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The Supreme Court has ruled that current Lipa, Batangas Mayor Meynardo Sabili can keep his post.
Voting 9-4, the high court set aside two Commission on Elections (Comelec) resolutions in January and August 2010 that cancelled Sabili's certificate of candidacy (COC) for failing to meet the one-year residency rule for local candidates.
The high court ruled otherwise, saying Sabili "sufficiently established his compliance with the one-year residency requirement under the law."
“In view of this court’s finding that petitioner has not misrepresented his residence at Pinagtong-ulan and the duration thereof, there is no need to further discuss whether there was material and deliberate misrepresentation of the residency qualification in his COC,” the court said.
The SC decision was promulgated last April 24 but the media obtained a copy of it only on Wednesday.
The poll protest was filed by a certain Florencio Librea, who alleged that Sabili did not reside long enough in Lipa to be qualified to run in the local polls. The Comelec eventually ruled in favor of Librea and cancelled Sabili's certificate of candidacy.
Sabili asked the Comelec to reverse the order, saying there was no prior notice to his camp when the poll body's resolution was promulgated, in alleged violation of Section 6 of Comelec Resolution 8696.
The Comelec, however, denied Sabili's appeal, prompting him to elevate the matter to the high court.
Apart from recognizing that Sabili has been a resident of Lipa for a year when he ran, the high court also acknowledged his victory in the May 2010 automated elections.
Sabili got 55,268 votes against the 48,825 votes of his sole rival, Oscar Gozos, a two-term congressman of the Fourth District of Batangas and was Lipa City mayor.
Despite the Comelec resolutions against his candidacy, Sabili still served as mayor after the Surpeme Court issued a status quo ante order in September 2010.
"We also recognized that above and beyond all, the determination of the true will of the electorate should be paramount," the SC said.
"It is their voice, not ours or of anyone else, that must prevail. This, in essence, is the democracy we continue to hold sacred,” it added. — Mark Merueñas/RSJ, GMA News