by virtue of his removal from office,” according to the seven-page resolution promulgated on May 2 and received by the city last May 22.

The decision was signed by Presiding Commissioner Luie Tito Guia with Commissioners Socorro Inting and Antonio Kho Jr.

The case stemmed from the petition filed by Edgar Cadagat on Nov. 13, 2018, seeking to deny or cancel the COC of Leonardia as he alleged that the mayor has been removed from office by the Ombudsman due to an administrative case and was imposed the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification.

According to the Comelec 2nd Division, Cadagat submitted a hybrid petition.

The first was a petition under Section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC) grounded exclusively on material misrepresentation by the candidate on the COC on matters relating to his disqualification.

The other petition for disqualification based on Section 40 (b) of the Local Government Code (LGC) relates to the possession of individuals of certain conditions that bar them from running for public office.

“Invoking different grounds in this hybrid petition should already merit an outright dismissal. Nevertheless, whether the petition is treated as one under Section 78 of the OEC, or one based on Section 40 of the LGC, we deny the same on the merits,” the resolution added.

The Comelec 2nd Division pointed out that the joint resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman cited by the petitioner has since been reversed by the Court of Appeals, and affirmed by no less than the Supreme Court.

“It is incontrovertible that at the time respondent filed his COC, he had not been removed from office for an administrative case that carries with it the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification,” the resolution further stated.

Meanwhile, Bayatan called the petition “malicious” and an “exercise in futility.”

During the May 13 elections, Leonardia was reelected for a second term after garnering 144,776 votes. He defeated former councilor Jocelle Batapa-Sigue who obtained 81,248 votes while radio anchorman Ray Carmona got 1,762 votes. (PNA)